Ambition takes a back seat to reality

Scott Gibbons Jr., 28, Biotech Sales Manager

November 09, 2008|By Lorraine Mirabella

By now, Scott Gibbons Jr. expected to be on his way to earning six figures selling research equipment to academics and biotech and pharmaceutical firms.

Instead, the 28-year-old is looking for work after losing a promising job he had for just three months.

In August, he took a job as a territory manager for a Glen Burnie-based branch of the Swedish company Q-Sense. He was to help expand sales into the western United States.

It was just what he was looking for, after four years of hands-on research and client development at Paragon Bioservices, a local biotech firm. That was invaluable experience, but with lab work, hours could be long and irregular.

"I wanted to find something that would be a safe move, with a good product," the Dundalk native said.

For Gibbons, a young, single professional, the Q-Sense job offered a chance to advance his career, travel, gain some stability and boost his income in salary and commissions. It was the sort of "new economy" job that Baltimore and other cities hope will replace the loss of blue-collar manufacturing jobs.

"I thought it was a good and stable opportunity," said Gibbons, who has a degree in biology and had worked in allergy and immunology research at the Johns Hopkins University. "But this was before the economy fell through."

After only three months at Q-Sense, Gibbons found himself unemployed, told that the company needed to cut costs. His supervisors, he said, seemed genuinely sorry.

Still, the shock of losing the job so suddenly left him frustrated and a little scared about his options.

"I wouldn't say science is recession-proof, but the other sales people seemed to be doing well," Gibbons said. "It caught me off guard. It's not the greatest time. It's becoming more and more apparent to me that there just aren't that many jobs out there in the market, thanks to the economy."

He plans to rely on unemployment benefits, savings and occasional credit card use to cover $1,500 in monthly bills, including rent on the Canton townhouse he shares with roommates, student loan, car payment, car insurance and cell phone. That doesn't include gas, food or the occasional social outing.

He has been considering dropping his gym membership and might have to look into requesting forbearance on his student loan.

Meanwhile, he has thought about leaving Baltimore, but he worries that he would relocate only to find himself in a similar situation. He's evaluating whether to return to graduate school full time to finish a master's degree in molecular biology.

Despite the uncertainty, he's determined to find the right job, rather than jump at the first opportunity. But he's unsure how long he can hold out.

"I've been asking myself that question," he said. "By early 2009, I had better be working somewhere again. The worst case would be taking a job not in the science field, or waiting tables.

"But I don't expect that. I'm trying to be optimistic. I think through hard work I can turn this into a positive and locate a better opportunity."

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