|Is it a inch or a mile deep? |
Photo credit: icanhazcheezburger
"I used to hear that professional organic chemists, especially in industry, preferred to hire candidates who were "an inch wide and a mile deep". Nowadays a disproportionate amount of public funding seems to be allocated to multi-disciplinary research, e.g., organic projects often NEED to have a discrete biological component (usually assays done by collaborators). My guess is that recent organic PhD graduates may, by neccessity, have acquired "diverse" (disjointed? disparate?)research skills during their graduate studies. Is it so bad to be "a mile wide and an inch deep"?
Ideally, one would know everything about everything and be able to do anything, however I would be the first to admit my limitiations. In my conversations with late-stage grad students and postdocs at recent ACS conferences, I've often heard complaints from them that industrial recruiters were focused on hiring those with demonstrated expertise in restricted skill sets (i.e., synthetic jock). What should an eager-to-learn yet jack-of-all-trades new PhD do to gain employment in the chemical (fine & pharmaceutical) industry while competing against hordes of temps who already have the specialized skill sets and experience?"I find it very difficult to answer these sorts of questions, because who knows what an employer wants? But I have a guess -- I believe that when employers hire Ph.D.-level chemists, they wish to see 1) mastery of a chosen field and 2) the ability to solve all incoming problems and complete projects.
What does this mean from a practical perspective? In your graduate and/or postdoctoral work, you do work that shows a synthetic chemist that "Hey, (s)he's just as good as (or, better than) me" first; then, you show them that you've shown that you can do lots of other stuff.
To answer the final question about competing with more experienced chemists, I believe that you can't. You can only hope to show them that you'll be cheaper, (maybe) work harder and try to have a steep learning curve.
Readers, do I have the priorities right? Do you need to be an expert or well-rounded? I'm pretty sure I could be wrong on this one.