In my work, I come across many chemists who are at a turning point in their career. Some are getting ready to graduate, or coming to the end of a post-doctoral position. Others have been downsized, sometimes with little or no warning.
In some cases they saw what was coming, and have taken steps to prepare. In other cases, they suspected something might be coming, but figured they’d worry about it “later”, so were caught without their professional house in order.
With the latter in mind, I have created a career checkup. This is a list of questions that you can ask yourself to make sure you are prepared in case of a sudden change in your professional circumstances.
Remember, “later” usually comes sooner than you think, and it’s critical to be prepared.
Do you have a resume? Is it current? Does it include information on the most significant accomplishments in your career history, as well as your most recent accomplishments at your current position?
Do you have an up-to-date list of your publications? Presentations? Patents?
Do you have a 30 second summary of who you are professionally, to use when introducing yourself to new professional colleagues? Does it include not your job title, but what you can do, and what you’re passionate about?
Do you have three ready references? Have you spoken to them recently? Do they know what your current situation and career goals are?
Do you regularly read scientific and trade journals in your field?
What trends are you tracking for the future of your field? Your company? Your industry?
What was the last new skill you learned? New subject? Are those on your resume?
How strong is your professional network? If you were to be let go tomorrow, how many people would immediately go out of their way to help you find a new position?
Is your contact database up to date? If you needed to reach someone, could you?
Are you active in your professional society? When was the last time you attended a meeting? Served on a committee? Organized an event?
Do you use social networking tools (LinkedIn, etc.) to remain visible and demonstrate your expertise in your subject?
Do you regularly contribute to discussions in professional forums?
Have you had coffee or lunch with a colleague in the last month, just to catch up?
Do you have a clear plan for your professional future? What do you want to be doing a year from now? 5 years from now?
What steps are you taking to prepare yourself for that future?
What new skills/fields do you want to learn? What steps are you taking to make that happen?
What are you doing to show your expertise in new subject areas?
If you have ideas for other questions that should be added to this list, please suggest them in the comments.
This article was written by Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants. Lisa is a scientific communication consultant and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2007).