Category → nontraditional careers
There are many reasons for a person to seek out a career that’s seen as nontraditional within their particular field of study. With the current state of the job market within chemistry, a lack of employment prospects has been one reason focused upon here. Another motivator may simply be choice, based on a change in personal values, a need to escape a career that has become stressful, or a desire to convert a lifelong avocation into a career…among other considerations.
For example, many chemists have left the bench after becoming disenchanted with laboratory work, and then seek something else, often because of a perceived lack of opportunities for career progression in a lab-based position.
And then there are those who are forced to seek a career change because their position, which may have been considered traditional, no longer exists, nor does any real prospect of future opportunities in their field.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve come across blog posts about people in other disciplines seeking alternatives to their “traditional” career options. This should come as no surprise—the circumstances described above for seeking a career change are by no means experienced by chemists alone.
One career, in particular, seemed to stand out by its prevalence—Lawyers seeking nontraditional or alternative careers. Nontraditional careers are a recurring topic on the law blog Above the Law. Some recent examples include yoga instructor, comedian, and screenwriter. Another law blog, Legal Nomads, has a series entitled Thrillable Hours with examples such as fashion entrepreneur, marketing director, and wildlife journalist. The profiles describe reasons for career changes that are eerily similar to ones that have been described here.
It is simple really: I was just never cut out for a life of 9-5 traipsing into work every day and doing something I really didn’t care about. Unfortunately for me, legal work was something I really didn’t care about.
Not too different than a research chemist losing interest in research.
One reason why the notion of lawyers in nontraditional careers caught my attention is because, as you may remember, the law—specifically patent law—was highlighted as a nontraditional chemistry career option in a profile here a couple of years ago. The possibility seems somewhat unlikely, but I’m anxious to see if it comes full circle—are there examples of a lawyer (or someone from another career covered here) seeking out chemistry as their nontraditional career of choice? I’ll keep looking.
Well, no doubt you’ve had at least a cursory look at the excellent C&EN cover story regarding the 2012 Employment Outlook for chemists. The cover shows a long queue of labcoat-wearing chemists, all presumably in line for the one available position. Cheery.
This story is in contrast to some previous commentary suggesting a recovery may be around some invisible corner, and, as chemists, we can get through it with grim determination. Following that, we’ll be somehow rewarded at the end of the ordeal. All we need to do is say “entrepreneurship” three times, click our heels together, and we’ll all be given a cushy new job in Kansas with all relocation expenses reimbursed.
If you’ve been through layoffs and site closures, as I have, and are, in turn, still connected to former colleagues facing a similar fate—again—or are still unemployed after a protracted period of time, this insistence that things aren’t so bad can be, well, annoying. It suggests the problem is you.
A few months ago, my personal annoyance meter pegged out, and I took ACS CEO and Executive Director Madeleine Jacobs to task for portraying the chemistry job market as rosier than I saw it, and for scolding a mother, a scientist who had gone through a downsizing, for urging her daughter to “not go into science.”
Well, although I’m sure my post had little if anything to do with it, a similar message has gotten through. Facts are presented, and they are cold and hard.
Okay. If you haven’t already, you need to read this cover story in greater detail. It’s broken up into several articles, with titles shown below. Under the heading of each title, I’ve followed with a few of my thoughts upon reading each one. There’s much more information within each article than referred to with my superficial observations. You’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t read each article in their entirety, regardless of where you are in your career journey.
Overall, the full story was a struggle for me to get through—not because of how it’s reported (which is excellent), but because it rings so true. I’ve been there. Others still are there. It’s no fun revisiting.
Anyway, here we go:
A core topic covered here at Just Another Electron Pusher is careers that are deemed by some to be nontraditional for those with a degree in chemistry—away from the bench, generally speaking. I was thinking it would be appropriate, at this time, to list the various nontraditional (or alternative or whatever adjective you prefer) careers that have been covered by current, former and guest electron pushers since this blog’s inception over two years ago.
Yes, this is the blog equivalent of a sitcom clip show, where the characters sit around and reminisce, saying things like, “Remember when such-and-such happened to so-and-so…” Annnd cue the short segment from an earlier season.
“Ooh, I hate these clip shows!” you cry, and shake your fist at the TV. But you end up watching them anyway, don’t you? Admit it—they’re addictive, almost inescapable. That’s what I’m trying to do here—lure you in with the promise of nostalgia, which comforts like the aroma of freshly baked bread, until the trap is sprung. Excellent.
And, in the spirit of altruism, I’m hoping this JAEP retrospective will provide a handy, and perhaps dandy, one-stop shop so you can browse through professions profiled and topics covered. This list will be updated regularly, and permalinked to the sidebar within the JAEP blogroll.
I’ve chosen to list these alphabetically, because, well…I’m a scientist, and
we’re anal we prefer order. So, without further ado:
Book Editor / Publisher profile
Career Adviser profile
Cartoonist (Piled Higher & Deeper’s Jorge Cham) profile
Chemical Safety / Chemical Hygiene Officer profile
Chemical Software Marketer profile
Chemistry Librarian profile
Congressional Legislative Assistant profile
Conservation Scientist profile
Cook part one, part two
Cosmetic Chemistry profile
Disney Imagineer profile
Flavor Chemistry profile
K-12 STEM Outreach profile one, profile two
Medical Sales (and Cheerleader!) profile
Medical Writing profile
Molecular Jewelry Designer profile
Patent Attorney profile
Project Manager profile
Regulatory Affairs profile
Science Artist / Illustrator profile
Science Policy and Communication profile one, profile two, profile three
Science Writing part one, part two
Scientific Journal Editor profile
Scientific Staffing profile
Technology Transfer profile
US Government Jobs overview
Video Producer profile
Web Entrepreneur (BenchFly’s Alan Marnett) profile
So, there you have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed this recap, and that you’ll revisit regularly.
This list contains only a small fraction of the careers those with chemistry degrees currently enjoy. I’d like to think there are many others, who have a degree in chemistry, but are currently employed in a profession not typically associated with chemistry. Perhaps they’re applying chemistry knowledge and skills in a unique way. If either description fits you or someone you know, and you or they are also willing to be profiled by Just Another Electron Pusher, please contact me via Twitter (@electron_pusher) or email (geernst AT gmail DOT com).