How to Really Prepare for a Virtual Career Fair

October 8, 2010

As chemists, we all like to experiment.  ACS is no different – they are doing a big experiment of their own.  November 2-3, 2010, ACS is hosting a Virtual Career Fair.  You will be able to attend webinars, interview via text or video chat, and network with professionals worldwide—all from the convenience of your own desktop.  This is a free ACS Careers event co-hosted by Informex and C&EN, and ACS membership is not required to participate.

I’ve written previously on how to prepare for a real-life career fair<>.  While a lot of that advice still holds for a virtual career fair, there are other factors to consider as well.

Before the Fair

To get the most out of the career fair, register now and post your resume so employers can search your information before the fair begins.

Once you are registered, browse the posted jobs.  Research which companies will be in attendance, and learn as much as you can about them.  You may be surprised where the opportunities are.  Browse the program and make notes of which webinar sessions you will attend, and add them to your calendar – making sure to take time zone differences into account.

Have clear idea of what you want in a new position –  the 1-2 sentences that describe what you really need.  You may use this as an objective on your resume, or may just use it when talking to people who ask “What are you looking for”?

Use the InterviewStream system (ACS members only) to practice answering interview questions.  This system uses your webcam to record you answering standard interview questions.  Not only can you watch yourself answering, but you can send a link to an ACS Career Consultant or a trusted friend, and get their constructive criticism on the recording as well.

Since the virtual career fair may involve live video chats, make sure you have a quiet, private place to conduct video interviews picked out ahead of time, so you’re not scrambling if an employer requests one.  Pay particular attention to things like proper camera angle, distracting or inappropriate backgrounds, your voice level, ambient noise, and so on.

If you’re not a fast typist, this might be a time to do a little practicing for live chat opportnities.  Experiment with different keyboard orientations or desk setups until you find the one that is most comfortable for you. And make sure to remove all texting-type abbreviations from your vocabulary for the duration of any interview, or other professional encounter.

At The Fair

Attend webinars in the auditorium, visit the networking lounge to chat with other attendees, and visit the exhibition floor and employer booths.

The first day of the fair will center on “Outlook for Chemical, Pharma and Biotech Industries”, while the second day will focus more generally on “Career Development.” Each day will begin at 9:00am EST with a keynote session, followed by four additional webinars during the day. From 9:00am EST to 6:00pm EST the event show floor will be open for candidates to visit employer’s booths, and the networking lounge will be open all day for informal chats as well as scheduled topic discussions.

What to Expect

If you are scheduled for a real interview, do much more research on the company.  Make sure to be on time (which means 10 minutes early), and allow for technical problems.  Have a backup plan for how you will connect if your primary system goes down, the power goes out, or other disaster occurs.


Make sure to send a thank you note to anyone you talked to, most likely by email within 48 hours of the conversation. Follow up with the company if you haven’t heard from them in 2-3 weeks, to let them know you’re still interested and find out the status of your application.

You can read more about it at ACS Goes Virtual, which includes images of the virtual environment.

The more prepared you are, the better you will be able to take advantage of this opportunity – and that’s not virtual.

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).

ACS Goes Virtual

October 4, 2010

With the New ACS Virtual Career Fair

 November 2-3, 2010

If you’ve visited Second Life, used a social networking site, or taken an online course, you’ve experienced an environment where people from around the globe can interact and learn through technology. Now, the virtual world comes to ACS with the innovative ACS Virtual Career Fair – November 2-3, 2010 conducted in conjunction with Informex and C&EN.

The ACS Virtual Career Fair offers networking opportunities, interviews with employers, career development workshops and resources – with everything conveniently accessible from the convenience of your own desktop.

Chemical professionals seeking employment can interact with global organizations from a wide range of locations in North America and worldwide. Companies will meet and interview top chemical professionals and other interdisciplinary scientists from across the globe. Employers and job seekers alike will be able to interact real time over the 2 days using text chat, video chat and email. The ACS Virtual Career Fair will also bring together industry and career experts to provide valuable webinars.

Today, technology has reached a level of sophistication that provides ACS Virtual Career Fair attendees with highly interactive, realistic, and personal experiences — all from the comfort of their homes or offices.

The Virtual Career Fair begins when you log in and arrive at the Conference site. You can then chat with employers and recruiters in the exhibit hall, attend expert presentations in the auditorium, network in the networking lounge, and more. Highlights include:

1. Each day begins with a keynote session: Day 1: November 2―Rudy Baum, Editor in Chief, C&EN and Susan Ainsworth, Senior Editor and Employment Outlook Writer for C&EN will discuss “How to Prepare for What’s Ahead.”

Day 2: November 3―Richard N. Bolles, acclaimed author of bestselling book, What Color is Your Parachute and The Job Hunter’s Survival Guide will share “5 Secrets to Career Success for Scientists and Engineers.”

Virtual Auditorium

A virtual auditorium with live webinars

2. Throughout each day, attendees can visit the auditorium to view four practical webinars presented by industry experts, company representatives, and career specialists:

a. Chemical Industry and Employment Outlook―with Pat Confalone, Vice-President, Global R&D, Du Pont; Susan Butts, Senior Director of External Science and Technology Programs, The Dow Chemical Company; and Paul Hodges, Chairman, International eChem.

b. Pharma and Biotech Industry and Employment Outlook―with David Spellmeyer, Chief Informatics Officer, Nodality, Inc. and expert panelists.

c. What Recruiters are Looking For―with Alveda Williams, Strategic Recruitment, The Dow Chemical Company; Patrick Ropella, Chairman & CEO, Ropella Group, executive search and consulting firm specializing in the chemical and allied industries; and Sheila Rosenfield, Senior Scientific Recruiter, Kelley Scientific Resources.

d. Career Transitions: Navigating the Shifting Employment Landscape with Lisa Balbes, author of Nontraditional Careers for Chemists; Cheryl Martin. Executive in Residence with Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, a venture capital firm; Joe Stoner, retired, Habitat for Humanity; and Carol Duane, President, D&D Consultants.

3. An interactive exhibit hall with employer booths will be open both days, enabling job seekers to meet with recruiters and employer representatives. The exciting expo floor will be filled with company booths where attendees can learn more about the company, their products and services, and what it’s like to work there. Opportunities are available to have one-on-one conversations with company representatives using text or video chat.

Interactive Virtual Booth

An interactive virtual booth with real-time chat capability

4. A visit to the Networking Lounge provides a venue for mingling with other scientists and employers. Job seekers can also participate in, and learn from, scheduled expert-led discussions on key career topics.

Networking Lounge

The Networking Lounge for private and group chats

5. The Resource Center is a central place to find employer literature, ACS Careers materials to help you with your job search, on-demand access to ACS Webinars™, and more. “By adding a virtual event edition to the current successful physical ACS Career Fairs, ACS is able to provide career services and employment opportunities to a wider and more diverse audience – reaching job seekers and employers around the globe,” according to David Harwell, Ph.D,. Assistant Director, ACS Careers.

Resource Center

The Resource Center is a central repository for documents and websites

“ACS will continue to conduct the live Career Fairs as part of the next ACS National Meeting. The next in-person ACS Career Fair is March 27-31, 2011, Anaheim, CA.” The Virtual Career Fair allows you to attend at no cost and access all the valuable resources anonymously. It is open to members and non-members.

Register now at For organizations interested in exhibiting in this exciting event, register at or contact Garretta Rollins at +1-202-872-6209 or  ACS has gone virtual.  You won’t want to miss the inaugural ACS Virtual Career Fair.  Sign up now.

ACS Virtual Career Fair November 2-3, 2010

Register for the ACS Virtual Career Fair, November 2-3,

Misery Loves Company – So Find Some Company, and Get Rid of the Misery

January 7, 2010

These days, everyone has probably been laid off at least once.  In fact, being between jobs is almost a normal state of affairs. If you’re in that boat, and since misery loves company, why not find a group of them and pool your resources?  Forming a job club will help your own career development in a number of ways.

  • By organizing a group, you become proactive and take control of your own career.
  • By setting a regular time and place to meet, you add structure and rigor to your job search.
  • By connecting with fellow professionals, you increase the number of people looking for opportunities that match your interests.
  • By helping others find jobs that match their interests, you increase your professional network.
  • By forcing yourself to articulate your goals, you clarify them.
  • By committing to your goals publicly, you are more likely to fulfill them.
  • By creating accountability and deadlines, you motivate yourself to continue to move forward.

If you were part of a large layoff, you have a ready-made group.  You can start a group informally – contact a few people and suggest meeting for coffee or at a local bookstore. To keep expenses down, meet at places where food can be dutch treat, or find a free room at a local college or business after hours.

Set a specific agenda – otherwise you run the risk of it turning into a whining session.  Have members take turns providing the program, or bring in outside speakers.  Use videos, discussion guides, and other publications from ACS Career Resources as conversation starters.  Many local human resources professionals will be happy to come provide information and advice, as long as they’re not asked to provide jobs.

As part of the agenda, allow members time to share their progress since the last meeting, current goals, and to receive feedback from other members.

Set some ground rules, such as constructive criticism only, respecting each other’s confidentiality requests, honesty, and a time limit on whining/complaining.

Communicate between meetings through an email list, ACS Network group, Facebook group, or other means.   Encourage posting of openings, tips, etc. to build relationships and keep the momentum going between meetings.

The biggest advantage of job clubs is that as you form connections, you all start looking out for each other.  You pass along leads of companies that are hiring, new professional areas that might match someone’s background, and so on.  You are not competing with each other, but are each trying to find the specific position that matches your knowledge, skills, abilities and values.  As neutral third parties, others in the job club can sometimes point out both opportunities and flaws that you might not have seen yourself.

By working together and pooling your resources, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.  Through support, encouragement and looking out for each other, you can all accomplish your career goals – together.

For more tips on starting a job club, see the ACS Starting a Job Club Checklist.

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).