How should chemists react to today’s adverse economic news? To protect your career, the first step is to be aware of the economic news and how it could impact your career. Forewarned is forearmed.
Read your local newspaper’s news and business to learn about events at your employer. “Chemical & Engineering News” and national business publications such as the “Wall Street Journal,” “Business Week,” and “Fortune” can clue you in on broader business news on the chemical industry and other industries employer chemists.
C&EN business news often provides more in depth coverage of the chemical industry than general business publications. For example, a November 24 C&EN article described the adverse effects of the automotive industry slowdown on its chemical suppliers (http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/86/i47/html/8647notw1.html). The financial crisis at many lending institutions has resulted in a major housing and business construction slowdown reducing demand for many chemical products. Worried people are spending less on consumer items also reducing chemical demand.
Local publications may provide more depth on local developments than national publications. For example, the December 8 issue of “Wall Street Journal” covered the announcement of Dow’s closure of 20 facilities and the loss of 5,000 jobs worldwide at the firm plus elimination of 6,000 contractor jobs (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122874291029187963.html?mod=testMod). The same day the “Houston Chronicle” carried a story on cutbacks planned for Dow’s big complex in nearby Freeport, Texas providing information on this huge facility not carried by national publications. This bad economic news comes as chemical companies are still repairing and restarting Texas Gulf Coast plants damaged by Hurricane Ike last September.
DuPont, BASF, BassellLyondell, 3M and other employers of chemists are also eliminating thousands of jobs and closing plants.
Have staff reductions spread to industrial laboratories? As of mid-December, little information is available on this concern.
Okay, so now you’re staying abreast of business news in your industry. What’s next?
Determine how you can quickly improve your job security. Rapidly finish project reports so your manager is aware of your recent accomplishments. Submit invention disclosures on your research. Press your patent attorney to convert your invention disclosures into patent applications. Doing so will make her look good too. Evaluate your projects to determine how you can focus your efforts to make a positive impact in the short term.
Review your recent accomplishments. Doing so is useful in reminding your supervisor of your contributions. Also use this information to update your résumé so it is ready to go should you need to job hunt.
To prepare for possible job hunting, assemble a list of candidate employers. Go beyond your current industry and consider what others may be less negatively impacted by current business conditions. Determine what aspects of your skills and accomplishments are most relevant to these industries.
Assemble a list of contacts working in these industries and for potential future employers with whom you can discuss possible employment opportunities and who could provide useful job-hunting advice. Activate your existing professional network and start making new contacts.
Work through the Careers section of the ACS website to get job hunting advice and obtain advice from ACS career consultants (http://portal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg/content?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PP_SUPERARTICLE&node_id=1781&use_sec=false&sec_url_var=region1&__uuid=1f4eff7a-215b-4121-894c-171f93b9fbdc) on how to improve your resume.
Losing your job is a traumatic experience. Being prepared to get your job hunt off to a fast start and lessen this trauma and put you on the road to career recovery.
Full-time science writer John Borchardt is an ACS Career Consultant and certified Workshop Presenter. As an industrial chemist he holds 30 U.S. patents and written more than 130 peer-reviewed technical articles.