Impact players are employees whose knowledge, skills and work habits make them exceptionally productive. Of course, employers always want to hire new employees with these attributes. Business managers are looking over lab managers’ shoulders to assure themselves that new employees begin to contribute both quickly and significantly to help develop new products and processes and supply high quality customer support. So your job-hunting goal is to convince hiring managers that you will rapidly become an impact player. More experienced chemical professionals usually have an advantage in doing this. So they should structure their job hunt to emphasize and capitalize on their problem solving skills and accomplishments.
How to demonstrate that you are a problem solver
The best indicator of future performance is past performance. This means you need to provide evidence that you have been an outstanding problem solver in previous jobs. A bald statement that you are great at solving problems isn’t enough. You have to provide evidence in your résumés and cover letters. You have to be prepared to discuss examples in your screening and on-site interviews. Brief your references on the importance of discussing your problem solving accomplishments when employer representatives call them.
When providing examples of your problem solving skills, find ways to quantify them. Confidentiality may preclude you from providing sales figures for new products or dollar savings for manufacturing process improvements. In this case, provide percentage improvement values for these accomplishments. The same is true for customer technical support work.
Emphasize soft skills
Rightly or wrongly, hiring managers often assume that new graduates have more up-to-date scientific knowledge compared to more experienced chemical professionals. Experienced chemists can use two strategies to counter this. The first is to demonstrate the depth of your scientific knowledge and skills accumulated over the course of your career. The second is to emphasize your soft skills and the positive effect they have on your productivity. Most experienced chemical professionals have developed time management, project management and written and oral presentation skills, and they should emphasize these abilities.. .
In addition many experienced chemical professionals have first-hand experience with inventions and working with patent attorneys to obtain U.S. patents. You could mention mentoring younger coworkers educating them about the patenting process from the researchers’ perspective and mentoring them in other ways.
Experienced chemical professionals often have improved networking skills compared to younger colleagues. Update your computer skills if necessary. Currently social media are hot and often used for networking. Register on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook and contribute to discussions as appropriate for you.
Stress your flexibility and adaptability. Younger new hires often require more time to adapt to working in industrial laboratory workplace cultures than more seasoned new hires. Experienced new hires often come from laboratories employing different workplace procedures. Some of these may be more cost-effective than current ways your laboratory does things. You can help open-minded lab managers explore and perhaps implement new, improved operational procedures.
Putting it all together
Keeping all of this in mind, prepare examples of each of your attributes. Use these in your résumés, cover letters and discussions during screening and on-site interviews.
Utilize your professional network
Unlike most new graduates, many experienced chemical professionals have developed extensive professional networks during the course of their careers. When job hunting, capitalize on your professional contacts particularly those working for your former employer’s suppliers and customers. Those you know who work for competitors also can be valuable contacts. Don’t neglect colleagues working in fields related to your own whom you have met at conferences or through professional society activities.
Let these individuals know that you are job hunting but don’t ask them directly for a job. Send them a copy of your résumé so they can refresh their recollection of your accomplishments and professional interest.
Maintain a confident tone when discussing your job hunt over the telephone or when meeting networking contacts face-to-face. Avoid sounding desperate. Don’t become a stalker but touch base with your contacts once a month or as appropriate.
In the current economic climate, hiring managers are looking for new staff members who will have both a rapid and significant effect on improving lab productivity. This often means hiring experienced people. Industrial experience can hone problem solving skills while providing knowledge of how to get things done in an industrial work environment. So while experienced staff members can cost more, they can be worth the extra money.
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 published 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.