My father, who I love dearly, has been working for that same company for a number of decades now. His son thinks that he does not really comprehend the modern job market*, with all of its complexity in getting hired. I write this anecdote as an introduction to Susan Ainsworth's excellent and comprehensive article on the difficulties of BS/BA chemists in gaining employment in industry. As I noted on Monday, the (scattered, non-scientifically controlled) numbers suggest that it was difficult for new grads to find work in industry in 2011 and 2012.
Of Susan's sampling of successful job seekers, they had 3 things in common: time spent at industrial internships, REU-type experiences in academia and time overseas. It appears that these things were done in during the summer between school years. There were some comments about "thought leadership", but just means "showing you can get results or solve an actual problem." (I don't know what this "thought leadership" buzzword is, but it's new and I don't like it.)
To me, this could mean a couple of things:
- Having academic or industrial internship experience is now more important than ever.
- The race for a job or a desirable graduate school starts the fall of your sophomore year and maybe sooner than that. (Incidentally, your grades in those years will probably affect your competitiveness for those internship/REU-type experiences.)
- "Summers off" past your second year could be lost time.
Finally, for the undergraduates reading this, I would like to point you to ACS' new site listing undergraduate internships in chemistry. It's a touch tricky (click on the company name to actually get to an application page), but I think it will be a useful tool. Apply now!
*Broadly speaking about the working world, this isn't really true; layoffs, mergers, still-nationally-known scandals, they're all in those decades.