Say Yes! to Networking

February 24, 2009

I recently finished reading “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive” by Goldstein, Cialdini and Martin. I found it to be a quick, interesting read, and was impressed that each of the techniques mentioned was supported by actual research data. Many of their suggestions were small changes that end up having a big effect on how your words and actions are interpreted. This small volume will help you frame your arguments in the best possible way, to increase your chances of successful persuasion.

As I was reading it, several of the tips jumped out at me as possible explanations for why networking is such an effective way to find a job (or to find anything, really).

For example, one chapter points out that “there is little social obligation to cooperate with someone who offers you something only on the condition that you initiate the cooperative effort.” If one party says they’ll do A if you do B, that is a simple business transaction, with no lasting effect on the relationship between the parties. However, if you do something for someone else first, with no reciprocation required or expected, they are more likely to do something for you in the future. The example in the book showed that hotel towel reuse programs were 45% more successful when the hotel first give a donation to a non-profit environmental organization, then ask guests to re-use towels, rather than when they told guests the hotel would make a donation if the guests reused towels. This not only increases the level of compliance, but also builds a longer lasting relationship based on trust and mutual appreciation, rather than the weaker incentive system. I’ve always said that true networking is being out there looking for ways to help others without expecting anything in return. Then when you do need something, people will be more willing to help you out because you have pre-paid the favor. And if you’re really lucky, some of those people will be actively looking for ways to help you – by passing along information they think will be of interest to you.

Another interesting fact was that over time, the value of a favor changes. It becomes worth less in the eyes of the favor receiver, and more in the eyes of the favor doer. This means you must continue to do favors for others, to keep your balance fresh, and make sure you’ll have something “in the bank” whenever you need it.

The book also quotes research that shows if someone does you a small favor, they are more likely to later agree to do you a bigger, similar favor. So in addition to doing favors for others, you must seek out help, and allow people to do small favors for you. Not only does it help build the relationship, but by seeking out different perspectives on a problem you gain insights that you probably would not have come up with on your own, and in general tend to arrive at better solutions than if you had worked alone.

There you have it. Scientific proof that if you regularly help others without expecting anything in return, and let them help you, you will build relationships that will be there to support you when you need it. Sounds like networking to me!

This article was written by freelance technical writer Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants, and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2006).


ACS Industry Forum:

Join us for the next ACS Careers Industry Forum:

“It’s 2009 – Do You Know Where Your Networks Are?”

Date and Time: Thursday, March 12th, 2009, 2-3 p.m. EDT

Catherine T. “Katie” Hunt, Ph.D., is currently a Corporate Sustainability Director and Leader, Technology Partnerships at Rohm and Haas Corporate and Past President (2007) American Chemical Society. She began her career as a senior scientist in analytical research at Rohm and Haas after completing an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship at Yale University. For nearly 25 years Katie has held positions of increasing responsibility, from research scientist to process chemist to plant laboratory manager to Director of Worldwide Analytical and Computational Competency Network and Technology Development. . Don’t miss out, Register in advance. For additional information about upcoming speakers, click on the ACS Careers Industry Forum tab located at the top of the ACS Industry Forum Careers Blog.
Please join us to discuss economic and employment trends with top industry executives in the chemical sciences. This is a free service via conference call.

Patience Comes with Time

September 29, 2008

There is no quick and easy way to learn patience. Although the theory behind it can be illustrated and its benefits proven, people are not likely to adopt the concept until they are ready—until it is time.

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”
Arnold H Glasgow

When I was a kid, I was always on my way to somewhere. I couldn’t tell you why that way, or the importance of getting there in an instant. However, I knew that I was missing something by not being on my way. It was important to me to find out all those things that others knew, and to see all of the new and exciting things in the world before they faded away.

I have to admit, I am still a little bit like the kid I once was. Now, I am bigger and taller, slower and more gray, but I still have an urge to rush to the front of the line. This propensity, however, seldom works in my favor. Early adopters of technology pay higher prices and suffer through more retrofits and patches than those coming behind.

In negotiations, the first person to loose their cool or to state a price will loose, because in doing so, they have furnished their opponent with a leverage point. In a salary negotiation, you should never state what you would take as your minimum salary, because that is the salary that you are most likely to receive.

In negotiations with vendors, many of you will have had at least one experience with customer service that is more laughable than affable. Where in every iteration of your request for service, you are baited calling your practices into question. Such cases require that you document their responses, perform a gap analysis, demonstrate why a complete fix is necessary, and stipulate why they are legally bound to complete the work. This process is tedious, but it generally results in a superior system.

My experiences with dealing with poor customer service have taught me many things about the people involved both on my side and on the other side. Those times where we were patient and persistent with well conceived processes for change were the times that we won. The times when we lost our cool reacting to our opponents taunts were the times that we lost. For every feature missing from our system or project, I can trace back to an impulsive and impetuous response. In being reactive, we lost our position of authority and in most cases our legitimacy.

People who are reactive are dismissed as irrational. They are not seen as agents for change and are seldom judged as being capable of making a difference. In fact, they are usually seen as damaged in some way — ostracized from their own group and ignored by their opponents.

Patience is one of the most valuable assets that a person can have. This is as true in life as it is in work. Those who lack patience often pay a penance, and those that have it reap the benefits. I am still working on my patience, but admittedly, the process is taking forever. I just hope that the time I’ve got left is greater than or equal to the time required to complete my journey.

“It is strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.”
Elizabeth Taylor

Got to go.

This article was written by David E. Harwell, Ph.D.,Assistant Director for Career Management and Development at the American Chemical Society.

Careers in Biotechnology/Drug Development

September 8, 2008

A recently read a review of a new book entitled “Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development” by Toby Freedman, 2008, Cold Spring Harbor Press. Freedman is a PhD molecular biologist that has moved into life sciences recruiting. Since I’m alway interested in career development, and biotech is a field I don’t know enough about, I thought I’d check it out.

I must admit I was highly impressed with the material. The book discusses current conventional wisdom for scientists who are concerned about their careers. Freedman totes that “there are lots of jobs in the biopharma industry”, so it’s worth looking there for options. But what are those jobs? Freedman then proceeds to give a comprehensive answer to that question.

Along the way, she provides a detailed description of the drug discovery process.

The first 6 chapters of this book provide general career advice, giving an overview of what is expected in the biopharma industry, what it takes to succeed, how to write a resume, network, etc. Most of the advice applies to all jobs, but some is specific to science or these industries. The advice is very good, and includes lots of details, examples, and resources for further information. Freedman provides a balanced overview, pointing out both the good and bad points of this industry.

The industry she is focusing on includes both biotechnology and drug discovery & development, also called biopharma. These industries have a great deal in common, and similar career paths and positions are available in each. The entire process is very complex, and often not well understood by those who have not been immersed in it.

The second, and major, part of the book breaks the drug discovery enterprise down into its various stages, describes the role of each step in the process, and details positions available at each stage.

The positions described range from those that require a PhD or MD, to those that are accessible to those with a college degree.

Freedman describes the types of positions, typical job titles and career paths, roles and responsibilities, typical tasks, relative salaries and other compensation. She also describes in detail the pros and cons of each field, how to excel in the field, and what personal characteristics are most often found in those who succeed in that field.

She predicts where the field is going and what job prospects will be like, and also talks about how to get started in each field.

Finally, each chapter ends with recommendations for training, professional societies, and other resources. The entire volume is well organized, with important points in callouts, and many clarifying diagrams.

Anyone who reads this book will come away (like I did) with a deeper understanding of the drug discovery industry, and how complex it really is (and perhaps why marketed pharmaceuticals really cost more than you’d think).

Hopefully, they will also come away with several ideas of places they might fit into that industry, and the resources and inspiration to start investigating those options. I would have liked to have seen more statistics and numbers (salaries, etc), but understand that data would get dated quickly, and ACS members can get current information from the Salary Comparator.

As further proof of the growing importance of this field, ACS has started an Industry Forum and their first speaker is from Wyeth Drug Discovery and Development. The free teleconference is coming up on Thursday, September 11th. While I may never work in a traditional job in this field, it is certainly an area I am going to keep an eye on, and learn more about.

This article was written by freelance technical writer Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants.

-Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. Scientific Communication Services since 1992, Balbes Consultants –

 Author of:  “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2006)



ACS Careers Industry Forum:  Monthly Teleconferences featuring Luminaries in the Chemical Sciences.

We feel this is a great opportunity for practitioners in the chemical sciences to listen in to top industry leaders in their industries and will assist in making informed career decisions. Guest Speakers include

ØSeptember:  Dr. Abou-Gharbia, Senior Vice President & Head of Chemical & Screening Sciences, for Wyeth Drug Discovery & Development.

ØOctober:  Dr. Carolyn Ribes, Process Analytical, Dow Benelux, B.V., Terneuzen, The Netherlands.

ØNovember:  Michael Strem, Ph.D., President, Strem Chemicals, Inc. founded Strem Chemicals in Newburyport, MA.

ØDecember:  No teleconference to be scheduled.

ØJanuary:  Dr. Tom Lane, to be President of ACS.

ØFebruary:  Dr. William F. Carroll, Jr., Vice President, Chlorovinyl Issues for OxyChem and works on public policy issues and communications related to chlorine and PVC.  He is also Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana where he teaches polymer chemistry.

Please join us to discuss economic and employment trends with top industry executives in the chemical sciences.  Go to register now.  This is a free service via conference call.







Chemistry For A Cause

August 11, 2008

Wilma Subra knows the frustration of trying fruitlessly to protect people from dangerous exposures to known toxic materials. After finding arsenic and other toxins in the layer of sludge Hurricane Katrina dumped on streets and lawns along the Louisiana coast, Subra implored the Federal Emergency Management Administration to remove the sludge.


“The Feds said, ‘We’re not going to do it,’” she says. “Privately, they tell me they know it’s a health threat.”


Chemical engineer Don MacKenzie faces the same sort of roadblocks when he lobbies Congress to improve the fuel efficiency of cars. MacKenzie works for the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists.


“There’s been very little progress,” MacKenzie says of the Union’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions. “It’s frustrating.”


Frustrations abound and victories are rare for Subra, MacKenzie, and every other chemist out to change the world. Workdays are long, and paychecks are small. As if that isn’t enough to send every bleeding-heart lab rat scurrying for the security of corporate America, advocates face criticism from relatives, neighbors, and even fellow chemists who don’t share their point of view. Yet chemists who choose to work as advocates wouldn’t trade it for the world.


MacKenzie, for example, could have had a lucrative career in industry. He worked for ethanol producer Syntec Biofuel before joining the Union of Concerned Scientists three years ago.


“I’d been very much of a technology guy,” MacKenzie says. Working as an advocate “was a little bit of a risk. But jumping into this policy world was the best decision I ever made.”


For chemists who want to reshape the world, opportunities abound. The Union of Concerned Scientists, Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Working Group are among the major nonprofits that hire scientists.


Advocacy demands science as precise as that of industry and academia. Anything less would be an easy target for opponents.


Scientific know-how is just the foundation for a career as an advocate. A crucial skill is the ability to explain complex issues in layman’s terms. Independent advocates also need to understand their clients’ legal rights, which means understanding the regulations and laws as well as any lawyer would.


But the most important quality every advocate must have—the desire to do what’s right, not what’s easy—can’t be picked up from a Web site, chemistry class, or Toastmasters group. 


It’s what drives Subra to work 12–15 hours a day, often for people who can’t pay her a dime. The independent environmental consultant informs Louisiana communities of the hazards of factories and waste sites in their backyards. Her efforts were rewarded with the prestigious MacArthur Prize in 1999.


But her real compensation comes from the satisfaction she gets from helping David fight Goliath. “We’ve had a lot of success stopping proposed facilities in inappropriate locations,” Subra says. “We defeated a lot of landfills. We also worked with existing facilities to reduce emissions.”


This article was written by Cynthia Washam,  a freelance science writer in Florida.

Flexibility Key to Good Health and Career

July 21, 2008

Last week, my doctor told me that I needed to work on my flexibility. I’ve heard that before – I’m a life-long jock who’s nonetheless always had a hard time touching my toes – and I’ll probably dust off my yoga tapes and work at it a little. But I long ago accepted the fact that my body just isn’t that flexible.


In contrast, I’ve always known that when it comes to work and school, and life in general, I’m a pretty flexible guy. In fact, if there any molecular biologists out there searching for the “career flexibility” gene, you might want to look at my dad’s family. I come from a long line of career-flexible individuals.


My dad’s parents were farmers, or peasants as they called them back then in rural Russia.  When they emigrated to the U.S. at the turn of the 20th Century, there’s wasn’t much call for peasants here, so my grandparents made a career change and became shopkeepers. My dad followed suit. He got his B.S. in chemistry after serving in the Army in World War II, and when he couldn’t find a job at a chemical company – anti-Semitism was rampant in the industry in those days – he made a career change and became a salesman. Later, he switched careers again, become a social worker. You’ve got to be flexible in your approach to work, my dad told me then.


That advice served me well. In 1978, when I was finishing graduate school, science jobs were in short supply. Fellow grad students who were far more motivated than I was were having a tough time landing a good job, and the prospect of being a poorly-paid lab technician in an academic lab didn’t sit well with me. But a chance conversation opened my eyes to a relatively new profession – science writing – that would let me use my hard-earned chemistry background in a completely different way. With no trepidation at all, I took that fork in the road and thus was born my career explaining chemistry and other areas of science to the masses.


Flexibility was the key then, and it remains the key in my professional life. Want to write about child psychology? Sure, even though my only exposure to psychology was in a pass-fail class I took my last semester of college. How about authoring a light-hearted column for a women’s health and beauty magazine? Okay, how hard can that be? (Very, actually.) Would you take a job as head of corporate communications for a biotech company? Sure, though I now refer to that experience as a three-year brain spasm. How about blogging? Can you develop a program in nanotechnology for us? Want to do podcast? Yes, yes, and yes. Why not!


Being flexible when it comes to job opportunities can be scary, no doubt about it, but it can also open doors that you don’t even know exist. At a time when job security is a thing of the past, flexibility can make a big difference. And when a non-linear opportunity arises, keep one thing in mind – you’re smart, you have a well-trained brain. If you can master chemistry, you can learn most anything.


Confidence is the key to being flexible. Be confident in your ability to learn and translate knowledge into action. Your career can only benefit.


This article was written by Joe Alper, a freelance science writer and technology analyst in Louisville, CO, who won two National Awards for Magazine Writing from the American Psychological Association after learning to write about psychology.


What’s in It for Me?

June 23, 2008

Many undergraduate chemistry majors will at some time in their careers be faced with the question of whether to get a Ph.D. Reasons for considering this question range from a desire for a higher salary (starting Ph.D.s are paid twice what corresponding B.S. chemists are paid), hope for an academic position (about 25% of all Ph.D.s are at academic institutions), or even for personal reasons. In my case, I was more or less programmed from kindergarten to get a chemistry Ph.D. My father had one, and family urging combined with the push for more science majors after the 1958 Soviet launch of Sputnik really left little room for disagreement. Of course, I had seen, too, the benefits of working in the chemical enterprise, because my father had a very good research position in a small town. He worked in polymer chemistry applied to the development of synthetic textile-fiber products. Our family lived a nice life.

When I enrolled in graduate school in the late 1960s, my classmates and I believed we should choose a major adviser who was in tune with our desire to learn chemistry as a means of having a good middle-class career. We thought that a major adviser would be perhaps not a friend, but at least a mentor, in providing us entry to companies that based their products on science and technology. The adviser would help in the assessment of our talents, guide us in our decision on what chemical subdiscipline would best suit our capabilities, and ultimately shepherd us into the club of Ph.D. chemists.

Safe to say, we were rapidly disabused of that point of view.

Graduate school became for us what it is for many who attend: an overwhelming series of hurdles to be jumped in an effort to avoid failure. There were entrance examinations, 300- and 400-level courses, cumulative exams, and ultimately proposal defenses. Our class of 25 steadily dwindled as individuals left, and slowly those of us who remained began to examine our chosen chemical destiny.

One day, after studying an especially obscure organic reaction mechanism, several of us were sitting around after class with our instructor, who was then an associate professor. I asked if the chemistry department had considered offering graduate students the opportunity to take classes not necessarily in the department but that would be applicable to our future life in the scientific world. Perhaps a polymer course from the chemical engineering department, a finance course or two from the business school, or even an introduction to legal theory for those of us who might want to consider a patent-law career.

The professor answered, “What’s in it for me?”

It was a revelatory moment, for suddenly it was clear that graduate school wasn’t about students at all. It was about professors.

While my graduate-school revelatory experience may have been breathtakingly direct, I suspect it is as true today as it was in the 1970s: what most graduate students study is what is best for their advisers. So my advice to anyone considering a Ph.D. program: first, choose your adviser carefully, and second, recognize that much of the knowledge and skills you will need in your employment will have to be learned on the job or through continuing education programs throughout your career. And wake up to the reality of what Ph.D. degrees really are—a testament to graduate students’ perseverance, not their intellect.

This article was written by Jim Ryan, Ph.D. retired consultant and former Assistant Director of the ACS Continuing Education program. Originally published in the Chemistry magazine, Spring 2007.

Political Chemistry

May 27, 2008

I’ve never wanted to be “The Guy.” You know, the person sitting behind the desk where the buck stops. No, I’d rather be “The guy who makes The Guy (or The Gal) look good.” I’d rather be the wise counselor than the public face, the source of information rather than the mouthpiece.


Understanding the difference between being the “Big-G guy/gal” and the “little guy/gal” is important to finding peace and satisfaction in whatever career path you choose. If you strive to be the Big G, you’ll need to cultivate your networking and public speaking skill. You’ll need to develop a thick skin and the ability to delegate authority and resist the temptation to micromanage. You’ll want to insinuate yourself with the powerful in your field, and at your company or university, and you’ll most certainly need to fine-tune your political senses.


None of that is for me, which is why I’m a little g-type guy. Instead of learning the fine details of networking and schmoozing, I’ve focused on developing my research skills; when the Big-G wants information, she always wants it sooner rather than later. And forget about delegating authority – little g’s take responsibility and run with it.


I’ve found myself thinking about this lately because recently someone asked me if I’d be interested in running for our local school board. This person thought my background as a scientist and my understanding of many things technical would add an important perspective to a school board filled with business folks and lawyers and former liberal arts majors.


I considered this offer for about 20 microseconds before declining, because I know in my heart that I’m a”little g”, and elected office is not for me. But I also threw in that if the school board was ever in need of an advisor on science and technology issues, I would jump at the opportunity to serve my community in that way.


So what does that have to do with careers and chemistry? Bear with me.


Nearly 32 years ago, on a frigid Friday afternoon over a beer at the Badger Tavern in Madison, WI, one of the wisest people I’ve known was commenting on recent inauguration of Jimmy Carter as the 39th President of the United States.


In response to a wisecrack about how amazing it was that someone with a bachelor’s degree in science and a former nuclear engineer was about to become the President, Heinrich Schnoes, now an emeritus professor of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, said in his typical droll way, “Just think how much better off this country would be if 50% of the members of Congress had science degrees instead of law degrees.”




As much as I’d like to see more scientists and engineers run for Congress, I doubt that’s going to happen any time soon, and I think it’s because the vast majority of scientists and engineers that I’ve known are “little g’s”, not “Big G’s”.


But there are huge opportunities today for technically-minded “little g’s” to make a career as a science advisor to all those politically minded “Big G’s” out there. If that’s something that appeals to you, both in terms of intellectual curiosity and the ability to influence public policy without having to run for office, this is the time to approach your local candidates to see if you can help the one from your favored political party.


“Little g’s” of the world unite! We can – and do – make a difference.


This article was written by Joe Alper, a freelance science writer and technology analyst in Louisville, CO, who writes frequently for the ACS Journal of Analytical Chemistry.

Finding Your Career Guru

May 14, 2008

Coach, advocate, champion. They are best-known as mentoring.  Whatever name you put to it, a mentor can be the most important asset in your arsenal for career advancement.  So, what is mentoring?   

The US Department of Labor’s Dictionary of Occupational Titles “asserts  that mentoring is the most complex type of human interaction, being more complex than teaching, counseling, supervising or coaching.”  

Reading this can scare anyone and about now you are thinking of the lateral move to putting the whole idea aside.  Before you put this one aside, let’s let the numbers convince you.  Fran Sepler, president of Sepler & Associates Inc., an organizational development firm in Minnesota, noted that “of the 1,200 top managers in Fortune 500 firms, two-thirds say they utilized mentoring relationships at some point in their careers.“  

Sepler went on to say that “there is a direct correlation between soaking up knowledge from a mentor and reaching a higher level of compensation and more promotions.”   If your career is stagnant and needs a little assist, finding a mentor may be the way to go.

Your company may have a mentoring program, so check with your Human Resource Department.  If not, here are some tips to help you get started.   

Before you commit to a long-term relationship, let’s define traits you should look for when selecting a mentor.  The Dreyfus Model for Becoming an Expert in a Dedicated, Focused Field” describes five levels of characteristics of a mentoring from expert to novice.   For our purpose, let’s look at the top three tiers:

Expert         Has at least 10 years focusing on a field.  Experience is broad and deep.  Aware of important variables in any new situation.  Able to use different paradigms and heuristics to solve problems quickly and creatively.  Reflective practitioner who self-assess what works and doesn’t.   Engages in “forward” reasoning to solve a problem.  Typically, this person developed the rules that serve a Guiding Principles to prevent problems and enhance success.    

 Proficient  Has at least 5 years in field, with some varied experiences.  Still “rule-bound” to other people’s rules when solving problems.  Becoming a reflective practitioner. 

Competent Has repeated experience doing the same thing.

When on the hunt for your next “career guru,” you may want to target a person that emulates the top tier.  Picking the friendly guy that hangs out at the water cooler just won’t cut the mustard.  You need to look for someone who is proactive in both criticism and support, and will be more challenging in helping you reach your goals.

Some mentoring relationships occur naturally with a person you “click” with and these can be the best.  A priority is to find a mentor who has the time, personality and talent to educate.  Look around your social or professional circles.  You may be drawn to someone similar in age, gender, race and experience. 

But these may not be the best pick.  You may have to look outside your comfort zone.  The ideal age difference is around 15 years with greater experience and is an “Expert” in the areas you want to pursue.   You may not be able to find every trait you want in one person.  Consider having more than one mentor, especially if you have varied interests and/or are highly specialized. 

Once you have that person(s) on board with you, both parties need to outline expectations.  Don’t be afraid to utilize this relationship to its fullest potential.  Use the mentor for long-term development that will have sustainability for your careers.  Mentors have a life-cycle so don’t cling too tightly.  As you grow and develop so should your network and one day you may find yourself in the “Career Guru” hot seat.   Anyone out there have a mentor or thinking of pursuing this avenue?  I would love to hear your experiences.

This article was written by Liane H. Gould, Manager of Career Services of the ACS Department of Career Management and Development.


Remember Your 4 R’s of Interviewing

April 23, 2008

So, you got the phone call you have been waiting for and the voice on the other end says those words you are longing to hear, “We are very impressed with your resume and would like to meet with you to further discuss X position”.  You are in a state of euphoria as you schedule the appointment and thank the person for the opportunity.  You get off the phone and think “Now what”. 

 Here are some next steps to help you nail that interview of a lifetime.  Interviewing can be daunting so let’s divide the experience into four buckets — the four R’s of interviewing:

Ø Research.

Ø Rehearse.

Ø Revive Your Personal Presentation.

Ø Relevant Questions.


It is a very important to do your research on the organization you will be interviewing.  Current data says that less than 10% of candidates take time to do this, so this is a great way for you to stand out. 

Start by reviewing the organization’s web site, brochures and annual reports.  Talk to current or past employees to gain an understanding of the business, its services and its competitors.  Do your homework so you can be in a knowledgeable position. Otherwise, the interview could be a truly uncomfortable experience; you run the risk of not understanding what the interviewer is talking about, possibly asking unintelligent questions.

Other ways to prepare for the interview is to sit down and think about what is going to be asked in that interview.  If you know someone within the organization, make inquiries as this can yield pertinent information.


You can often anticipate the kinds of questions you’ll be asked during interviews, particularly if you have done your due diligence. Once you have determined the probable questions, develop responses that showcase your personal best.  Answers should be results orientated.  Show how you have made an impact in your present position and how you are going to be a resource for your new employer.  Practice, practice, practice.  Develop and define your answers and do not forget to tell them how good you are as you are your best advocate.  It is a great idea to rehearse in front of someone or in front of the mirror.  

Revive Your Personal Presentation

You have only 10 seconds to make a first impression so dressing appropriately is very important.  Candidates have been known to show up without wearing a jacket when a suit would be more appropriate. Sometimes the suit is wrinkled or ill tailored. You need to make sure your attire is corporate savvy, well-groomed and polished.   

Remember the basics — like a solid handshake, a calm demeanor, warm smile— because they don’t see the real you if you’re uptight.  And basic eye contact; a lot of people put a lot of weight into eye contact. Maintaining that is really important.

Relevant Questions

Prepare a list of tough questions in your preparation for the close of the interview.  Employers love it when someone asks really difficult questions.  Asking well-thought-out questions shows that you know the business and are familiar with the company to some extent. It all goes back to preparation, and it tells the interviewer you thought about this interview before you walked in the door. 

To further your interviewing techniques you may want to refer to the ACS Careers Advice and Publications section of the ACS website at:

This article was written by Liane H. Gould, Manager of Career Services of the ACS Department of Career Management and Development.


Machiavellian Volunteerism

February 19, 2008

Sometimes the best way to help yourself is to help others. Volunteering can help you build your professional network, will allow you to develop new areas of competency, and it can give you a sense of accomplishment when you might otherwise be feeling down.

I spent the past weekend in Ft. Lauderdale with 58 of my closest friends—the ACS Career Consultants. This very passionate group of volunteers freely gives of their time and advice to ACS members without compensation, because they have all faced the challenges of going through a career transition. By giving back to the Society through service, they have gained many contacts in their networks as well as a great deal of insight into the chemical industry and its hiring practices. Therefore they have not only given back to their community, but they have also enriched their own opportunities for professional advancement.

When moving from one place to another or changing jobs, the trauma of leaving friends and family behind can be very challenging. However, becoming involved in local organizations through volunteer service has given me access to new friends and support in every place that I have gone.

Whether staffing a benefit for AIDS research, helping pack groceries at a food bank, or volunteering for the ACS Younger Chemists Committee, I was able to find others with similar values and interests. The activities involved with each program also provided me with opportunities to explore leadership roles, as well as skills development outside of the scope of my professional duties. I have chaired committees and task forces, designed and programmed websites, served drinks to celebrities, and worked side-by-side with some of the most innovative people on the planet. I have been able to list the skills gained from each activity on my resume, and I use many of those skills in my job today.

However, the best thing about volunteer service is the feelings of self-accomplishment and pride I feel from giving to others. I know this is selfish—perhaps even Machiavellian—but it is true. Through volunteering, I am able to replace feelings of self-pity for being alone, insecurities about my abilities, and frustrations with work projects gone astray with those of camaraderie, accomplishment and pride.

Sharing stories about the people that we have been able to help and the challenges that we have faced throughout the last year with my fellow Career Councilors has been a fulfilling and inspiring experience. I have been rejuvenated.

If you are feeling bogged down by your daily grind at work, or in between employment opportunities, consider giving more of yourself through service. The world will benefit, and so will you.

The ACS Career Consultant Program is a free service available only to members of the American Chemical Society.

This article was written by David Harwell, Ph.D., assistant director of the ACS Department of Career Management and Development.