Career consultants talk among ourselves pointing
out that little attention is paid to mid-career folks.
Part of it is that it is harder to define clearly. Another
is that they don’t always want to ask for help or
don’t know how to seek it out.
It seems that the more I encounter successful
people the more I find that answers to the question
how did you get to where you are now is that it
was through their experiences after their formal
education. A person I know who has worked in
lasers never had that in mind when he was a grad
student or post doc. The post doc mentor did not
mentor him well either. It was through people who
he worked with and was influenced after his career
was under way.
It was through a personal self examination and
assessment. Several thoughtful stories about re-
defining oneself mid career start off this way. 1 2
Then, one finds the need to convince oneself
by asserting that a transition is a valid and insightful
way to use one’s skills.
A careful crafting of your story before interviews
seems to be required. Even writing it down and
practicing it in mock interviews can be helpful.
The ACS tool Interviewstream can be used to
hone the message.
Another perspective to build credibility is to
construct documents in your resume file supporting
project work, accomplishment synopses, and
patent or market summaries. Don Straits’
article usefully points out the technique.
Be wary of simply using an online template
or following generic advice from a placement
service. Consider working with a career consultant
who might be more familiar with circumstances.
We were chatting about a number of people
we met in Salt Lake City this week when we
volunteered to help them with their resumes
and with interviewing. Most people who go
on to further their training with one or more
post-doctoral fellowships expect that this should
increase their starting salary when they land that
first job. How much should post doctoral work
In my experience, I have heard of it providing
no difference from recent Ph.D. graduates.
On the other hand some more reasonable
firms have factored in 1 year of experience for
each two years of post-doc. Using this and
an estimate of 2 or 3 % increase per year, one
can develop estimates of starting salaries for
chemists in the tables in the C&EN article.
After one of the workshops, a member approached
me with the question: What do you do if you receive
an offer, but it is lower than you expect for the
I guess this might be the case with the economy
these days and many candidates being available for
There are several things one might do. Among the
first is to courteously explore the details of the
offer. 1 2
Do your homework on establishing expected salaries
with the salary comparator and other tools. Check
with your network.
Confirm that the business is doing well financially,
that there is not something behind the offer.
Liz Ryan has written a couple of blogs on this
besides confirming the offer in writing, she
recommends enthusiastically expressing your
interest in the position and adding that there
might be some way of working together. She
proposes that the offer might be suitable if
you worked shorter hours or on a consulting
The Ladders talks about establishing three
numbers– ideal, no-go and satisfactory. Then,
creating a discussion with the company decision
maker about reaching the satisfactory amount.
A third approach brings up items that may be
negotiable if you really need the job and want
to reach common ground so that both you and
the employer will be satisfied. My sense is you
need to begin preparing to say that you are
sorry you cannot accept the offer as it is.
Suggestions were offered to a capable undergraduate
senior who came to have her resume reviewed. She
is attending the ACS national meeting and did not
have a clear focus on where she wished to work.
The resume revealed that.
First we reviewed a draft job search plan she might
-create a target company list
-develop a file system for each company
-build a network contact list and where the network
members can potentially help her make contacts to
-place items into the file: news stories, ads for
companies and their competitors, key employees,
-contact recruiters and search firms for the particular
-add business profiles, business reports for key
companies and industries. Look up salaries with ACS
salary comparator and other salary tools.
-create contact and follow-up plans, sorted by date.
use social networking sites.
-create targeted resumes, after doing a
We then talked about how she could ask herself
some questions and perform a self assessment with
instruments listed in the blogroll.
Then, we focused on her “draft resume”. While not
perfect it was a good start. Every first resume has
places for improvement. We reviewed the resume file
concept and showed how to make her resume brief,
clear and specific, focusing on the courses she had
completed and techniques she listed.
Courses: While her placement center recommended
listing all her undergraduate courses to fill in the
page, we talked about modifying it to included
unique advanced courses which reveal a background
in organic synthesis of medically important compounds,
structure activity profiles and advanced experimental
designs. It is not valuable to talk about the courses
taken in the first 2 years.
Advanced skills: While the placement center
suggested all the methods she had used in the
various labs, we talked about focusing on key skills
that might be used for the compounds her target
companies might see valuable– microscale, multi-step
synthesis and several others.
These items seem pertinent for people at early
stages in their career looking for their first
The article in this week’s C&EN tells
about several experiences in the
merging, acquiring and still evolving
Pharma / Biotech field (3-16-09).
A telling bar chart on Page 26
summarizes higher level job cuts
over the last 3 years as companies
try to find ways to earn profits in
a very competitive, global market.
While the links in the BUSINESS/
Who’s Next? article seemed at
first to be relevant for all job hunters,
most are more relevant for mid-career
people in the field. Of the examples
are stories about employees finding
out reading about news on blogs
before being told in person.
Other trends in articles appearing
in the issue, however, do seem
relevant for people interested in
developing new careers in the field.
A number of interesting conversations and a lot of
hard work has landed several on-site interviews
for a person that I know. This person has unique
credentials that are suited for this one particular
on-site interview. She said:
…”My major concern is: I have not done a good job
convincing people why I want to work there,
why particularly that company. Can you please
give me some pointers on how to phrase my response?”
B, your response needs to be well thought out and
address your needs, their needs, their style and be
done in less than 2 minutes.
It is logical for you to write out your thoughts and
practice speaking it not using too many “I’s”.
It may help to understand your needs, desires and
personal wishes. Use the following three lists as
things to consider and choose:
- authenticity - looking at the company webpage,
does the firm’s values match your concerns and
- advancement - are the rewards for significant
accomplishment meaningful for you: promotion,
growth of responsibility, etc.
- family - work balance
- independence - choice of projects to work on
(usually not a high value in firms)
- challenge - difficult problems that will improve
the quality of life or benefits
- prestige - recognized world leader, cutting
- respect - web-page company values source
- social interaction - check with people who
work there, do they walk the talk, do people
enjoy working there
- money - using surveys know the range you
would like to be offered to work there. Is is
- intellectual growth - given chances to learn
more and helpful skills, stay current
- leadership - boundless energy and enthusiasm
that affects others motivation, ideals
- social conscience - doing the right thing
even when no one is looking
- individual contributor vs. working in teams -
most times team work is expected
- specialist vs. generalist
- travel/relocation (define your absolute maximum
consider your personal situation and tradeoffs)
- regular hours vs. whatever it takes to achieve
goal legally and ethically
- lab/bench role vs. management role - many
starting positions will expect lab or bench or
After doing a personal assessment, review the
company web-site and annual report looking
for common ground. Investigate the company
remember what you like about the company.
Carefully read the job description for the position.
Be able to show your good matches to the job.
Make your response genuine.
Consider mentioning something in your thank you notes.
Mention the positive impression people who interview
you have on you.
Consider mentioning the strong business plan and sound
business practices to be able to continue hiring in a
tough job market.
Does this address your question specifically enough?
A lot of differing opinions came in from colleagues
when the question was posed:
Should I list papers that have been written but are
sitting unsent on my professor’s desk?
Let me offer a fuller context:
“A member shared the story of submitting his resume
and then being asked, “didn’t he have any publications
resulting from his dissertation?” He then responded
that his adviser had three paper manuscripts on his
desk. The recruiter suggested that they be added to
the resume as ‘in preparation’, otherwise people would
wonder why no publications from the work. So, I
sent in the modified resume and soon after received
all phone call from staffing expressing interest in
pursuing my filling their openings.” [edited]
This is a tough market, even tougher than recent memory.
(1) Do, with integrity, what you can to represent
yourself well as an attractive candidate for
(2) Everything you do will be fair game for
questions and follow-ups.
(3) Various firms expect to see papers generated
from the research that we do from universities.
When one works in industry, publications are possible,
but do not happen as often. (see a previous blog
entry for discussion.)
In fact, when reviewing resumes professionals may
rank resumes based on number of years from BS to
PhD (years in grad school), number of papers from
undergraduate research, number of papers from
graduate research, number of papers from post-
doctoral research, number of review articles and
book chapters, quality of graduate program and
professor, quality of post-doc adviser, and even
time to publication from starting research.
So understand there is benefit in sending in a separate
sheet ‘list of publications’ with your resume. (refer to
‘resume file’ in blogroll and above blog.)
This question demands responses from different
perspectives. So, I asked trusted colleagues the
question and their responses are provided in the
- tenured faculty member, dozens of graduates
- senior industrial technical director, hundreds of hires
- experienced faculty member, program director
- technical recruiter with strong history of hiring
many doctoral candidates and mentoring many students
- experienced entrepreneur
Mid-career professionals with accomplished
careers at well established companies, J Lubin
writes, face hurdles they need to prepare for.
If they seek positions in a smaller firm, they
may have to show a different side of their skill
set. For example where:
- goals were accomplished with minimal resources,
- willing to pitch in to solve the problem of the
- willing to accept less status and title.
Another idea for searching for positions involves
looking at last year’s ads that were not filled
because of a hiring freeze. Pull them out again,
write your cover letter and targeted public
relations documents and send them to the
hiring manager or network contact. It may
be a good time to be considered if the dust
has settled at the company.
Two pieces written by S. Needleman were
noteworthy. One was pointing out the
emerging use of “search engine job placement“
using search engine marketing principles to
strategically hone in on job seekers. While it
may not work for all fields it is beginning to be
used in several websites, so look for position
ads in this new location.
Finally, view the “pay grade” article she
wrote on Patent Researchers if you are open
to alternate careers using your chemistry
training. While not specifically talking about
chemistry, chemical patents are a strong field.
Two items mentioned in a previous
post on Overcoming Barriers were “mobility”
and the “global reach” of chemistry-based
careers in our future.
“…my main goal now is just to get
some industrial experience. I do realize
the unfortunate recession that both
countries (Canada and US) seem to be
in… Despite this, I…contacted a couple
of … former graduate students… now
work[ing] in the US…
Collectively, they told me that many
companies will not hire on a working
VISA but rather on someone with
working permission in the US. That
is when I thought of you, because
if I search for jobs in the States, I
also need to consider several other
things, one of them being [citizenship]
…Does “working permission” imply
obtaining a Green card? It seems that
trying to ger a job in the US results in
a conundrum. Employers won’t hire
without someone with the right status
(green card) but always thought you
needed to have a job in the States to
apply for a Green card. Would you be
able to make any suggestions on how
I should prepare myself legally if I
ever (and quite possibly) consider
work in the US?
Thanks again and have a great weekend.
It happens all the time! The server goes down.
We have all experienced it. But Feb. 26, 2009
all heard about Google’s gmail glitch causing a
couple of hour shutdown of services worldwide.
This affected millions of us. It causes us to
think about our use of this model of enterprise
and how we should employ them.
Regularly I recommend to members that they
use email accounts during their job search, hunt
and negotiations that is independent and can be
reached anywhere, anytime. This might raise
the ‘Hey. what about when..”
Computerworld has covered this topic in several
articles. The one by John Edwards suggests
several things to clarify before using for your
In addition to these, even smaller time users
need to explore I would argue with test cases
before committing and plan their back-up strategies.
So, here is part of my attempt. I recently wrote
a short article on the History of the chemistry of
how humans see color in a “google document” to
see how this works in a practical way. Please take
a look at it and share what you think. In addition,
please share your stories about cloud computing
The panel consisted of Dr. Valerie Petit Wilson
(Brown), Dr. Wilton Virgo (Wellesley), Dr.
Dorothy Phillips (Waters), Dr. John McKew
(Wyeth) and Dr. Rebecca Carrier (Northeastern).
Concluding statements contained the following
- embrace the world as the stage where
you play a role, collaborate and contribute
(global reach of chemistry)
- careers will not have their scripts written
for them, they will be different from the past
(mobility of chemists to contribute in different
- successful careers will involve reinventing
yourselves. You have a choice to be forced
to change or want to change into new areas
(chemistry careers will be more “organic”)
- some times to move forward will require
you to move sideways.
(marketability for chemists will require
development and experience in relevant skill
- do not fear to try new things, explore different
paths (chemists should be empowered to
find new areas to apply themselves)
Reality came out in the responses from last Friday’s
panelists in response to the question from an audience
Question: My spouse and I will be looking for
positions at the same time. What thoughts and
recommendations do you have?
Responses (without attribution):
- there are still a number of couples who need to
reside and work in different locations.
- develop multiple options short term and mid-term
for yourselves to consider and weigh the pros and
- explore how other couples have pursued their
- some universities try to make it possible to hire
both, if compelling cases can be made for each person
- it is possibly easier to have both persons employed
in larger employment centers (cities, regions) where
there are more positions and institutions.
- it might be easier if both persons sought positions
in different sectors or industries
- it might be too much stress to have both persons
working in the same department for the same
boss.(do not work in same department)
- it is common that assistance is provided for the
spouse of someone who has been recently hired.
Last Friday the Northeastern section YCC held a timely
panel discussion incorporating an impressively
informed group with backgrounds in academic,
government and industry. Senior level, mid-career
and recent graduate professionals were represented.
Panel: “Overcoming Barriers in Careers in Chemistry
and Chemistry Related Fields” (Podcast will be
One of the first questions from the audience couldn’t
have been more timely: “What does the job market
look like based upon the current economic crisis?”
The panelists did not beat around the bush. A couple
of panelists mentioned that the job market has been
tight in previous decades. No two ways about it, we
have a tight, if not frozen, job market from the print
ad point of view.
It is the “hidden job” market that is relatively
unknown and which you may be able to effect. While
there may be no official hiring, if there is a special
match to a need, you can find a position and offer.
It requires due diligence in exploring what are the
needs and how your skills and accomplishments
can be used to meet the needs.
Two concepts were tendered:
- seek out internships and
- seek out mentorS, “S” capitalized
meaning more than one.
An internship allows you to become a
known, contributing quantity. It also
gives you insight into the culture of
the organization. Internships demonstrate
how you you can come up to speed quickly
Mentors help you develop the right skills
and help guide you both by being a sounding
board for your ideas, but also giving you
different perspectives. The panel shared
that being known quantity involves knowing
critical details. They can be people
- who have recently been successful,
- who are senior people who know and
understand the decision-making process and
- who are outside your institution, field, or
The panelists did say academic hiring is
happening in at least one institution.
(Podcast for details.)