Many mid-career chemists have to deal with employment gaps when job hunting. Attempts to disguise them in your résumé are seldom successful. How should one discuss these employment gaps when called upon to do so by recruiters and prospective employers? This can be a critical factor landing a new job.
Long employment gaps are no longer uncommon among mid- and late-career chemists. According to the 2008 ACS Mature Career Chemists Survey, nearly 20% of chemists between 50 and 70 years of age reported experiencing a period of more than six months when they were neither employed nor attending school full-time. Currently many chemists are experiencing periods of unemployment lasting this long or longer. How you deal with this time and explain your employment gap to prospective employers can be a critical factor in landing a new job?
When entering the job market, one’s first priority is developing job-hunt strategies, identifying candidate employers, writing résumés and cover letters, and updating one’s job-hunting skills. Initially this can easily take forty hours per week or more. But as one’s job hunt becomes extended it becomes more difficult to spend this much time per week productively job hunting.
However, there are things you can do to productively make use of this time. You can remain active in chemistry and also explore career transitions that utilize one’s skills. There are several ways to do this thus keeping constructively busy while job hunting. One is by attending local or regional meetings of ACS and other professional societies. Another is by presenting a paper at one of these meetings or an ACS national meeting. Unemployed ACS members receive complimentary registration for ACS national meetings. Using frequent flyer miles and sharing hotel rooms with friends are other ways to reduce meeting expenses.
Taking one or more short courses or online courses is another option. These can be a great way to expand your skills.
- ACS Harvard eLearning Library which includes 42 business skills courses
- ACS short courses
- ACS Leadership Development courses , which include online courses
- Participating in free ACS webinars
- Writing a review article for a research journal or trade magazine
- Volunteer work such as organizing a symposium for an ACS national or regional meeting, becoming active in an ACS division or local section and serving as a resource for science teachers. Participating in ACS activities can broaden your professional network and increase your access to job market information.
Noting these activities in your résumé and cover letter shows prospective employers you are an energetic, self-motivated individual.
Once you press the send button on your computer and the employer has your résumé, cover letter and application materials, you have little control over the process. This can be frustrating. By engaging in some of the activities suggested above, you at least have some control over your time. This control reduces stress associated with your job hunt. It also provides a sense of accomplishment at the end of what might otherwise be a frustrating week.
John Borchardt is a chemist and freelance writer who has been an ACS career consultant for 15 years. He is the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers.”He has had more than 1200 articles publsihed in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he holds 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents and is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers.