Recently, a colleague asked if I would help him identify some good candidates for a new opening at his company – he needed “an analytical chemist”. Another friend just emailed me and said his university was looking for a “laboratory prep technician”, and did I know anyone? In neither case did I have enough information to even start answering the question – I had to go back and ask a number of questions of each of I had enough details about the position to start recommending people who might be suitable. I wanted to help them, just didn’t have the information I needed.
Many job seekers do the same thing – they ask for help, but don’t make it easy for people to help them. They do not have a specific, concrete description what the type of job they are searching for, so they can’t explain to others what they want. Spending a little time to craft a good description of what you’re looking for will make it much easier for others to help you find it.
Below are a few things you should keep in mind when developing a description of your ideal job – or your ideal job candidate.
Be brief, but not too brief
Two to three sentences should be enough to convey the essence of what you’re looking for, without being overly specific. You want to be detailed enough that they know what you want, but broad enough to cover several different options. Make sure to include information about education and experience requirements, any specific knowledge areas involved (types of compounds, instrumentation, techniques, etc.).
To Change or not to Change
Do you want to stay in the same industry, but change roles? Or continue doing the same kinds of tasks, change industries? If you’re thinking about a new job you obviously want some things to change, but there are probably some things you’d like to stay the same. Make sure to identify the most important items in each category.
Job Titles are Meaningless
The same job title can mean vastly different things at different companies. Focus your description on what you want to do, not what you think that position should be called. While a descriptive title (Analytical Chemist) can be helpful, but Senior Scientist does not convey any useful information
Include Relevant Factors
If the job must be within 2 hours of Boston, you want to manage people, or you want less than 20% travel, include that information in the description. It may be obvious to you, but different things are important to different people – and even to the same person at different points in their career.
By developing a succinct description of exactly what you are looking for, you will able to explain it to others, making it easier for them to help you. They will recognize the job when they come across it. And even better, forcing yourself to write down a succinct description just may force you to clarify some things in your own mind.
Get involved in the discussion
The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (www.acs.org/network-careers)._—brought to you by ACS Careers.