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On November 18, 2016, the 2017 Chemistry Faculty Jobs List had 482 positions.
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1. HELPING CHEMISTS FIND JOBS IN A TOUGH MARKET. 2. TOWARDS A QUANTITATIVE UNDERSTANDING OF THE QUALITY OF THE CHEMISTRY JOB MARKET.
After an arduous, demoralizing, post-Great Recession period of unemployment, underemployment, and job hunting, I wanted to share some happy, hopeful news: I recently landed a new job that I am excited about. It’s more than just a new job, really...this is a return to R&D and a major boost in career trajectory, quality of life, and overall work satisfaction, not to mention pay, all bundled into the culmination of a very difficult decade.
The way this happened was unexpected and surprising to me. I have, until now, assumed that if you didn’t follow a particular prescribed path (find a job posting, apply for the job, get a phone interview, get a site interview, receive an offer) to getting hired, then you were either gaming the system or cheating. That must have been incredibly naïve of me. I veered from that sequence during my home stretch, achieving my desired outcome, but getting what I ultimately wanted didn’t feel like manipulation or cheating at all; it was hard work and it made sense to me. You are welcome to tell me if you disagree. It won’t subdue my elation.
I am a former synthetic chemist. In the mid-2000s, I was truly thrilled to be doing medicinal chemistry. I enjoyed bench work, the companionship of fellow chemists, and the fact that I was doing what I wanted to do and had been educated to do…but in 2008 my position (like many folks’) vanished, and I ended up briefly unemployed before taking a string of less-than-interesting positions. These jobs were only tangentially related to my love of chemistry and they paid much less. I hesitate to use the term drudgery, but…let’s put it this way: perpetually looking forward to the end of the day and the end of the work week can be a pretty miserable way to live a life.
|Credit: John Milligan|
After 10 years or so out of school, you find yourself competing with recent graduates if you stick with the basic skills you learned in school. Recent graduates work cheaply. Competition can be tough.
Usually it’s the experience shown on your resume that gets you an interview. The recent graduate may be very sharp, but he/she needs some time to become productive in many job situations. Hiring experienced people means I want someone who can make immediate contributions and not require much training.
In hiring people I usually have others looking over my shoulder. My requirements are often very specific in terms of experience needed. It also helps to have worked for leaders in the industry (often competitors or customers). Previous employers matter and can be a plus as long as non-competes don’t get in the way.
After 10 years you probably have specialized in certain areas. If yours are fields in demand, job searching will be easier. Specialized experience can be valuable, but it may take time to find the right employer.
After 10 years you also tend to be in upper salary brackets. That makes you more vulnerable in cost cutting layoffs. Unless of course you are a key player in a major project.
Networking is often listed as a key for the mid career professional looking for work. People you have worked with over the years know your accomplishments and reputation. They can be sources of opportunities. They may well know who is hiring and what they are looking for. Do let your friends know you are looking.
Don’t forget to consider temp agencies. Manpower and Kelley Scientific, to name two, have listings for temp professionals including chemists. Their salaries are negotiable. Some companies prefer to hire temps. Temping is a opportunity to show what you can do.
Guard against negative thoughts while you are looking. Depression can be a problem. Find some people you can relax with and talk it out. Finding that next job can take time, but most of us find something. Keep your chin up.I always hold the temp agencies at bit at arm's length, but your mileage may vary. Also, I really commend the concerns around depression and having a group of friends that you can talk about your job loss with.
There was a person in the land of grad school, whose name was Job; and that person was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil and had written 4 of 5 chapters. Job's substance also was two peer-reviewed journal articles; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From the search committee.
And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a published and an upright man?
Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Hath Job submitted an application? If so, he will come to curse thee to thy face.
And there was a day when the search committee met
And there came an automated email unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them: so send a writing sample, a teaching statement, a cover letter, and a dossier of recommendation immediately. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, your funding is running out and and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, There is only one position in your field, so good luck with that.
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and tweeted.
And said, unpublished came I out of my mother's womb, and unemployed shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth
And Satan answered the Lord, and said, The committee hath not completed its deliberations. So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with delaying.
And he took him a group office to comfort himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.
Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they were secretly hoping that they could get the interview with Satan instead.
After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day. And Job spake, and said,
Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.
Let the day of my first seminar be remembered in darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it.
For now should I have lain still and been quiet, or just played video games, or gone to law school.
I have seen the foolish taking root and earning tenure: but suddenly I cursed his habitation.
I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause:
What is my strength, that I should hope? What is my methodological innovation that I should hope to be noticed?
Is there iniquity in my chapter? cannot my heuristic discern perverse things?
When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? and I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day.
Doth God pervert judgment? or doth His rec letter misrepresent my defense date?
I will say unto God, Do not condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendest with me.
Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me rewrite chapter 3 and change annotation style; and wilt thou bring me into dust again?
Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?
Then spake Zophar the Placement Officer, and said,
Canst thou while searching call out God? hast thou edited thy materials as I said?
If thou prepare thine dissertation abstract, and stretch out thine hands toward him
then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear:
But the dossiers of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost.
And Job answered and said
I am as one mocked of his neighbour, who calleth upon God, and he answereth him: the just upright man is laughed to scorn. The tabernacles of unpublishing full professors prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly.
ye are forgers of lies, ye are all theoreticians of no value.
And where is now my hope? as for my writing sample, who shall see it?
Then answered the Lord unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
Gird up thy loins in a newly purchased and not too ostentatious suit; I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. Canst thou describe 3 years of hard thinking in 5 minutes of high-stakes interview? Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook?
I shall give thee an interview, though it shall cost all thou hast left to attend it.
Then Job answered the Lord, and said,
I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.
Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. But I say unto you "my dissertation intervenes in.."
After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations. And surprisingly few daughters. Especially at the rank of full Professor.Thank you to Curtis and Joseph for their permission.
A woman who graduated with an M.S. in chemistry from a western university around the time of the recession recalls the difficulty of finding work as a new graduate. The woman, who did not want to be identified by name so that her job prospects would not be affected, was unemployed for two-and-a-half years, she says, and heartbroken at being unable to find work in a field she was passionate about.
But she had to pay the bills, including student loans, so she worked at a hotel chain before deciding to return to school for a nursing degree. Now that the woman has graduated and obtained her nursing license in two states, she has the luxury of choosing among four job offers.
Some chemists question whether they should encourage young people to go into the sciences when their journeys have been so difficult. “It’s kind of hard to encourage kids I know who want to go into science, which is terrible because it’s a great field, and we need scientists,” [CJ's note: former Pfizer chemist Pamela] Case says. “But when they ask for my experience, I have to be honest.” Many chemists like Case were forced to leave the bench.If I were laid off and could not find a job in my field, I would imagine it would be hard-pressed to recommend it to others. That's got to be a tough thing to mention during a career day session.
What's the job market like for chemists? Dude -- it's always bad.*
How bad is it? How the heck should I know? Quantifying the chemistry job market is what this blog is about. That, and helping chemists find jobs.
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(*For the literal-minded, this is a joke. Mostly.)