Chemistry is a field that depends on a robust
economy. Our roles and careers are connected
in so many ways with what is happening globally.
Raw materials, food science, manufacturing
transformed materials, and many of the
substances of what engineers, medical doctors
and patent agents do.
What’s the point? In the past I cannot recall
having so many people contact me for help
concentrated in so many chemistry related fields.
The issue is that the economy is not likely to return in
ways that resemble the 1990s or earlier times.
Henry Blodgett’s “here is why” column tells a
convincing story that with so many people unemployed
for too long, many of their jobs having been off-shored
or will be off-shored because it is more cost effective
We all need to look for different kinds of jobs and
careers, in different ways, in different locations. We
have to anticipate where things are going and get in early.
So many people I see are waiting until they are “let go”
and then “the long hard slog” of finding openings where
there are few begins. So many are fooled into thinking
that they can help government define new roles, that they
in fact qualify for and they find the jobs move to other
qualified people. Government groups are taking advantage
of people fully realizing their motivation and not rewarding
a job well done.
This is a situation labor dealt with by forming unions
eighty years ago. It is not likely to be effective now for
chemists, but we could try.
We could try going it alone, but that only works for a few,
and each of us wishes that were us.
What we need to do is network and help each other.
We need to do it at all levels. So, if you are in a chemistry
related field and looking for work or looking to improve your
position, let me know. Let’s be proactive in communicating
among each other and helping one another. The more time
we waste the worse it will become.
are considered at the last moment. However,
good job references can be the deciding factor
whether you will even be interviewed, in some
cases, and get the job offer after the interview
process, in others.
Developing your personal references
is a lifelong activity beginning when you are
in school. As undergraduates, everyone must
be thinking about potential recommendations
(planning for graduate education or
professional training) or references (for
entering the job market).
requesting references is on each applicant.
You can ask teachers, undergraduate research
directors and guidance counselors who have
observed your work and have seen you work
on teams to complete projects and assignments.
newspaper, and administrators who have
encountered you demonstrating workplace
and leadership skills provide another facet
of you as a candidate.
Why the difference? You only want people
who will honestly speak highly of you to
represent you. In addition, it can be a strong
help to choose a reference the hiring manager
(decision maker for your application) knows.
So, this suggests that a more involved
interaction with your references can pay
Choosing people highly respected in the
chemical field is a benefit.
Did you ever hear of Employer referral programs?
In many companies, an employee can
receive a bonus if she refers and submits a
person;s resume and application to the
appropriate manager. Thus, this “inside”
reference is one of the best references you
your strengths and be prepared to point out
to a prospective employer how you meet
the requirements for the position.
Clearly, the reference will have a current
copy of the resume you sent to the company,
an idea of the position for which you apply
and what interests you about the position.
DIGITAL RESUME FILE
Every effort should be made to confirm
that each person you choose as a reference
indicates that they can be a good reference
for you and be readily available.
Each name (commonly four names, minimum,
three names), and I
suggest a master list of
six from which to choose, is placed with
- full name
- current title
- professional affiliation
- professional address
- profession email
- telephone number
relationship to you
on the List of References page. This page
is not formally part of a ‘resume,’ but part of
your ‘resume file.’
managers and contacts. When company
officials receive reference lists with your
resume, some choose to contact people
with whom they know even before the
interview. A number of people use the
the references list at the same time they
do due diligence on candidates with
verifying services and the Internet.
What can a career consultant provide for you? A near-
thesis-defense grad student contacted me about resume
fine-tuning. As luck would have it, she has been invited
to an on-site interview for a position for which she is
She contacted me about concerns she had for the
on-site interview. For sure, she can consult a
recent contribution about interview prep 1 .
After describing the position, we developed
several strategies that we wish to share:
1. consider bringing some samples and
examples of your experimental coatings,
devices, or test devices to pass around to
your seminar audience.
2. find out who you will interview and who
will attend your seminar. Research them with
LinkedIn and look for common ground for
3. Practice responses to typical questions
paying attention to body language. Consider
practicing using Interviewstream..
4. Develop a list of questions you want
to ask. Write them down on a pad that
you will bring to the interview. Ask permission
to take notes during your interview and have
your questions on that pad.
5. Remember the “don’t ask” questions:
salary, training, publication, benefits and
Do your homework on salary expectations
using the ACS salary comparator. Be
prepared if the question is asked of you.
Salary is only one component of a
6. Stories: remember the acronym SARI-
situation, action, results, implications
7. Negotiations begin after the position
has been offered. Ask a consultant for
input. If you are concerned about starting
date, living arrangements, certain benefits
hold your concerns until you have been
offered the position.
8. If you have dietary restrictions, it is
appropriate to bring them up in conversation
with your host before you arrive (vegetarian,
Little things lead into big things.
We started off the conversation which she
sought to help develop her career in the
entrepreneurial biotech field.
She has a med chem masters degree from
a mid-level research university and is in
her second position. Why is it that my
accomplishments are not recognized?
She spoke a bit haltingly without the
flow and skilled softening and voice tone
accents to make it sound interesting.
Then, the ‘earth parted and the sun rose!’
She spoke about her passion for defeating
cancer with new therapies, due to losing
two grandparents recently by that disease.
That passion needs to be developed, she
was advised, because passion can “trump”
pedigree and perceived accomplishment
(which are really made by teams, rather
The passion needs to be engaged by
compelling stories and integrated into
entrepreneurial positions of next generation
Then, we need to support the aspirations
and direction with confidence and an
understanding of how people make
decisions and manage risk. For
confidence, we used R. Kanter’s insight
about the three legs of confidence stool,
being accountability, collaboration and
taking initiative to take action.
For managing risks in decision making,
we talked about Jonah Lehrer’s clearly
stated discussion of the mental processes
we go through when we make decisions.
We then spoke about a plan of action
and next steps. Toastmasters International,
networking to demonstrate creativity and
practice leadership, and enhancing her digital
What an engaging conversation!..
The professional and chemistry workforce
is changing. Financial decisions need
to make sense now and in the future. But
the laws and choices are constantly
changing. We need to either pay attention
or pay someone to pay attention.
LOOKING FORWARD TO USING OUR IRAs
Source: R. Powell, Roth-it-right, 2-12-10, p. B2
Current laws provide ways to preserve
your hard-earned savings for future years.
Five “big-picture” tips the author gives may
be useful this year as Roth accounts are
available to more people. (I even suggested
my daughter and son consider conversions
from traditional.) Do “what if” calculations
and don’t withhold taxes on the conversion
make a lot of sense.
UPCOMING POPULATION WAVE
Source: Schumpeter, Silver Tsunami,
The Economist, 2-6-10, p. 74
Most companies and governments are
ill-prepared for the loss of scientific
and engineering skills due to aging
populations. A third of US workers will
be over 50 in 2012. A consideration for
our employment might be to see if there
is any preparation for this for all people
Don’t wait till it is too late.
phased retirement, pools of semi-retired
professionals, and dealing with outdated
MATURE CHEMISTS INVESTING
Source: K. Blumenthal, “Getting going:
Investors should act their age,” WSJ 2-13-10
Mature chemists might follow a similar
trend of losing their investor’s edge when
approaching their 70s. Studies reported
here suggest they make financial mistakes
as people in their 20s with less experience.
Before their mid-70s, consider four steps
to simplify and reduce the potential for
errors that can be avoided covered
nicely in the article by K. Blumenthal.
Want to enhance your ability to share and remember?
Dan Pink shares telling stories in new ways that are fun
and very insightful. 1 2
“We are our stories…. stories can provide context
enriched by emotion, a deeper understanding of how we
fit in and why that matters.”
Many of our complex, data-filled information does not
make an impact given in that form. Stories provide the
ability to give context and emotional impact of the
facts, Pink argues.
In his book Pink quotes Don Norman:
’stories are important cognitive events, for they encapsulate
into one compact package, information, knowledge,
context and emotion.’
Story telling is a recommended way to respond
to interviewers’ questions in revealing
ways. They are a form that our minds recall.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard of troubles
a new Ph. D. employee have had in not “getting along”
with their supervisor. So, many times a supervisor will
either suggest something be done or ask can you do
[.whatever.]..when you get the chance. She might also
request a poorly defined assignment and give a
deadline, like, due by the end of the week.
The new employee did not think much of doing it and
did not do what was “asked.”
Sometimes the assignment is “given” to a team.
What should you do?
Employers seek employees who are proactive, get
things done and understand that they may not fully
understand the importance and implications of an
assignment, which may seem optional.
This is a common problem in teams and with what you
“need” to do,
“want” to do, or
might do because it is a challenge that you will learn
from by doing.
It is a situation where you and your team need to figure
it is in your team’s best interest to
Another thing that your note prompts me to add is that
THE BOSS, whoever that is, will likely not want to see
any question about you not knowing what to do. Some
supervisors will expect you to do it. Some bosses will
forget that they asked you to do an assignment.
Some bosses will expect you to improve on the
assignment so that it produces something valuable
for the team (could also be group, division, etc.) and
You will be recognized by doing well on the things
you must do but those who exceed expectations and
help make the boss look good are the people who are
considered for promotion..
We began our class by soliciting what each student
wished to know and gain from the course. One
person with a concerned look on her face asked:
Should I change my first name to a name that
English speakers can say more easily, for my
resume, for speaking with people for jobs and
interviews and working? Some of the names
Mai (Egyptian, spoken as “May” as in month of)
One suggested changing her name on her official
documents. One thought of change his name on
transcripts and university registration documents.
So, my “cabinet” of expert consultants were
consulted for their recommendations. At the end,
I will summarize:
First of all, changing your name will not increase
your chances of landing a job, all agreed.
From Joel Shulman:
This is obviously a very personal question.
(1) If the student is comfortable being called
something other than his/her given name, I
would suggest picking up a nickname that
is very close to his/her real name. For example,
Jagadeswara could be called Jag
Daqian could use Dak
Jujie is easly pronounces (I think) and
could remain unchanged, or it could be Gene
(male) and Jean (female).
(2) A shortened form of a person’s last name
could be used, as well.
I would not change the name on any official
documents__ only for use when introducing
themselves to others and in parentheses on
one’s resume. For example,
Jagadeswara (Jag) Rajam
For official occasions and on publications
the first name would remain one’s given name.
But for social and job search situations, an
Anglicized name would make things
From Rich Bretz:
Sometimes students will try to
(3) translate their name into English.
For example, we had a fellow from
Africa whose name translated as
“Mr. Chicken”- he soon figured out a
From Louie Kirschenbaum:
Most of our Chinese students have already
picked an Englishname by the time they get
to graduate school. We seem to get a lot of
Amy’s and Wendy’s and they do list themselves
as in Joel’s example…
Indians [and other south Asians seem to] have
so many polysyllabic names that they need
to specify which one (or part of one) they
prefer in normal conversation.
(4) It is also common that they reverse their
names since the last name is given first in
some traditions. This is from a colleague’s
Murali Krishna Cherukuri
(Murali C. Krishna, in publications
In any case, I’d agree that changing a
name to get an interview won’t help get the
job. — Louie
- Be comfortable and consistent with your
- shortened version of first or last name
- last name
List the name on documents, as indicated in
(2) and (4), above.
Other colleagues contributed to this, thank