'The Best of Bill'

Articles Written by Dr. William F. Carroll, Jr.
Industry Matters Newsletter
“I’ve enjoyed writing these short pieces, and I hope you’ve found just a nugget or two. But the most important thing—and maybe it’s the most important personal benefit of being an ACS member—is that we have a number of experienced and dedicated volunteer career counselors who are willing to sit down with you one-to-one to talk about the kind of issues found here, and to help you thrive in your career.” - Dr. William F. Carroll, Jr.
Bill Carroll, Carroll Applied Science, LLC
Bill Carroll, Carroll Applied Science, LLC

Dr. William F. Carroll, Jr. holds a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. He received an MS from Tulane University in New Orleans, and a BA in Chemistry and Physics from DePauw University in Greencastle, IN. He retired from Occidental Chemical Corporation in 2015 after 36 years, and now heads his own company, Carroll Applied Science, LLC. He is also Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Indiana, a Certified Professional Retirement Coach and both Past President and Past Chair of the Board of the American Chemical Society.

Let’s drill down on this statement a bit. First, you perceive that your boss is playing favorites, and I’m guessing you don’t think you’re the favorite. But is the perception reality? Of course, it is to you, but is there any objective measure? Are you paid less? Do you get poorer assignments? Did the other person get promoted? Or does the boss just seem warmer to others?

If you have objective measures, they should be addressed objectively. Don’t whine--schedule a review of your assignments and performance—and I mean a sit-down, full-attention meeting—not a short hall conversation. She may see shortcomings in your work or your reporting that you didn’t realize. If you are the C player on an A team, the way you manage that situation is to up your game. Read more

There are three phrases in your question I need to drill down on.  First is “My boss is much younger than I am,” “I am having trouble with our working relationship,” and “…can’t possibly know as much about my work as I do.”

Full disclosure: early in my career I had to manage people my father’s age. Later in my career, I reported to people much younger than I was. Neither has to be a difficult problem with the right attitude and a good understanding of yourself. Read more

I’m going to assume from the tone of the question that you are in that awkward age between about 55 and 65, and retirement is at least an option to be considered.  And it’s really important to know why you’re not happy.  Free-floating anxiety is not sufficient; have the hard conversation with yourself about what’s wrong, what needs to change, and what would be better.  If you can’t isolate those things, regardless of what you think otherwise, you may be “ready” for a change but you’re not prepared for a change.  Know yourself, and prepare.

I see about four options, and there may be variations on a theme, especially in these times.  First is “shelter in place.”  I realize you’re ready for a change and there may be a good time for that, but right now, at least don’t jeopardize what you have.  In a crisis, generally companies cancel travel and postpone hiring.  It’s a knee-jerk reaction.  Mobility may be tough right now.  It will eventually get better. Read more

Before I go deeply into detail, my basic answer is: you will do so because you are a professional.

First, let’s talk about what “inexperienced” means, and I’m going to take it as a euphemism.  I can think of three alternative scenarios: 1) competent manager but new to the area, 2) competent employee but new to management and 3) incompetent. In a way, the correct answer to all three situations involves making yourself valuable to this person.

When I started as Manager of Research—my first management position—my boss, the Director of Technology, had most recently been a plant technical manager, not a scientist. He was given that Director position because we were not an academic research group: we needed to get new stuff into the plant or fix what was there, and the technology groups needed to be aligned. Read more

Climbing the corporate ladder and learning to present data better might be two different things; however, regardless of your career goals, anyone can improve his or her presentations.  

One big tip: Know and Understand Your Audience. A presentation for technical people will have a significantly different feel than a presentation for senior management. In the first case, the audience is probably interested in all of the detail that went into your experimentation and conclusions. In the second case, there is probably more interest in what it means to the company in a larger sense.

I once had a boss – a Senior VP – who took virtually no interest in the detail of what I did and had about a 30 second attention span. I learned that I had to summarize and show meaning from his perspective and do it quickly. If something was too detailed to shout across the parking lot, it was probably too detailed for him and I needed to think harder. The key was to attract his attention and wait for him to drill down if he was interested. Read more

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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