Employers are expected to add more new jobs in 2012 than they did in 2011 according to CareerBuilder’s annual job forecast based on a Harris Interactive nationwide survey. The survey was performed between November 9 and December 5, 2011 and included more than 3,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals from various industries and both large and small companies.
However, competition for jobs will still be fierce. Companies will be looking for employees who can quickly assume new responsibilities as companies respond to changing economic and industry trends according to Lawrence Katz, an Economist at Harvard University.
Job hunters can gain an advantage if they can demonstrate flexibility, adaptability and creativity. How do they do this?
In your résumé and cover letter
Companies want to increase the demand for their products and services despite the current slow economy. Employees, including chemical researchers, need to think about sales and customer service. Job hunters need to identify situations where they’ve done this previously and include these in their résumé and cover letter. This is an area in which job hunters with previous experience have an advantage. However, graduating students and post-docs looking for their first chemistry job outside of academia can look for examples in summer jobs they’ve held. Having done this, job hunters need to use keywords relevant to these situations and examples. A graduate student who has held a summer or part-time job outside the lab could use key words such as “customer service” or “supervised” when briefly discussing the skills of these jobs. Whether or not an employer is searching for these keywords in their résumé database, those reading your résumé carefully will probably see them.
Helping companies grow their business often requires business acumen – understanding the needs of your firm’s customers and responding to them. This may require you to expand your technical skills. For instance, working for an oil field services company, I and many of my chemist coworkers had to learn a lot about the behavior of fluids in rock, petroleum engineering technology, and geology. This knowledge aided greatly in developing new effective products and in communicating convincingly with customers. I mention keywords relating to this knowledge and technical service work in my résumé.
R&D is increasingly done by multidisciplinary work teams. Cooperating with coworkers and working with customers and suppliers on these teams and during the sales process requires good interpersonal and communication skills. Look for examples of when you demonstrated these skills. Illustrate your communication skills while writing your résumé and cover letter. Cite examples of these skills in these documents and during employment interviews. Again, use relevant key words when preparing your résumé.
To do this requires good interpersonal skills and communication skills. You may be asked to work with suppliers, customers and coworkers who are not chemists. You may need to be able to communicate technical concepts to them in terms they will readily understand.
For help with keywords
Having trouble identifying good key words? As part of information interviews with experts in certain industries or technology fields, ask them to review your résumé and suggest keywords. You may also wish to consult with an ACS career consultant who has worked in one of your target industries.
Willingness to assume new responsibilities
Companies are looking for employees who are eager to learn and willing to undertake new responsibilities. For example, while a bench chemist I was asked to be the technical consultant to my employer’s patent department. This became my primary job responsibility for one year. I undertook the assignment without complaining although I preferred lab work. The assignment was very rewarding. I made a major contribution during an important patent litigation. The litigation brought me to the attention of the company president, vice-president of research and the manager of the patent department. I am convinced that this helped me to survive three later rounds of deep staff reductions. In addition, I gained a lot of practical knowledge about the patent process that was very valuable to me and to my employers later in my career. Include your expanded responsibilities and accomplishments in your résumé and cover letter.
Being willing and able to do all this requires life-long learning. There is always more to know and do!
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.