Introduction Etiquette

November 11, 2009

Recently, over the course of one day, I received 3 separate requests to make connections between people to whom I am connected on LinkedIn. I was struck by the different approaches they took, and by my reactions to each message. I’ve changed all the names, but other than that they appear below exactly as I received them.

1.  The first request came from Tim, who was re-locating to my city following his wife’s new job.  He earned his PhD at the same school I did, and had contacted me several weeks ago to ask about my city, where to live, and do on.  After exchanging a few emails, I spoke with him and his wife on the phone, and was able to tell them something about the city to which they were moving, local schools, industry, and so on. A couple weeks after that conversation, he sent the following message through LinkedIn:

“Could you please refer me to Mr. Jones at BigChemicalCompany?  I have applied today online to a Manager, Technology Transfer position with that company. I would greatly appreciate the chance to briefly discuss with him this opportunity and learn more about the work environment at this prestigious company.”

Mr. Jones was a client of mine from several years go, and I was happy to pass along the professional connection. This actually gave me the opportunity to talk to Mr Jones again, which I had not done in a while, and find out how things were going with him.  Tim got his referral, Mr Jones got a lead on a good candidate, and I strengthened one of my professional connections.

2.  The second request came from George, someone I’ve run into at a couple of local meetings. I had added a new connection to my LinkedIn account, and George noticed the new name in one of the automatic updates that LinkedIn sends out. He noticed that that NewPerson’s background was similar to his own, and asked me to forward a message to NewPerson, who was currently between jobs.

The note George wanted me to forward read as follows:

NewPerson,  I am looking to network with business development and sales professionals in the St. Louis area related to pharma R&D and device industries. Would like to try and meet sometime and see how we could help each other advance our careers,  George”

While George had recently gone through a painful job transition, I know he’s now happy with his new position. I suspect he’s setting himself up for the future, building his professional network and helping others now that he can. Since I am a huge proponent of networking and getting to know as many people as possible, I was happy to help George and NewPerson connect and talk about their common professional interests. Hopefully something good will come of it, and I will get the credit.

3.  The third and final request came from another colleague, one I had met briefly several years ago, but have not heard from since since. He is a consultant, and recently re-surfaced looking for more work. After a brief email conversation about an upcoming meeting that I was organizing, he sent me the following message on LinkedIn:

“May I introduce myself to any of your 232 LinkedIn contacts about my services?  If so, whom?  Let me know at your convenience.”

Not only did he want me to put my reputation on the line by recommending him to my contacts, but he wants me to do the work of figuring out which people might be interested in his particular expertise!  Needless to say, I declined this one.

While making new contacts and professional relationships is an admirable goal, you need to make sure not to abuse your existing relationships in the process. When you ask someone for a favor or introduction, make sure to make it as easy as possible for them to comply. And most of all, be on the lookout for ways you can help others out. The more you are able to help others out, the more willing they will be to help you, when you do need to ask for an introduction.

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).

Career Advice Nuggets on the Web

July 28, 2008

When I started contributing this blog a few months ago, I did what was intended to be a one-time Google search to see what bloggers were offering regarding career advice. I was astonished by the fact that there were over 1 million hits on “career advice blogs” and nearly 8 million hits on “career advice,” but I was and continue to be surprised by the fact that among the great heaps of drivel – “get a job that you like,” offered one oh-too-serious blogger; “remember to dress for success,” offered another – there are a few nuggets that I found. I thought I’d pass along some of my favorites.’s career advice blog ( is generally excellent, as you might expect from the Web’s leading job search Web site. One recent entry (July 11, 2008), “The Right Way to Leave a Job,” struck a cord because of this sentence:

“The way you leave a company says as much about your caracter and the kind of employee you are than all of the work you did during your time with the organization.”


If you’ve ever been to a networking type function and find that the next day you can’t remember if Bob from DuPont was the guy who liked to fish or if was Linda from Dow, the May 22 entry on the same blog offers some great advice that I’m going to use in the future.


Never having had a pointy-haired boss, I sometimes find Dilbert a little unbelievable, but Scott Adams offered some great career advice on the Dilbert blog last June ( In particular, this nugget stayed with me:

“If you want an average successful life, it doesn’t take much planning. Just stay out of trouble, go to school, and apply for jobs you might like. But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths:

1. Become the best at one specific thing.
2. Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.”

For me, I was better than most people at learning and understanding science (but not at working in the lab) and at writing. What are your two great skills and how can you use them to craft an interesting and rewarding career?


For the ultra-competitive among you, the Brazen Careerist blog offers this tongue-in-cheek advice (

“Now you can blame your co-worker for your tanking career and science will support you: A candy dish at work can make you fat. But a candy dish that is more than 6 1/2 feet away from you will be less tempting. Measure your co-worker’s dish. If it’s too close, move it every morning before she gets in. She’ll never notice.”


And finally, I’d like to point you to a new blog that I stumbled on recently. The Alternative Scientist blog ( discusses alternative and mainline career options for scientists. The July 20 posting, for example, presents a great description of the types of jobs available in the pharmaceutical industry, while the July 15 posting talks about the basic of networking, a foreign concept to many of us. Check it out.


This article was written by Joe Alper, a freelance science writer, technology analyst, and admitted hardcore Web searcher in Louisville, CO.



If you would like to be a contributor, please email Liane Gould at


Help Wanted…From You

June 16, 2008

The American Chemical Society has long prided itself on serving its members as effectively and efficiently as it can. When I was an ACS staff member, in the early 1980s, responding to a suggestion from an ACS member always took top priority, and that same attitude still permeates the organization.


At the same time, those who work for the ACS marvel at how much members give freely of their time and energy to serving the Society. When I was the editor of Chemistry, the volunteer members of the magazine’s editorial board would spend hours helping me generate suitable story ideas and then spend hours more reviewing every story for accuracy and sound writing. I had the distinct impression that there wasn’t much that the committee members wouldn’t do for the magazine if I asked nicely.


Having a helpful attitude goes far in a work environment. Colleagues will come to respect you for pitching in when asked, and bosses will value you for being a team player. Sure, you may end up working a little extra at times, but being known as someone who will lend an extra hand to a project or fill in for a colleagues at a moment’s notice will pay heft dividends down the road, including raises, bonuses, promotions, and above all, in terms of your reputation.


One of the best clients I ever landed said that she picked me over other better qualified candidates (I’d only been writing for four years at the time) because one of my references made a big deal out of the fact that I was always willing to help with a story or a project when asked. On the other hand, I’ve heard of many good job candidates not getting hired because the interviewers had the impression that those candidates were not team players.


That brings me to the real reason for this particular blog entry – we need your help. Yes, you, the members of the ACS, the readers of the ACS Careers Blog. The ACS Careers staff is planning several new programs for members, including two series. The first, which will be known as the ACS Careers Industry Forum, will serve as mechanism for disseminating timely information regarding cutting edge issues in industry that will affect employment. This series will run monthly and will feature moderated discussions with industry leaders in a conference call/Webinar format. I’ll be the moderator, and I’ll be expecting you to call in with your questions and comments. Stay tune for the details.


The second series will address career-related topics, and this is where we really need your input. ACS Careers staff wants to know what you want to know. What kind of specific questions about chemistry careers would you like this series to address? Do you want practical advice on interviewing techniques? What to wear? How to network? Or do you want to know how to deal with a back-stabbing colleague that’s trying to sabotage your career?


Please let us know. You can click on the “comment” button below, or you email your suggestions to ACS staff at In advance, THANKS!


This article was written by Joe Alper, a freelance science writer and technology analyst in Louisville, CO.

A New Start

October 1, 2007

ACS is changing the way that we deliver our services to you. We made them easier to access and easier to find. We also are exploring new platforms for delivery.

This blog is just one example of these changes.  The switch from a static newsletter article to the blog format is meant to provide you with the opportunity to interact.  Through constructive dialog, we seek to continually improve service and to gain insight into employment practices within the chemical community.

During the coming months, you can expect to see articles on industry trends, job-search strategies, career management, non-traditional careers and retirement planning.  I will also make way for guest authors from time to time who will share their perspectives on the workplace.

As you may have also noticed, we have undergone a name change.  Not only has the website of the American Chemical Society changed from to, but Chemjobs has changed to ACS Careers.  This change reflects a consolidation of services and a renewed focus on the needs of our members.  Our goal is to become a one-stop-shop for chemical professionals at all stages of their careers.

At, you can expect to find job listings, career advice, professional and leadership development opportunities, ethical and professional guidelines, and industrial trends in the chemical sciences.  Additional projects in development include an online learning center and the ACS Leadership Development System.

Starting in 2008, online courses will be added to the more traditional instructor-led career development workshops that we currently provide.  Additionally, courses are being developed in less technical areas such as communications, management and finance.  These skills are necessary for success in business, but are seldom included in chemistry curricula.  Therefore, we will be making them available through an online learning center early next year.  Courses will be tailored to the chemical enterprise.

The ACS Leadership Development System is approximately half way through its development cycle.  Comprised of sixteen courses (9 facilitated, 7 online) built on a competency framework, the system is on-target for completion by the start of 2009.  Several courses in the system were piloted earlier this year, and the remainder will be piloted in 2008.  To participate in the pilot programs look for courses to be offered at upcoming ACS regional and national meetings this year and next.

Collectively, the implemented changes in web design, utilization of new technologies and development of new services reflect a paradigm shift for the Society and its members.  Through enhancements in service, it is our aim to position ACS members in the best place possible to compete in a global and rapidly evolving market place.  Look back here each week for more.


David Harwell, Ph.D., is assistant director of the ACS Department of Career Management and Development.