Job hunters in all age groups often make the same mistakes when job hunting. Unfortunately I’ve seen this over and over again in my more than twenty years as an ACS Career Consultant. What can you do to avoid making these mistakes and find a rewarding new position?
Get off to a fast start
Don’t wait too long to start your job search. It’s a very competitive employment market. I see far too many students and post-docs waiting until a few weeks after leaving campus to seriously start their job search. Consequently they may not get their first job until months after graduation. Some experienced chemists who may have lost their job take a vacation before beginning their job search. This delays their chances of actually getting a job and can also deplete their financial reserves.
It’s far better to get an early and fast start to your job search. Update your résumé at least once a year. Also prepare a list of target employers and update this annually as well. This list should include contact information and the names of individuals you know at each firm.
Develop networking skills
Somewhere out there is someone who knows about a job opening that could be perfect for you. Developing a circle of professional contacts and interacting with them to share job hunting ideas and information about job hunting enables you to access the “hidden job market” – job openings that are not advertised. According to Amanda Haddaway, author of Destination Real World: Success After Graduation, up to 80% of job openings are not advertised on job boards or in employment sections of newspapers and trade magazines.
So how can you discover these job openings? The answer is by interacting with other people; that’s what networking is all about.
Remember the list of candidate employers you assembled at the beginning of your job hunt? Look and see who among these people you know – or know of – work at these companies or in the same technology areas. They may be able to tell you about potential job openings and who would be a good contact to give you more information.
So where do you find these people?
Check LinkedIn or other like social media sites for information on people in your research field. Check with your professor for names of former members of your professor’s research group and their contact information. Other potential members of your professional network include people you know through your ACS Chapters and other professional society activities or ACS career consultants you’ve met.
Develop your value proposition
Your value proposition demonstrates your demonstrates unique talent and skills, guarantees delivery of results based on your past accomplishments, and defines you as a go-to expert. Conducting informational interviews with members of your professional network can help you develop your value proposition for a particular industry or even a particular employer.
Obtaining a new job in the same industry you’re working in now may or may not be a good job search strategy depending on the job market in that industry. Alternatively seeking employment in another industry may be a good strategy if employment opportunities are better in that industry. To do this, list all your skills and identify the value you can bring to other industries.
Develop specific goals
Your job search goals should be specific enough that they enable you to identify target industries and companies to approach concerning employment. Develop a schedule. For example, you may want to schedule a specific number of companies to contact each week. Monday you may wish to identify companies to contact. Tuesday and Friday you may wish to prepare customized résumés and cover letters and send them to the companies you’ve targeted. Wednesday you may wish to schedule e-mail or telephone follow-ups to companies to which you’ve earlier sent your résumés. Thursday you may want to take off or use as a networking day to have coffee or lunch with your mentors.
Track your job hunting activities. Using a spreadsheet is a good way to do this. Your spreadsheet will help you determine if you are making good use of your time.Other ways of making good use of your time include writing a review paper and submitting it to an appropriate journal or preparing a paper for a regional or national ACS meeting. Don’t neglect professional association meetings associated with various industries that are among those you are targeting with your job hunting efforts. These activities show prospective employers that you are remaining active in your profession.
John Borchardt was a chemist, freelance writer and devoted ACS career consultant for over 15 years, until his sudden passing in January 2013. He was the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers,” and had more than 1500 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he held 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents, and was the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers. John’s advice, insights and articles helped hundreds of scientists improve their professional lives, and he will be truly missed.