What Have You Learned Lately?

November 9, 2009

I’m currently sitting in a coffee shop, spending the day working on my laptop.  I’m here waiting for several boy scouts who are attending a Merit Badge University, and learning about Leatherwork, Public Speaking, and Reptile and Amphibian Study, among other things.  As I watched them head off to their respective  classes, it occurred to me how eager they were to learn new things, and explore the world around them.  In their case, if they are successful, they will come back with a completed merit badge to prove they now understand and can execute a whole new set of skills.  More than just a piece of cloth on their uniform, they have confidence in their ability to do and share their new knowledge.

For those of us who a are just a little bit older, it’s not quite so easy.  There are lot of things we want to learn about, but the effort and time commitment to sign up for a formal class is often more than we are willing to expend.

Fortunately, we often acquire new skills and knowledge without formal training, and sometimes without fully realizing what we have learned.  I recently taught a workshop to a group of graduate students, and in talking about resumes was asking them about their professional experience and significant accomplishments.  Several of them told me they didn’t have any work experience  – a statement I hope their graduate advisor would take exception to!

When I started probing, they were almost all able to tell me about something they had done of which they were very proud.  Maybe it was a compound they had synthesized, a particularly difficult analysis they had completed, or in some cases a class they had taught where they felt they really made a difference in the life of a particular student.  In every case, once they started talking about the event, they became animated and their excitement and pride was palpable.  As I asked questions about what they did and what they had learned, they started to realize just how much this particular event had meant to them, and how much they had learned in the process.

Sometimes, we need to step back and think about what we’re done lately, and reflect on what we have accomplished, and/or  learned.  New analytical instruments or tools are usually easy to recognize, but new non-technical skills are sometimes harder to spot.

Take a few minutes over your coffee today to think about what you’ve done lately, and what you’ve learned from it.  Have you given a talk, or written a report?  What did you learn, not only about the subject matter, but about the process and perhaps a better way to prepare for the next time?  Did you recently get through a difficult situation with a co-worker, and what did you learn about how you might handle a similar situation the next time?

Think also about what you haven’t learned, that might make your career better.  Is there some new technique or method that you’ve been meaning to learn, but just haven’t gotten to?  Maybe your last performance review pointed out oral presentation skills as an area in which you could improve.  Set aside a few minutes to read a few journal articles, or find and attend a Toastmaster’s meeting.

Too often we wait for a crisis to force us to take action, when we know we should have done it long ago.  Identifying gaps in your knowledge and addressing them is one of the best things you can do for your professional future.  Exploring new areas on your own prepares you for the future, and lets you move your career in the direction of your choosing, not into areas that others select for you.  You may not earn a merit badge (like both of my scouts did), but you will gain the satisfaction of knowing that your career is moving forward, and you are the one directing it.

This article was written by freelance scientific communication consultant Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2007). She blogs on Career Development for Scientists.

Filling the Employment Gaps in Your Résumé

April 13, 2009

More than 90% of senior executives reported they would be concerned if a job candidate had long involuntary periods of unemployment according to a 2008 survey by placement firm OfficeTeam (Menlo Park, CA). Finding a new job fast, especially in a recession is no easy trick. So what can you do to prevent employment gaps appearing in your employment history?

Resist the temptation to “fudge” your dates of employment by adding a few months to your last job to make the gap disappear, advises Stephen Viscusi, author of the book “Bulletproof Your Job: 4 Simple Strategies to Ride Out the Rough Times and Come Out on Top at Work” (Collins Business, 2008). Potential employers often contact former employers to verify dates of employment. If that information doesn’t match what’s in your résumé, most employers will immediately eliminate you from consideration.

Instead, keep up your skills by taking some courses. For example, if you are an analytical chemist, you might take a short course in a new analytical technique growing in popularity. This could significantly strengthen your position in the job market. You could also take courses to strengthen some of your soft skills or shift your career in a new direction. Online business skills courses from ACS and Harvard Business Publishing can help you do this at www.acs.org/professionaldevelopment.

You could also do some volunteer work in your field. Consider reconnecting with a former research advisor and working in his laboratory. Even if you don’t get paid, you could still work part-time to stay active in the field. Recent graduates might contact former academic research advisors and get permission to take the lead on writing research papers on unreported aspects of their graduate or post-doctoral work. Another possibility is to write a review paper, perhaps with your former research advisor.

Both recent, and not-so-recent graduates, could do volunteer work for the American Chemical Society or other professional organizations. Such work can put you in contact with people who could help in your job hunt. In particular, organizing a symposium could help you contact leaders in your field.

Mid-career chemists with some name recognition in their field could work as consultants. However, this should consist of more than just getting some business cards printed. Potential employers may ask you for the names of some of your clients. If you are consulting, treat it like any other job and list projects and accomplishments on your résumé. A good way to support your part-time consulting is to present papers at conferences and attend local ACS meetings where you can network with potential consulting clients as well as people who could be helpful to your job hunt.

Write a blog that’s related to your field. You could use your blog to support your consulting work. During employment interviews you can point to this as an accomplishment.

A temporary staffing firm can help you find temporary assignments while you’re looking for a full-time job.

Don’t be afraid to include these activities in your résumé and cover letter. Such activities show you have drive, initiative and creativity.

To make these strategies work best, use these ideas as soon as you lose your job or even before.


Full-time science writer John Borchardt is an ACS Career Consultant and certified Workshop Presenter. As an industrial chemist he holds 30 U.S. patents and written more than 130 peer-reviewed technical articles.

What to Do When Your Job Hunt Runs Out of Steam

March 16, 2009

During a long job hunt your search for employment can run out of steam. It may seem like you have contacted every conceivable employer. You can become increasingly frustrated and bored. If you’ve been in the job market for several months, it is time to analyze your job hunt to see how you can energize your search. Questions to consider are:

  • Are you targeting organizations currently hiring chemists?
  • Are your skills and experience a good fit for the type of employers and jobs you are targeting? Do you need to broaden the types of organizations and jobs you target?
  • Do your résumé and cover letter accurately describe your skills and accomplishments?

To deal with these questions, create multiple résumés each targeting a different industry that can use your skills. To discover which industries are most appropriate to target, talk to knowledgeable colleagues in these industries or contact an ACS career consultant (www.acs.org/careers). In particular, consider industries that are still hiring. For example, currently the oil industry appears likely to maintain R&D spending according to a December “Wall Street Journal” report. Read C&EN and business publications to learn about employment trends in various industries. Also, customize your résumé and cover letter for specific job openings with specific companies as you become aware of them.

As you prepare these new résumés, discuss them with ACS career consultants and knowledgeable colleagues to be sure you are using terminology appropriate to each industry and highlighting appropriate skills and aspects of your experience. Some of these contacts can advise you on specific industries and companies to target.

Armed with your new résumés, check out employment opportunities on the Internet. Most companies have career sections on their websites where they post employment opportunities. Check the websites of your target companies frequently. In addition to specialized job boards such as ACS Careers Jobs Database (www.acs.org/careers), check general job boards such as Monster.com and Yahoo! hotjobs. Focus on recently posted job openings because old job posts are usually already filled.

Another question to ask yourself is: Are you networking effectively to identify employment opportunities? Inform former coworkers and college and graduate school friends about your job hunt. Attend ACS local section meetings and other local professional society meetings to make new contacts.

Research new companies potentially coming to your area. Cities often offer companies incentives to move into an area hit by job losses and facility closures. For example, MPI Research, a privately held preclinical drug-testing company in Mattawan, Michigan, has announced plans to create 3,300 jobs over the next five years and move into laboratory and office space once used by Pfizer.

A long job hunt can take a psychological toll. Don’t become isolated from your family, friends or peers. Participate in inexpensive family and professional activities. Even a walk in a park at lunch time can recharge your psychological batteries. With your cell phone you can stay ready to take that employer’s phone call.


Full-time science writer John Borchardt is an ACS Career Consultant and certified Workshop Presenter. As an industrial chemist he holds 30 U.S. patents and written more than 130 peer-reviewed technical articles.

Where are the Chemists? And Where Should You Be?

January 25, 2009

I start each morning by scanning blog headlines, and reading the articles that spark my interest.  One of the chemistry-related blogs I read recently began: “I’m going to write this morning about a question that actually came up among several of us at the train station this morning. I’m on a route that takes a lot of people into Cambridge, so we have a good proportion of pharma/biotech people on board. And today we got to talking about ……” .  

While the technical subject matter of the post was interesting, it was that lead-in that really caught my attention.  I wonder how many professional conversations happen on those trains, and how many connections are made?  Simply by being in a place where chemists are on a regular basis, these commuters are significantly increasing their odds of making valuable professional connections.  

So, what does this mean for you?  Can you put yourself in a place where you can be more easily found, and make connections with others in your profession?  

If you live in an area where mass transit is available, identify stations near centers of high tech or chemical industry. If your regular route takes you through them, start noticing others who ride that route on a regular basis – maybe one of them is carrying a copy of Chemical and Engineering News?  How hard would it be to strike up a conversation by asking if they read the article about ….?  You’ll quickly be able to tell if they’re open to a conversation, by the tone of their voice and their body language as they answer your questions.  The shorter their answers, the shorter your conversation should be. If you both ride on a regular basis, you can build up a relationship slowly over time.

If you don’t take mass transit on a regular basis, can you make other small changes in your routine – for example, work at a coffee shop near a potential employer instead of near your home, or have lunch in a deli near a chemical company?  Especially if you become a “regular” at some of these places, you will become familiar with other regulars, some of whom are bound to work at the nearby chemical companies.  

For example, in my area there is a deli very near a major chemical employer.  During a recent lunch there, a collegue and I were chatting about science, careers, and so on. As we were leaving, a gentleman who had been working at the next table stopped me and said that he couldn’t help overhearing our conversation, and he wondered if I could give him some advice about a project with which he was having trouble.  Of course I was happy to help him out, and gave him some ideas, pointers to some web sites, and my business card. I don’t know if I’ll ever hear from him again, but I’m glad he made the connection.  He got some valuable information, and I got to feel good about helping another person.  

I have also made great professional connections in airport boarding areas, and with people seated next to me on flights to and from national ACS meetings – who very often turn out to be chemists!

Companies do this too.  Check out the company that set up a taco truck across the street from a competitor who was having layoffs to woo potential employees.  

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this whole idea of putting yourself where other professionals are, being open to (and even initiating) is not new.  In fact, it even has a name…….networking.  



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)

Academia to Industry….or the other way around?

January 9, 2009


The January 5th issue of Chemical and Engineering News includes an article about the University of Michigan buying the recently closed Pfizer research facility in Ann Arbor, MI.  The property formerly housed about 2,000 pharmaceutical researchers, and  includes 30 buildings over 174 acres, and decades ago belonged to U of Michigan, who sold it to Parke-Davis, which eventually became part of Pfizer.  The university plans to use the acquisition to provide opportunities for industrial partners, and to that end has already hired 13 former Pfizer researchers.  They “expect to create at least 2,000 jobs over the next 10 years”.  The specific uses of the site will be worked out over the next year or so, but possibilities include expansion space for university researchers, partnering with or providing space for private sector businesses in pharmaceutical, biotech, energy, nanotech, and so on.  

This will not be an overnight process.  In 2007, Yale University made a similar move and purchased 136 acres housing 17 buildings that formerly housed the Bayer HealthCare complex.  So far, they have appointed Michael Donoghue as Vice President of Planning and Program Development.  Over the next three years he will develop the plan for use of the space, and add neighbors for the Institute for High Throughput Cell Biology which is currently located in the facility. Current plans include a mixture of high tech companies, research, and art.  

This is an interesting trend, especially in light of other workplace trends.  We know most chemists are now working for small companies, where they used to work for large companies. We also know that since the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, universities are patenting their ideas, and collaborating with industry to commercialize them much more than they used to.  And now we see that universities are buying formerly commercial labs and using them to house their own research institutes, and to serve as incubators for new, small, high-tech companies.  

This is both good and bad news.  There is still lots of good work being done, it’s just being done in different places. It’s no longer enough to just look at large chemical companies when looking for a job.  Though they’re easy to find, they’re not where most of the jobs are. There are more places to look for work, so finding just the right fit will take more research on your part.  You’ll need to look at small companies, new technology areas, and maybe even academic institutions to find your ideal position.  

As an interesting aside, when I viewed the article on Pfizer selling the site, right next to it was a sponsored ad from Pfizer, advertising their positions available. So even within a single company, opportunities are moving around – changing location, specialty, area of study, and so on. Keeping abreast of, and hopefully ahead of, these changes is crucial to the long-term success of your career.

After all, we all know the only thing that is constant is change.


 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)

Stay Informed: How to Succeed in Today’s Economy

December 15, 2008

How should chemists react to today’s adverse economic news? To protect your career, the first step is to be aware of the economic news and how it could impact your career.  Forewarned is forearmed.


Read your local newspaper’s news and business to learn about events at your employer. “Chemical & Engineering News” and national business publications such as the “Wall Street Journal,” “Business Week,” and “Fortune” can clue you in on broader business news on the chemical industry and other industries employer chemists.


C&EN business news often provides more in depth coverage of the chemical industry than general business publications. For example, a November 24 C&EN article described the adverse effects of the automotive industry slowdown on its chemical suppliers (http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/86/i47/html/8647notw1.html). The financial crisis at many lending institutions has resulted in a major housing and business construction slowdown reducing demand for many chemical products. Worried people are spending less on consumer items also reducing chemical demand.


Local publications may provide more depth on local developments than national publications. For example, the December 8 issue of “Wall Street Journal” covered the announcement of Dow’s closure of 20 facilities and the loss of 5,000 jobs worldwide at the firm plus elimination of 6,000 contractor jobs (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122874291029187963.html?mod=testMod). The same day the “Houston Chronicle” carried a story on cutbacks planned for Dow’s big complex in nearby Freeport, Texas providing information on this huge facility not carried by national publications. This bad economic news comes as chemical companies are still repairing and restarting Texas Gulf Coast plants damaged by Hurricane Ike last September.


DuPont, BASF, BassellLyondell, 3M and other employers of chemists are also eliminating thousands of jobs and closing plants.


Have staff reductions spread to industrial laboratories? As of mid-December, little information is available on this concern.


Okay, so now you’re staying abreast of business news in your industry. What’s next?


Determine how you can quickly improve your job security. Rapidly finish project reports so your manager is aware of your recent accomplishments. Submit invention disclosures on your research. Press your patent attorney to convert your invention disclosures into patent applications. Doing so will make her look good too. Evaluate your projects to determine how you can focus your efforts to make a positive impact in the short term.


Review your recent accomplishments. Doing so is useful in reminding your supervisor of your contributions. Also use this information to update your résumé so it is ready to go should you need to job hunt.


To prepare for possible job hunting, assemble a list of candidate employers. Go beyond your current industry and consider what others may be less negatively impacted by current business conditions. Determine what aspects of your skills and accomplishments are most relevant to these industries.


Assemble a list of contacts working in these industries and for potential future employers with whom you can discuss possible employment opportunities and who could provide useful job-hunting advice. Activate your existing professional network and start making new contacts.


Work through the Careers section of the ACS website to get job hunting advice and obtain advice from ACS career consultants (http://portal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg/content?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PP_SUPERARTICLE&node_id=1781&use_sec=false&sec_url_var=region1&__uuid=1f4eff7a-215b-4121-894c-171f93b9fbdc) on how to improve your resume.


Losing your job is a traumatic experience. Being prepared to get your job hunt off to a fast start and lessen this trauma and put you on the road to career recovery.


Full-time science writer John Borchardt is an ACS Career Consultant and certified Workshop Presenter. As an industrial chemist he holds 30 U.S. patents and written more than 130 peer-reviewed technical articles.

Hydrogen Bonding and Holiday Bonding

December 8, 2008

In her November 24 blog entry, Liane Gould (Manager, Career Services, ACS) highlights the value of networking and recommends a documentary on network science.  I second her recommendation; “How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer”  [ can now be found at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zK1Cb9qj3qQ ]

is a fascinating documentary.  And I highly endorse the concept of networking as central to career development.


However, I can also feel my body tensing up whenever I say or write the word, “networking.” 


If that word—“networking”—pushes you out of your comfort zone, I can relate.  I’m a bit of an introvert, and I’d rather talk in depth to two or three people at a party than chat superficially with everyone in the room.   To put it in terms that a chemist can understand, I believe in a few strong bonds rather than a lot of weak ones.  I’m a “covalent” type of guy.


But I’m also a protein chemist, and my graduate research involved using NMR to investigate protein structure and understand structural fluctuations in solution. I learned that weak bonds and interactions, especially hydrogen bonds, are absolutely essential to the structure and function of enzymes. (Remember that biochem lecture about primary, secondary, and tertiary structure?) 


So what does this mini-lesson in protein chemistry have to do with your career?   


OK, close your eyes.  Then just envision your career as a complex molecule.  You’re going to need plenty of hydrogen bonds, along with those covalent bonds, to stabilize the structure of your career.  Your secondary and tertiary interactions with those around you—in your research group, department, organization, ACS local section, extended family, neighborhood, or social-networking internet community—can help you shape your career. 


And December is the perfect month to put this hydrogen-bond strategy to work. 

With office holiday parties, departmental outings, local section socials, and family gatherings, you’re going to find yourself floating in a sea of potential interactions.  You don’t have to bond covalently with everyone you meet.  Like a protein molecule, be flexible.  Stay open to brief interactions.  Connect with others, even if for just a few minutes.  Exchange some energy and information (i.e., a smile and a business card).


One of the best writing assignments I ever received developed out of a brief, hydrogen-bond-like interaction at a social gathering at an ACS National Meeting.  While grabbing some crackers and cheese at the reception, I introduced myself to a chemist I had never met before.  It turned out that the science writer at this person’s organization had recently retired, and the organization was looking for a new science writer.   Over the next few months, we exchanged business cards, then e-mails, then resumes, and finally writing samples and references.  Soon, I was flying to their headquarters for interviews and, eventually, a fascinating writing assignment.


Networking works

In the coming weeks, as you mix with colleagues, friends, and neighbors in those holiday gatherings, put your hydrogen-bonding skills to work.  (For more examples of how chemists network, see “Networking: How Chemists Form New Bonds,” published originally in Chemistry, Autumn, 2003.) [ http://www.wedincommunications.com/ChemistryAndNetworking.pdf ]


Oh, and here’s one little warning you might want to keep in mind at those office parties.  Carefully monitor your ethanol consumption.  As a protein chemist, I learned that increasing the ethanol concentration of an aqueous solution will destabilize the protein structure. It can even lead to denaturation.  If you’re going to be drinking alcohol at office holiday parties, titrate carefully.

Randy Wedin blogs from Wayzata, MN. After spending a decade working for the ACS and as a Congressional Science Fellow, he launched a freelance science writing business, Wedin Communications (www.wedincommunications.com), in 1992.

New ACS Careers Programs Help Ensure Economic and Professional Success

December 1, 2008

The current economic situation has caused much uncertainty and worry for our members and others within the chemical enterprise. New graduates are experiencing greater difficulty in obtaining full time employment, and many mid- to late-career chemists are transitioning from one job to the next. Mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations are once again reshaping the chemical landscape, and business cycles once measured in years are best calibrated on a much shorter timescale.

As we face uncertain economic times, it is important that each of us positions ourselves as competitively as we can to be successful. Today’s workplace requires ingenuity, flexibility, and continuous professional development from its practitioners. It also requires a practical understanding of current business practices. In order to help ensure the continued prosperity and success of our members, and the companies for which they work, the Committee on Economic and Professional Affairs (CEPA) is pleased to announce the addition of two new programs to the ACS Careers portfolio.

Through a collaborative partnership with Harvard Business Publishing, ACS is offering a suite of 42 introductory online business and management skills courses through the new ACS Center for Professional Development. The course library includes topics such as Career Management, Negotiating, Leading and Motivating, Presentation Skills, Strategic Thinking, Team Leadership, Time Management, and many other high-quality courses. At $25 per course, this offering is substantially discounted for our members. Even lower rates are available for members who are currently unemployed. To enroll in one of these courses or to find out more about the topics covered, go to www.acs.org/careers.

The ACS Careers Industry Forum is a monthly teleconference featuring luminaries from the chemical industry who speak about economic and other trends affecting employment. This is a free service of the Society. The series which debuted in September featured Dr. Magid Abou-Garbia, Senior Vice President and Head of Chemical and Screening Sciences for Wyeth Drug Discovery and Development as the first speaker who discussed strategies for a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry. Since then, the forum followed with Dr. Carolyn Ribes of Dow Benelux BV in the Netherlands who spoke about the challenges and opportunities of working abroad, and Dr. Michael Stem of Strem Chemicals Inc. who spoke about the differences between small and large companies. The upcoming forum in January will showcase incoming ACS President Dr. Thomas Lane of Dow Corning Corporation who is the Director of Global Science and Technology Outreach. To sign up for upcoming ACS Careers Industry Forum teleconferences, visit the ACS Careers Blog at acscareers.wordpress.com.

CEPA is also proud to support the ACS Network. The ACS Network is a professional networking tool for the global chemistry community, hosted by the American Chemical Society. Combined with our already successful ACS Careers Jobs Database, the Network promises to be one of the most empowering tools for today’s job seekers. The addition of ACS Global Partners to the ACS Network will make it even more powerful. ACS Global Partners are those with electronic access to ACS journal subscriptions through their library or other institution. To use these tools in concert, simply search and apply for jobs from the jobs database, and then conduct a search within the ACS Network for people working at your potential employer. To join or use the ACS Network follow the link on the ACS homepage, www.acs.org.

Healthcare and health insurance were identified as the top workforce concerns of ACS members. In response, CEPA, in conjunction with Office of Public Affairs, developed a public policy statement on the issue, which was subsequently approved by the ACS Board of Directors. The policy advocates removal of barriers to allow national Association Health Care plans. In addition CEPA will be polling members of the Legislative Action Network to help identify other workforce issues and concerns.

These new services complement existing ACS programs that offer ACS members a means to remain competitive in a changing economic environment. For example, ACS members benefit from free weekly issues of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) including the special report “Employment Outlook,” published in the November 3, 2008, issue. To sharpen and increase marketable technical skills, continuing education courses are available both in-person and on the web at a discount to ACS members. Membership in ACS Divisions provides a network of colleagues in your own discipline of chemistry.

CEPA continues to monitor the economic and professional status of our members, and is working to create additional programs, products and services with the chief goal of enabling the professional success of Society members in the U. S. and abroad.

This article originally appeared in the November 17, 2008 edition of C&EN. It was written by Dr. Martin Gorbaty Chair of the ACS Committee on Economic and Professional Affairs.


November 12, 2008

A native of northern China, Donghong Sun graduated with a BS in Chemistry from the University of Beijing in 1992 and moved to the United States to pursue her PhD in Chemistry at Columbia University. After graduating from Columbia, Sun conducted postdoctoral work a Rutgers University and landed a position working on pesticide formulation for Rohm and Haas. She decided to leave industry after her first child was born. Following a discussion about Rider University’s Graduate-Level Teacher Certification Program (GLTP) with the mother of one of her daughter’s classmates, Sun decided to pursue a teaching career.

Currently in her second year as a chemistry teacher at Montgomery High School in Skillman, Sun is one of hundreds of second-career seekers who have participated in the Rider University’s GLTP. Graduates who have completed all the requirements of an approved program in teacher education are eligible to receive a New Jersey Certificate of Eligibility with Advanced Standing, which authorizes the individual to seek and accept offers of employment in New Jersey schools. After a year of mentorship on the job in a New Jersey school, the certificate becomes valid for the lifetime of its holder.

“The Rider program came so highly recommended and it opened up a whole new way of thinking about teaching for me,” recalls Sun. “I like the fact that the program puts the student at the center of active learning versus sitting passively taking notes which was the norm when I was a student,” Sun added.

“There is certainly a shortage in science teachers and we are trying to bridge the gap,” stated Sandra Alberti, Director of the Office of Math and Science Education in New Jersey, “We recognize the need for our students to have a strong foundation in life sciences in order to contribute to the future well being of the economy. That’s why we are promoting best practices in math and science education and have already mandated that New Jersey students must now take biology as one of the core sciences courses in high school.”

The primary goal of the Office of Math and Science Education is to strengthen skills of all students, increase the number of math and science graduates from colleges and universities and develop initiatives that will increase the number of certified math and science teachers. “Ultimately, our goal is to develop a world class workforce by assisting students and job seekers in obtaining the skills and education that are needed in a competitive economy,” added Alberti. Rider University’s GLTP program is just one of the programs that encourage individuals to pursue teaching careers in math and science. Launched in 2003, the New Pathway to Teaching in New Jersey (NPTNJ) also offers a statewide alternate route teacher preparation program for candidates who already possess a bachelor’s degree and certificate of eligibility. Candidates take NPTNJ coursework at local NJ Community Colleges using a curriculum created jointly by New Jersey City University and the Community Colleges. NPTNJ includes a pre-service component that incorporates classroom management techniques, lesson planning, and on-site classroom observations. Once individuals receive a teaching position, they take coursework essential for the development of excellent teachers.

“Of the nearly 400 individuals who have participated in the 2007-2008 NPTNJ program, approximately 28% represented math and science teachers,” stated Darlene Yoseloff, Director of School Relations, Middlesex County College.

Liberty Science Center is also focused on strengthening the quality of science teachers. Through its Gateway program, Liberty Science Center offers a unique approved Regional Training Center for alternate route science teachers. Alternate route science teachers who have their first school contract in the state are eligible to participate in the training. The majority of the training is completed during an intensive 20-day summer program before they enter their first teaching assignment. Participants observe and teach lessons in a local summer school program and receive onsite coaching visits once they are actually working in their school.

Mary Ellen Clark is Executive Director of the Central New Jersey WIRED Bio-1 initiative. Bio-1 focuses on retaining and expanding high quality jobs in the biosciences sector, as well as exciting young people about the biosciences and laying smooth education and career pathways to increasing bioscience workforce development through training and transformational graduate programs.

The Finer Art of Salary Negotiation in a Downturn Economy

October 27, 2008


For the month of September the national unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.1 percent but was up from 4.7 percent a year earlier.  Raises are expected to remain stagnant with the economy showing no signs of a rebound.  Overall the outlook looks bleak and you are thinking it is probably not the best time to ask for a salary increase.  You may want to reconsider.
Pay raises may be harder to come by in the current business environment but if you prove that you are an indispensible part of an organization’s ability to survive the downturn and can help the organization to thrive during the next expansion you may have nothing to lose by asking.

The average pay raises were at about 3.8 percent in 2008 where in 2007 the average salary increase was 3.7 cited by the latest survey data by global consulting firm Mercer LLC. This is expected to remain the same in 2009.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics cited consumer prices have climbed 5.5 percent from July 2007 to July 2008. This is the fastest spike since May 1991.  Bottom line is salaries for American workers are not keeping pace with inflation.

Workers looking for an above average pay increase will have to prove their worth as many organizations targeting higher compensations for their top performers.  According to Mercer, high performer employees or about 14% of the workforce can expect to see about 5.6 percent pay increase.  Another 08 survey by Hewitt Associates shows top performer salaries grew by 10.8 % and may increase by another 10.6% in 09.



If you feel you deserve an increased you will have to justify.  The justification for increase should be based solely on your performance with established goals, cost saving strategies or new business development.  You will need to show that you have been an asset to the organization with numbers and specific examples.  Be prepared to answer questions and make a solid case. 


Some companies may not be able to provide a salary increase but you maybe able to negotiate on other benefits or put yourself in a good position for the future.  Be creative and always keep a good attitude.  Attitude can go a long way and companies appreciate strong team players.  


Here are a few steps to get you through the process: 


– Research your company to find out how well they are positioned in comparison to their competitors.  If your company is doing well use it to request a pay increase.  If not, with the company struggling, showing you understand can help eliminate resistance from your boss in response to your request.  But this can help set you up for future pay increases.

– Arm yourself with facts that support your request for a pay increase. Make a list of your achievements with any backup documentation from vendors, co-workers, management, etc.
Research your salary within the organization and find out what other professionals in your field and/or location.  This will give you a starting point to bargain.  If you are below then can give you have a bargaining chip to use as a starting point.  If you are on target then position your value as an employee.


Whatever the outcome listen to your boss and show management that you are a top performer.  This could help propel you to new heights in the organization.  Remember, you are your best advocate so time to toot your own Horn.  No one else will care or take the time/energy as much as you will.



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