Networking plays a key role in navigating through the job search process to find a job that is challenging and rewarding in the industry. Networking helps graduate students identify different industries where their technical skills are applicable, the value of transferrable skills for industrial job roles, and foster a support group for career growth.
An aspiring industrial scientist should keep an eye out for networking opportunities from the early days of graduate school. It is hard to find industry contacts in an academic atmosphere where graduate students spend most of their time. In this article, I'm sharing my learnings about different networking events and how I benefitted as a participant to navigate the job search process in the industry successfully.
What is a good starting point for networking with industry professionals?
ACS Local Sections and Local Sections of the ACS Younger Chemists Committee organize routine dinner meetings or happy hours, which attract industrial chemists in the area. Visits to manufacturing plants in the area and monthly seminars with scientists and entrepreneurs occupy the calendars of local sections. The Oregon Science Startup Forum organized by the ACS Portland section is an example of a networking event that allowed me to build bridges into entrepreneurship in addition to expanding my professional network.
How many conferences should I attend?
Given the limited financial resources available to support travel, one should be clear-eyed about planning for attending conferences during graduate school. An ACS regional meeting, a national meeting, and a specialty conference will expose you to the broadest audience of industry professionals. ACS National meetings will have over 13k attendees, 200 symposia, and a variety of poster and networking events.
Although a lot of symposia are academically related, some divisions focus their symposia on industry-related topics. For instance, the ACS Division of Business Development and Management, ACS Division of Professional Relations, and ACS Division of Small Chemical Businesses organize symposia at every national meeting on industrially relevant themes that provide an overview of challenges and opportunities in an industrial career, such as decision making strategies and promoting diversity and inclusion in STEM. Many companies send recruiters to ACS career exposition for engagement with prospective candidates. I passed my resume through a recruiter at the ACS Career Fair to Intel and secured an on-site interview.
Why should I participate in specialty conferences?
Gordon conferences held under different themes, ACS Green Chemistry and engineering conferences, Material Research Society meetings, BioMedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting, and PITTCON are examples of specialty conferences. The number of attendees at specialty conferences is smaller than at national meetings. It provides an intimate environment for one-to-one interactions with relevant professionals and engaging in conversations about what drives industrial research, the expectations from a Ph.D. scientist in a team environment, workplace dynamics, and an opportunity to pitch your interest for an industrial career.
In addition to conferences, there are specialized meetings such as ACS Summer School in Green Chemistry and National Symposium in Organic Chemistry which are open only to selected participants who have demonstrated outstanding research capability in a relevant domain, and which provide you with travel support and accommodation. If you're looking for one on one sessions for career guidance, ACS Virtual Office Hours, which are held the first Thursday of every month from 12:00 - 1:30 pm ET, is a good option.
Networking across diverse platforms allows you to build a support group that comprises “go-to” folks when you need feedback for a resume and cover letter or a referral for a company.
This type of networking boosts your confidence about pursuing an industrial career and produces serendipity that may link you with potential upcoming opportunities. For instance, I forwarded the resume of a colleague whom I met at a conference to a company that interviewed me after I had started at Intel. He ended up being hired! When I was beginning my industry job search, a senior scientist from a company reached out to me after she noticed my profile as an organizer of a career discussion at Green Chemistry Fridays at ACS Green Chemistry Institute.
You own your career as well as your network!
Start early to build a diverse network and find experts in different industries, geographic regions, and skills. LinkedIn is a great platform to keep engaging with them and to be a part of their world virtually. The more engaged you are, the better you'll be in strategies and decision-making for finding a job that's rewarding and challenging!
Mevan Dissanayake is a Technology Development Module Engineer at Intel Corporation in the Chemical Mechanical planarization area. He graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Ph.D., where he worked with Professor Aaron Vannucci. Mevan did postdoctoral studies at the University of Rochester with Professor Ellen Matson before joining Intel. He currently serves as the Communication Chair of the ACS Division of Business Development & Management.
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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