Patience Comes with Time

September 29, 2008

There is no quick and easy way to learn patience. Although the theory behind it can be illustrated and its benefits proven, people are not likely to adopt the concept until they are ready—until it is time.

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”
Arnold H Glasgow

When I was a kid, I was always on my way to somewhere. I couldn’t tell you why that way, or the importance of getting there in an instant. However, I knew that I was missing something by not being on my way. It was important to me to find out all those things that others knew, and to see all of the new and exciting things in the world before they faded away.

I have to admit, I am still a little bit like the kid I once was. Now, I am bigger and taller, slower and more gray, but I still have an urge to rush to the front of the line. This propensity, however, seldom works in my favor. Early adopters of technology pay higher prices and suffer through more retrofits and patches than those coming behind.

In negotiations, the first person to loose their cool or to state a price will loose, because in doing so, they have furnished their opponent with a leverage point. In a salary negotiation, you should never state what you would take as your minimum salary, because that is the salary that you are most likely to receive.

In negotiations with vendors, many of you will have had at least one experience with customer service that is more laughable than affable. Where in every iteration of your request for service, you are baited calling your practices into question. Such cases require that you document their responses, perform a gap analysis, demonstrate why a complete fix is necessary, and stipulate why they are legally bound to complete the work. This process is tedious, but it generally results in a superior system.

My experiences with dealing with poor customer service have taught me many things about the people involved both on my side and on the other side. Those times where we were patient and persistent with well conceived processes for change were the times that we won. The times when we lost our cool reacting to our opponents taunts were the times that we lost. For every feature missing from our system or project, I can trace back to an impulsive and impetuous response. In being reactive, we lost our position of authority and in most cases our legitimacy.

People who are reactive are dismissed as irrational. They are not seen as agents for change and are seldom judged as being capable of making a difference. In fact, they are usually seen as damaged in some way — ostracized from their own group and ignored by their opponents.

Patience is one of the most valuable assets that a person can have. This is as true in life as it is in work. Those who lack patience often pay a penance, and those that have it reap the benefits. I am still working on my patience, but admittedly, the process is taking forever. I just hope that the time I’ve got left is greater than or equal to the time required to complete my journey.

“It is strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.”
Elizabeth Taylor

Got to go.

This article was written by David E. Harwell, Ph.D.,Assistant Director for Career Management and Development at the American Chemical Society.

Do you have what employers want?

September 22, 2008

You might be surprised to learn that employers are not only looking for the technical but put heavy emphasis on soft skills.  Employers know that candidates have the technical skills to do the job but need employees that has solid communication skills and work well with co-workers.  This is where employers say most candidates fall short.

Employers responded to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) annual Job Outlook survey were asked to rate the importance of candidate qualities and skills on a five-point scale, with five being “extremely important” and one being “not important.” Communication skills (4.7 average), honesty/integrity (4.7), teamwork skills (4.6), interpersonal skills (4.5), motivation/initiative (4.5), and strong work ethic (4.5) were the most desired characteristics.

“While employers rate communication skills as one of their most desired characteristics, they also report that they are the skills that are most lacking in today’s job candidates,” says Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director.

The good news is that you can develop or hone these soft-skills through training. And ACS is making it easy.

ACS and Harvard Business Publishing have partnered to offer a suite of 42 online courses. At your own pace you can develop communication skills and other critical business skills such as:

§ Writing Skills

§ Presentation Skills

§ Team Leadership

§ Leading and Motivating

§ Negotiating

§ Persuading Others

§ Coaching

§ Delegating

§ Feedback Essentials

§ Difficult Interactions

§ Diversity

§ Career Management

You benefit by gaining high-demand skills. And you get to download an ACS-Harvard Certificate of Completion for each course you complete. ACS recommends that you include the course titles on your resume as a way to stand out from other applicants. See the full course descriptions here. Go to to enroll today!

Global Talent Wars

September 17, 2008

It is perceived that globally there is a skills shortage which is driving countries to ease immigration laws with the hopes of attracting highly skilled workers.  What does this mean for you?  It means increased employment opportunities globally for chemists and chemical engineers whose skills are in high demand. 

Traditionally, the US has been the global leader in attracting and retaining skilled workers.  Work visas have increased in the US but the supply of non-domestic talent is diminishing.  Students from around the world have traditionally come to US to study and have stayed here to work.  Recent tuition applications show that from 2001 to 2003, applications from foreign students to American universities dropped by 26% while they increased in the United Kingdom (36%), France (30%), and Australia (13%).

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over the past five years, the U.S. attracted an average of 73,000 skilled immigrants annually, down from about 107,000.  The US has traditionally attracted 55% of qualified immigrants while Europe attracted only 5%.  The European Union is looking to change those numbers by approving a single work visa.  The Blue Card along with a global advertising campaign will be launched to attract highly skilled workers.  The card will allow skilled foreign workers to work and live in the EU’s 27 member states.  In addition, families can move with them after a 90-day application period as part of a programme designed to meet an estimated short-fall of 20 million skilled and non-skilled workers by 2030.

Other Countries are beginning to ease immigration laws with the goal of attracting high skilled labor.  The Australian government has recently announced its intention to increase immigration by approximately 60% in the next two years.   The emphasis is on skilled immigrants.  New Zealand, recently opened their immigration policies, followed by Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong.  The goals of all these programs are the same: to attract skilled talent and divert some of the talent that flows to the United States.

The supply of talent is simply not adequate to keep up with demand, here in the US or elsewhere. The U.S. produces the highest number of engineers per million residents of any country in the world, but that’s only about 15,000 chemists and chemical engineers with bachelors’ degrees every year.  Those that hold Master or Doctorate degrees with the right combination of skills and work experience may want to look to jobs beyond the US.  With overseas employment restrictions loosening this can give you the opportunity to expand your work experience. 

If you are considering working overseas you should join us for the ACS Careers Industry Forum teleconference on October 9th from 2 to 3 pm EDT.  This series will continue with next month’s presentation by Dr. Carolyn Ribes from Dow Chemical in The Netherlands.  Dr. Ribes will speak on the international work environment and the lessons learned from the perspective of a US industrial chemist.  You should not miss this valuable opportunity to hear from a US chemist working for the world’s second largest chemical company (#1 in the US) on October 9th at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.  For more information, please see our website and sign up now to participate.



This article was written by Liane H. Gould, Manager of Career Services for ACS Department of Career Management & Development.. 





Careers in Biotechnology/Drug Development

September 8, 2008

A recently read a review of a new book entitled “Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development” by Toby Freedman, 2008, Cold Spring Harbor Press. Freedman is a PhD molecular biologist that has moved into life sciences recruiting. Since I’m alway interested in career development, and biotech is a field I don’t know enough about, I thought I’d check it out.

I must admit I was highly impressed with the material. The book discusses current conventional wisdom for scientists who are concerned about their careers. Freedman totes that “there are lots of jobs in the biopharma industry”, so it’s worth looking there for options. But what are those jobs? Freedman then proceeds to give a comprehensive answer to that question.

Along the way, she provides a detailed description of the drug discovery process.

The first 6 chapters of this book provide general career advice, giving an overview of what is expected in the biopharma industry, what it takes to succeed, how to write a resume, network, etc. Most of the advice applies to all jobs, but some is specific to science or these industries. The advice is very good, and includes lots of details, examples, and resources for further information. Freedman provides a balanced overview, pointing out both the good and bad points of this industry.

The industry she is focusing on includes both biotechnology and drug discovery & development, also called biopharma. These industries have a great deal in common, and similar career paths and positions are available in each. The entire process is very complex, and often not well understood by those who have not been immersed in it.

The second, and major, part of the book breaks the drug discovery enterprise down into its various stages, describes the role of each step in the process, and details positions available at each stage.

The positions described range from those that require a PhD or MD, to those that are accessible to those with a college degree.

Freedman describes the types of positions, typical job titles and career paths, roles and responsibilities, typical tasks, relative salaries and other compensation. She also describes in detail the pros and cons of each field, how to excel in the field, and what personal characteristics are most often found in those who succeed in that field.

She predicts where the field is going and what job prospects will be like, and also talks about how to get started in each field.

Finally, each chapter ends with recommendations for training, professional societies, and other resources. The entire volume is well organized, with important points in callouts, and many clarifying diagrams.

Anyone who reads this book will come away (like I did) with a deeper understanding of the drug discovery industry, and how complex it really is (and perhaps why marketed pharmaceuticals really cost more than you’d think).

Hopefully, they will also come away with several ideas of places they might fit into that industry, and the resources and inspiration to start investigating those options. I would have liked to have seen more statistics and numbers (salaries, etc), but understand that data would get dated quickly, and ACS members can get current information from the Salary Comparator.

As further proof of the growing importance of this field, ACS has started an Industry Forum and their first speaker is from Wyeth Drug Discovery and Development. The free teleconference is coming up on Thursday, September 11th. While I may never work in a traditional job in this field, it is certainly an area I am going to keep an eye on, and learn more about.

This article was written by freelance technical writer Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants.

-Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. Scientific Communication Services since 1992, Balbes Consultants –

 Author of:  “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2006)



ACS Careers Industry Forum:  Monthly Teleconferences featuring Luminaries in the Chemical Sciences.

We feel this is a great opportunity for practitioners in the chemical sciences to listen in to top industry leaders in their industries and will assist in making informed career decisions. Guest Speakers include

ØSeptember:  Dr. Abou-Gharbia, Senior Vice President & Head of Chemical & Screening Sciences, for Wyeth Drug Discovery & Development.

ØOctober:  Dr. Carolyn Ribes, Process Analytical, Dow Benelux, B.V., Terneuzen, The Netherlands.

ØNovember:  Michael Strem, Ph.D., President, Strem Chemicals, Inc. founded Strem Chemicals in Newburyport, MA.

ØDecember:  No teleconference to be scheduled.

ØJanuary:  Dr. Tom Lane, to be President of ACS.

ØFebruary:  Dr. William F. Carroll, Jr., Vice President, Chlorovinyl Issues for OxyChem and works on public policy issues and communications related to chlorine and PVC.  He is also Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana where he teaches polymer chemistry.

Please join us to discuss economic and employment trends with top industry executives in the chemical sciences.  Go to register now.  This is a free service via conference call.