The 2009 ACS Starting Salary Survey showed an unemployment rate of 11.4% across all degree levels for new chemistry graduates; that number excludes the 3.1% not looking for work. In comparison, the unemployment rate in 2009 was 3.9% for ACS members as a group and 9.3% for the general U.S. population.
Although a direct comparison of new graduates and experienced chemists is unfair, the difference in their ability to gain employment is real. One of the biggest factors is the difference in their ability to network. The average ACS member is 47 years old, has been in the workplace for more than 20 years, and has many more professional connections than a new graduate. Seasoned professionals have had more time to practice their networking skills—not that they all do.
Most younger chemists these days know that they need to network, but they’re not sure how to do it. Contacting a fellow professional to explore career options, inquire about growing or changing companies, identify in-demand skills and knowledge, and learn about job openings is a daunting challenge for anyone, but especially for recent graduates.
If you’re a midcareer professional, you can help your younger colleagues by giving them honest feedback on their job search strategies and résumé and curriculum vitae portfolios. Show new graduates the basics of networking, and remind them that they probably have a more extensive network than they think. Encourage them to contact former graduates from their research group, other alumni, and professors and other professionals whom they have met along the way. ACS local, regional, and national meetings are great places to network, but many new graduates are hesitant to approach more-senior colleagues. Serve as an ambassador to the younger generation by simply saying hello to a group of younger chemists huddled in a corner by themselves, and introduce yourself to expand their network as well as your own.
More senior chemical professionals often have extensive professional networks and know how to tap into them. If you do, use your connections to introduce unemployed members to key individuals, including hiring managers. Volunteer to host networking events in your local section and share tips and success stories from your own career. Younger professionals, who may not have any contacts in a particular field, would benefit tremendously from an introduction or recommendation from a more-senior colleague.I definitely think that there are mentoring roles to be played by mid-career professionals to their younger counterparts. Certainly, many of our commenters have done so through this blog -- for that, my undying gratitude for reading and sharing their wisdom.