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Should you only look for a job when you’re looking for a job?Fellows and Associates Patent Attorney Jobs


I debated leaving this article at that as I’d like to think it was self-evident but unfortunately, and potentially against their own interests, some people we speak to (or try to speak to) don’t feel that this is as self-evident as I do.

What am I arguing? I guess I’m arguing for open mindedness. That you don’t know for sure what path your career will take and excluding options without consideration can be myopic. This is not always the case, of course, it depends on what point you are at in your career and what your personal aspirations are. But, if you think you might move positions in the next 5 years and if you have very specific interests you would like satiated when moving, leaving the decision until it’s absolutely the right time for you may not be the right time for the market.

To prove my point, I’m going to look back ten years. I’m in my 40s now (rather depressingly) and I’m told that nostalgia is all I have to look forward to so I’m going to embrace it.

2007 was a very good year to be a patent attorney. There were oodles of jobs at all levels and if you moved firms you moved for a significant increase. As a consequence of this, a great deal of people put moving jobs off. They were broadly happy at the current time in the job they had - it wasn’t terrible and they were getting great training; or they’d been promised a promotion in a few years; or they were going to get to work with a new client that was worth hanging on for, for another year.

Then the recession hit.

Initially there were some redundancies and some patent attorneys found themselves in dire straits, but what was much more common was that options became limited. Moving became more difficult and a job that attorneys had intended to hang on for, for another year became a trap. Depending on the technical specialism and level, moving positions didn’t really become easy again for a good few years. Whilst electronics and engineering did have their fallow periods, it became particularly tricky in biotechnology and chemistry. At times in these areas it was essentially impossible to move at any level and with narrowing options when jobs arose competition was fierce. For many of the attorneys who moved just before the recession, or in 2008 when the repercussions hadn’t yet dramatically hit the UK IP recruitment market, they broadly continued their careers as they had anticipated they would. For those that didn’t they were left in career limbo for a few years, in some cases their market attractiveness went backwards over time (it’s harder to move at senior associate level in a recession or even a recovery than at newly qualified level as frankly it’s more expensive for firms).

We are once again on the brink of massive change for the UK and none of us know what the implications of Brexit in 2019 will be. It may have little impact at all. But it could also be substantial. Patent attorneys are generally relatively conservative in their hiring decisions and I would expect any perceived downturn in economic fortunes could mean that a decision to grow a workforce is put on hold. So why risk it? It may be that staying put is the right thing to do, it may be that there is genuinely a better opportunity out there right now that would deliver your career goals much more rapidly than you think. When we contact you we appreciate that you may not really be thinking about moving now but we still think you should speak to us. Why? Because we likely have a clearer view of the market than you do. We can advise you of the best course of action for your future and we won’t try and push you into something you don’t want to do (I’m not really sure how we would do this even if we wanted to). A high percentage of the people we place first spoke to us years before they actually moved. Very often, we’ve discussed a strategy with them and highlighted a position that fulfils what they want from their career so that when it arises we and they can be ready. We may also have suggested that staying where they are is better for them in the short or medium term to maximise their potential in an eventual move. Recruitment consultancy, at least for us, really is about consultancy and we think you really shouldn’t wait until you absolutely need to move before talking to us. Besides, it’s just a little bit rude when you simply ignore someone. Yes I realise sales calls/emails can be irritating but we will be contacting you specifically not a mountain of people at random. If the market were to turn tables and positions become scarce it’s only human nature that we are likely to be keener to assist those that would at least hear us out.

So, in summary, when we approach you accept our calls and reply to our messages and in return we’ll give you objective advice for free. I’m really not sure how that can hurt. It might even be useful, a twenty minute call, then you maintain the status quo with a little more perspective, or to your complete surprise, you realise you are being massively undervalued and it might be time to move on (or in reality, most often somewhere in between the two).

Pete Fellows doesn’t like being ignored. Nobody puts Petey in a corner. When he’s not corner avoiding he’s also the Managing Director of Fellows and Associates.

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