How Can You Effectively Transition from College to the Industry Workplace?

Four career experts on how recent graduates can make a seamless transition

Natalie LaFranzo, Director of Scientific Projects & Market Development, Cofactor Genomics
Personally, I was completely unprepared to negotiate. While negotiating salary and/or benefits during the hiring process is common, the skill of negotiating extends far beyond this specific interaction. As a professional, you should be prepared to negotiate with vendors, collaborators, and even colleagues to achieve a best-case scenario for everyone involved. Being comfortable with these business negotiations takes some time and practice. Specifically, removing emotion from the equation and understanding and staying firm on what you believe is your “bottom line” can be difficult. However, strong negotiating skills can be a huge advantage once mastered and will benefit younger chemists early and throughout their career. 

Roger Brown, Executive Vice President, DC Water
Knowing workplace protocol, the value of a job, not just focused on salary rather work-life-balance and total rewards. Be prepared to not know it all and come in like a sponge wanting to soak as much knowledge and information as you can. Give your first job a full year before you consider making a move. Remember people leave a boss not the job or company.

Marciano Bagnoli, Quality Control Supervisor, Shin-Etsu Silicones of America
In industry, science supports and is beholden to business. Chemists add value by arming companies with information to make decisions. Scientific results are reported to management who often do not have a chemical background. This requires solid verbal and written communication skills to illustrate the fine points of science in a way that management can appreciate. Envision the situation from the other person’s perspective and present the information in a way they will appreciate. 

Also understand that you are part of a team working toward a common goal, you don’t have to work on a problem alone. Chances are, someone had done what you are trying to do before and may be able to help. Reaching out to more knowledgeable people is part of being a successful team member.

Samina Azad, ACS Career Consultant
The understanding of how their role fits into the big picture. Their team is delivering only one piece of a large puzzle. Several other pieces need to come together and fit well to make the product. If you are on a R&D team, some of your adjacent pieces are – regulatory, manufacturing, marketing, supply chain, etc. If R&D comes up with a new concept, the idea needs to be clearly communicated to the customer through marketing to get feedback. If customers like the product, you will send the concept to the production floor for the operations team to manufacture it at large scale. 

The goal of industry is to make a product that the customer likes. Maybe you are an Einstein and can create the coolest technologies in the lab – if the customer doesn’t want the technology, or, if the operations team cannot manufacture the product, you are wasting the company’s time.  When you see the big picture, it also gives you an appreciation for what you are doing and how your ideas are helping the end customers.

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.

ACS Career Consultants are experts and leaders working in the field of chemistry who have volunteered to support other ACS members’ career development through one-on-one career counselling. They can stimulate your thinking, ask important career planning questions to help clarify goals, provide encouragement, teach strategies for making meaningful career decisions, and aid you in your job search. Connect with an ACS Career Consultant today!

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