Highlights from Pittcon 2012 Chemistry Careers Networking Session, Part I

As promised, here’s a blog post with some of the highlights from the Pittcon 2012 networking session I organized! More to come later this week.

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of organizing a networking session at Pittcon titled “Chemistry Careers Beyond the Bench.”

The room filled up with 29 people, including five panel members who came to share about their nontraditional career experiences.

We started off with a short ice breaker activity that helped everyone get a better idea of who else was in the room, and to introduce themselves to each other.

We found out that about half of the attendees were still in school, and the majority of those in school were undergraduates. This made me happy, because I feel like especially as an undergrad I had very little idea what I could do with a chemistry degree besides teach or do bench work. This fact about my past is what motivates me to blog about nontraditional careers today for JAEP today!

The majority of all attendees were primarily interested in pursuing traditional chemistry careers, but said they came out to learn more about what other options are out there. Given the shaky job climate, it never hurts to know what else you can do with a chemistry degree, one attendee said.

I wanted to also get a sense about how people in the room felt about the job market for chemists? Were they optimistic? Or not so much?

Well, it turns out the room was pretty much split three ways: optimistic, not sure, and not optimistic. Those who were not optimistic said it’s because they know too many chemists that have been laid off or are unable to find a job. On the optimistic side, several attendees felt confident they’d receive a job out of school since they’ve seen many of their peers get “plucked out of the lab” to work for companies in the area.

The last question I asked for the ice breaker was: Do you typically enjoy or dread formal networking session? I asked this because I know sometimes networking gets a bad rap, since it’s often described as being so important to landing a job, but people often feel uncertain about how to actually do it.

The room was pretty much split three ways again. Those who said they enjoyed networking sessions said it’s because they like getting to meet new people. One brave person from the “dread networking” side of the fence explained that for her, networking is scary because you never know how someone will receive you when you approach them to make an introduction. I can totally see why networking would be scary for that reason, especially if you are not naturally a social butterfly/extrovert type!

Each of the panelists introduced themselves and talked a little bit about who they are, what they do, and how they got to where they are today. Here’s a bit of information about each of the lovely panelists:

  • Joseph Jolson, consultant and owner of Custom Client Solutions.
    • Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry, State University of New York at Buffalo.
    • B.S. in Chemistry, Brooklyn College.
    • Hobbies: baking, gardening, home restoration, financial management.
    • “I love the flexibility & portability that my job provides.”
  • Merlin Fox, Books Commissioning Editor, Royal Society of Chemistry.
    • Biology (B.Sc.), applied environmental science (M.Sc.), and agricultural sciences (Ph.D.).
    • Graduate and postdoc research focused on Environmental/Analytical Chemistry and Biogeochemistry.
    • Hobbies: conservation, gardening, photography, woodwork, cycling.
    • “I love learning about new science everyday, seeing one of ‘my’ books in a store or library.”
  • Joanne Thomson, Deputy Editor, Royal Society of Chemistry.
    • Masters degree in Chemistry, University of Edinburgh.
    • Hobbies: running, karate, cooking.
    • “I love that I get to interact with world-leading scientists and keep up-to-date with the latest ‘hot’ science.”
  • Celia Arnaud, Senior Editor, Chemical & Engineering News.
    • Ph.D. course work in Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh.
    • B.S. degree in Chemistry and a B.A. degree in English and Economics, University of Richmond.
    • Hobbies: choir, theater, reading.
    • “I love that I get to learn new things by talking to scientists about the cool research they do.”
  • Richard Skubish, Sales Development Manager, Sigma-Aldrich.
    • B.S., Chemistry, Trinity College.
    • Hobbies: father of 3, weekend-warrior home remodeler, very bad golfer.
    • “I love the fact that, although I do not do science on a daily basis, my science training and experience is still useful every single day… I still feel like I’m assisting advancement by supplying researchers with the tools that they need.”

Keep your eyes peeled in the next few days for Part II of the highlights from the session!

Author: Christine Herman

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