Monday, April 2, 2012

Lisa Balbes: What ACS Careers can do for you

In today's issue of C&EN, Lisa Balbes, chair of the ACS Committee on Economic and Professional Affairs gets to talk about ACS Careers:
Although chemists, with an unemployment rate usually one-half the national average, have generally fared better than other workers in the U.S., I am alarmed that—unlike the overall national trend—unemployment for chemists increased. In 2010, the average unemployment rate for American Chemical Society chemists was 3.8%. In March 2011, that rate climbed to 4.6%—the highest number on record (C&EN, March 26, page 10). Even more troubling is the unemployment rate for recent chemistry graduates, which is now 10.7%. Without the ability to provide good jobs to recent graduates, the future of the chemical enterprise is in jeopardy. 
ACS is dedicated to reversing these trends, both by helping chemical professionals find work and by expanding the chemical enterprise and creating new jobs. If you are currently looking for work, the best place to start is ACS Careers. We offer a broad range of services not only to help you find a job but also build your job-search skills and create a rewarding career.
ACS is making a push towards getting members involved in job creation as follows:
ACS Entrepreneurship Initiative: Recently launched, the ACS Entrepreneurship Initiative ( is dedicated to helping ACS members transform their innovative ideas into successful business ventures while creating jobs in the U.S. for chemical professionals. The initiative has already resulted in two programs, with more on the way, to support ACS entrepreneurs in all facets of planning, launching, and building their entrepreneurial ventures. 
ACS Entrepreneurial Training Program: ACS has partnered with Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac program to offer an Entrepreneurial Training Program that stimulates innovation and entrepreneurship, offering three curricula that correspond to the needs of members at different stages in their entrepreneurial plans. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re an established entrepreneur looking to optimize your venture’s performance, you should apply to receive a $500 scholarship toward a 30-hour FastTrac course. 
ACS Entrepreneurial Resources Center: Coming in June 2012, the ACS Entrepreneurial Resources Center will enable approved applicants to support the development and launch of their entrepreneurial plans with free access to all ACS journals and Chemical Abstracts Service’s SciFinder. Participants can take advantage of the professional services of ACS’s legal, marketing, finance, human resources, information technology, and other outside support teams at low or no cost. In your application, you must present a feasible entrepreneurial plan that creates innovative products and services and jobs for chemical professionals in the U.S.
If you’re looking for your next job or to create new jobs with your own entrepreneurial venture, ACS resources are here to help you. Take advantage of what your professional society has to offer!
I confess that I view this drive towards encouraging entrepreneurship with some level of skepticism. That said, if the choice is between not working or starting your own company, I suppose starting your own company is the better choice. Best wishes to us all.


  1. In other news, concerned by the rising price of meat, Mrs. P. Concolor, president of American Association of Large Predators, urges farmers to join the ranks of organic free-range cattle producers.

  2. The difference between limping along on unemployment and jumping off a bridge (aka "starting your own company") is the speed of the fall. The failure rate of new enterprises is staggering. The failure rate of personal finances (as measured by foreclosures and bankruptcies) is much lower, which may mean that most people eventually find a job that pays enough for some level of existence.

    Radical financial reengineering may work if there is some assurance of continued income (savings, investments, working spouse, a portfolio of contracts for the new business, etc.). In the absence of support only the most stress resistant personalities can thrive. Which may be the point of the original article.

    1. I would like to see the experience/age data for the ACS's unemployment numbers. Judging from cliff dive the lower category wages took in the last salary survey, I suspect the glut of the under/unemployed chemists are the young people. The people in the perpetual postdoc parade, or slaving away as an overqualified technician.

      Personal experience, I am a 30+ year old that just finished another postdoc stint. I have close to $60k remaining on my student loans, I have zero savings, no retirement, and barely enough to pay rent next month. I've been hunting for a job without any luck since Feb. 2010. How is someone in my position (because I know I'm not the only one) supposed to innovate him/herself out of that? You need a good bit of capital to do any sort of chemistry.

      I was better positioned to start a company before I started grad school, over 8 years ago. Perusing the field of chemistry has ruined my life.

  3. What the hell do I know about starting a business!? I'll probably lose all of my savings. Especially in this country where they specialize on stealing from suckers. After my postdoc finishes and before the MBA starts, I'm going to take six months off, live off my generous savings and try to learn Arabic.

    I also wrote up one of em independant proposals like them new faculty do when they apply for jobs. Maybe I'll apply for a few faculty jobs and see if some suckers will take me. I bet I'll do a better job than that guy who just came to our department as a faculty candidate. From the two best schools in the States with two of the best profs in chemistry, but the seminar was definitely in the running for one of the worst I've ever seen around these parts. The guy can't give a seminar to save his life but will probably still get the job due to pedigree and articles published (and I suppose if he has a good proposal).

    Bastard is a pain in the neck! Really... The seminar was so boring that almost everyone fell asleep except for me. But it made me so sleepy afterwards that I fell asleep on the NMR keyboard while taking a quick C13 (which turned into a long C13). Needless to say, falling asleep on a keyboard in an awkward position is responsible for this really bad neck-pain now. Which reminds me that my medical insurance just ran out. I hope that faculty candidate chokes on his stupid interview dinner as punishment.