As a mid-career chemist looking for a job change, how can I show employers that I’m valuable when competing with younger chemists entering the workforce?

Rampur Viswanath

Rampur Viswanath, ACS Career Consultant

It’s important to understand the direction that the company is going and/or growing way before leadership talks about it. At the appropriate time, volunteer some of your concepts that align with company’s growth plans or future plans to show that you are up-to-date and thinking like a leader. 

Marciano Bagnoli, ShinItsu Silicones of America

Marciano Bagnoli, ShinEtsu Silicones of America

Skilled chemists are familiar with all of the technology that goes into making chemistry generate value for the customer. As the technology becomes more specialized, experience becomes a valuable tool, especially as it relates into other areas of operation. For example, a chemist who is familiar with batch scaling is great, but a chemist who knows how to adjust formulations to different types of mixing technology from his or her past experience is invaluable. Experienced chemists may know how troublesome a certain method is for quantification, or that certain instrumentation is better suited to a particular characterization. They know the likely root causes of normal production issues, and how to fix them before the problems occur. This knowledge is invaluable and is not learned in school. Specific problems need specific solutions. These problems are hard and often unstudied outside of the company. Therefore, companies will naturally pay more for those who can solve them as they are inherently more valuable. 

Joe Martino

Joe Martino, ACS Career Consultant

The secret to this is relevancy. Chemistry is an enterprise where one needs to be constantly up-to-date in the latest research, reactions and technologies. Therefore, it is imperative to the mid-level job seeker to convince the hiring manager that you’re doing this. Demonstrate an interest in this by taking short courses such as what the ACS offers. Try to get research published, patented, or approved by your company’s internal vetting process to present at a poster session or a symposium so that you can talk about relevant work in a public forum. This will show initiative and demonstrate your relevancy. 

Natalie LaFranzo

Natalie LaFranzo, ACS Career Consultant

Hiring managers do not want to spend their time teaching basic professional skills. The advantage that a mid-career chemist has is that they are coming in with an awareness of how to efficiently accomplish day-to-day tasks that are required (expense reporting, travel booking, email etiquette, running effective meetings, etc). Further, as long as the mid-career chemist is open to learning, their experiences from a previous company can be an asset – sometimes offering the new employer the chance to learn from the mistakes or successes of others. Highlighting specific examples of lessons learned, while demonstrating that you are open to absorbing new knowledge, is impactful in an interview.

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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