Monday, August 29, 2011

Altruism and job clubs -- ACS answering #chemjobs issues

In this morning's C&EN, there is a comment from Valerie Kuck, an ACS Director-At-Large about what ACS can do to help its members find #chemjobs:
At the American Chemical Society, we’re not just concerned about jobs, we’re doing something about them—helping our members find work, develop new job opportunities, and reinvigorate the economy.... With U.S. unemployment standing at more than 9%, more than 14 million Americans are out of work. And these figures do not include 8.6 million involuntary part-time workers (that is, individuals working part-time because their hours were cut or they were unable to find a full-time job) or 2.7 million people marginally attached to the labor force... 
Chemical workers have fared better than others, with a national unemployment rate of 3.8%. However, that figure doesn’t tell the whole story. As Lisa M. Balbes explained in her Comment (C&EN, Aug. 15, page 38), recent graduates in chemistry and chemical engineering are finding it particularly tough to land their first placements. Unfortunately, some have even given up on a career in chemistry, which is disheartening for all of us, because new talent brings new ideas and new vitality to the field. [snip] 
If you are currently unemployed, especially if you’re in a region where the job market is particularly poor, we urge you to form a job club if one is not currently up and running in your area. A job club enables you to form a strong support network. Members look out for each other, pass along leads, and offer constructive advice. Job clubs also create greater efficiency and economies of scale. Individual members can be assigned to investigate employment prospects for particular companies or job sectors and then report back to the club. By working together and pooling resources, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.
Your efforts will make a difference. Bill Suits, a retired chemist and active ACS career consultant, for example, has been working with Careers in Transition, a job club sponsored by the North Jersey Section of ACS. Suits not only participates in the club’s monthly meetings, but he also provides one-on-one coaching sessions to help local ACS members build their networks, prepare targeted résumés, improve their interviewing skills, identify job opportunities, and design comprehensive career plans. According to Suits, “Over 50% of jobs are hidden.” Helping people in his local area land those hidden jobs has become his mission. Find out more about Careers in Transition at www.njacs.org.
While it's nice that #chemjobs issues have finally begun pushing their way to the forefront of ACS issues, I find a few things to comment upon:

The numbers: Ms. Kuck quotes the statistics about ACS member unemployment as faring better than the national average at 3.8%. However, she fails to mention that this statistic marks the 2nd worst unemployment rate measured by the ACS Salary Survey in the last twenty years, behind only 2009's 3.9%. I would think that would be more relevant than a comparison to the general unemployment rate.

Altruism as the ACS' helper?: While in general, I support the idea of offering a forum for people to post job leads, I find it relatively unlikely that folks will do the following:
First, please post any job leads you have at www.acs.org/payingitforward. Second, get in touch with ACS local sections and ACS technical divisions to let them know about these job opportunities... Select the division that is most aligned with the open jobs that you’ve identified, contact the division chair, and share your valuable information. 
It's my guess that most people will use job leads to help their friends and work associates, former colleagues, classmates, etc in that order. Can we expect people to skip that priority list and go straight to Paying It Forward? I note that, as of the site going live for 3 weeks, not a single actual job lead has been posted. Are the division chairs prepared to help their members? What actual steps are the division chairs going to take, once they receive this information?

Job club skepticism: Outside of the Paying It Forward forum, it appears that part of ACS' response is the encouragement (or sponsorship?) of job clubs. While I have nothing against the concept, I'm relatively skeptical about the idea; that said, I was reading in "What Color Is Your Parachute?"* yesterday that job clubs have a relatively high degree of success (>75%) in helping people find positions. While that statistic is painfully unsourced in the book, it's at least one pseudo-data point in support. I don't doubt that the support system / networking opportunity is a good one, though.

Best wishes to all of us.

*I should note that I'm not an Amazon affiliate, just yet. If you purchase that book from this link, I don't get anything. :-)

4 comments:

  1. wrt job clubs - I'm on the fence. I went through a program with Lee Hecht Harrison - one of the companies that are brought in to provide jobhunting help when laid off. They essentially have a job club, and it probably is more effective than hunting on your own. That said, there actually have to be jobs there to help you get - through 2009 when I was in that program, there wasn't a whole host of stuff in chemistry in town.

    So, yes, they do help in developing networks, and when you meet people face to face you do want to help them more than otherwise - elevating them up that list of friends first, the colleagues, then.....

    The challenges will be 1) getting enough employed people (who can help rather than compete) to participate, and 2) having actual jobs to get help with.

    If nothing else though, increasing awareness amongst some members of just how bad it has become can only be a good thing. And much as we rag on the ACS for not doing anything, I do kind of thing they are relatively powerless this time around.

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  2. "At the American Chemical Society, we’re not just concerned about jobs, we’re doing something about them:"

    Oh, a job club, well, that should solve the problem.....

    I'm sure Ms. Kuck's intentions are good, but does anyone really think that establishing Job Clubs creates jobs? This seems to me more an exercise in rearranging deck chairs.

    Reality is, the ACS has no ability to create jobs or, quite frankly, anything of tangible value (they do publish some nice journals, but it's not like they generate the content). I'm sure they have a nice website that lists open positions, but those positions would equally be filled if they were posted only on Monster.com, or any one of a number of different sites.

    I did belong to the ACS years ago when my employer paid for it. I have not been a member for some time, and really can discern 0 difference......

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  3. Maybe they should make posting jobs to C&EN free as long as they are chem-related. That might actually do something.

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  4. @ BioBrit San Diego : When I was let go, I too went through a program with Lee Hecht Harrison
    (as a part of separation package). My conclusion was they were of no help and your chances of landing job are even remote, if you are a science graduate. People who were of non-scientific background (sales, marketing) were helped. I only wished that my previous employers could have given me that money and let me decide if I needed their help (Lee Hecht)

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