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Making a Big Career Change: Turning Adversity into Opportunity

Allen Clauss talks about how "the worst that could happen" could be what we need to overcome our fear of failure and take career risks
Allen Clauss
Allen Clauss, President, CTI Consulting, LLC

So many career opportunities.

Today, those who have education and experience in chemistry and related sciences have a wide range of professional pathways available; in fact, there are more opportunities than ever due to so many interdisciplinary fields that have opened up that rely on and reward chemistry knowledge.  If you are like many professionals on a particular career path, you have probably dreamt from time to time about making a big career change to a different, new and interesting path, but you haven’t done it.  Why not?  For most of us, the answer is that we perceive that big career changes come with big risks.  

Fear is our biggest enemy.

Unfortunately, fear keeps many chemical professionals in jobs they consider to be stale,  and prevents them from getting onto a new learning curve, pursuing exciting new opportunities, and reaching their full potential.   Earlier in my career, when I decided to leave a successful position at a large multinational company to teach college chemistry, many of my colleagues told me that I was crazy.  

However, a few years later, as I was having a great experience teaching at a top tier university while many of them were facing downsizing and early retirement packages, several of them told me they wish they had done what I did before it was too late.  (Actually, it’s never too late.)  Since that time, I have made two additional major career changes with each one rivaling the previous ones in terms of interest, excitement, and opportunity. 

The coronavirus pandemic could be the incentive that you need.

If your current career has been disrupted by the pandemic, or in a worst case, if you have become unemployed due to the pandemic, the good news is that your risk of making that big career change just went down!  Whether your dream involves pursuing a new position in a different area of chemistry that you have been interested in, making a move from industry to academia or vice versa, making a move from  a large company to a venture start-up, or starting your own consulting business, now is a great time to invest in yourself and make it happen. 

Networking is the key.  

First, get your resume and/or CV and your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and optimized.  Then start systematically expanding your network of professional contacts and utilizing them to search for opportunities in your area(s) of interest.  You have heard this over and over again, but it is true:  Networking is the key to successful job searching.  Get excited!  If you are willing to get ahead of adversity and turn it into opportunity, your most exciting and rewarding opportunities lie ahead.

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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