Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A view from the #chemjobs front lines, as it were

A good friend (and unemployed Ph.D. chemist) describes a recent scene:
Truly depressing sight on Monday.   I went to a job fair hosted by the BioSpace website.    On line, it said 6 companies were going to be there, but that didn't bother me too much.  I figured it would be like ACS conventions, you never know who going to be there until you show up.  There's a number of biotech companies in the DMV so I couldn't believe only six companies would be there.  How little do I know.   
The job fair was the in the ballroom of a hotel in Rockville.  After driving for over an hour to go 35 miles (oh how I missed rush hour traffic) I show up for a grand total of four companies*.  I'd guess there were between 200-300 of us in that room standing in line to deliver our resumes to HR drones that had no clue what a NMR instrument does. 
What was really frightening was the crowd.  It was a even distribution from grad students ready to graduate to experienced workers in their 50's. No age group dominated.  The mix was heavily slanted towards biologists and biochemists and split about 50/50 between masters and PhD's.  Gallows humor prevailed, I was talking to a guy who joked at least we have it better than new lawyers, we don't have 100K in student debt tied to our necks.
I'm tired of being in the minors waiting for the call to the big show. Life's too short to piss around looking for #chemjobs that don't exist.
 Best wishes to him, and to all of us.

*one of them being Aerotek. 


  1. Ugh...I've been there. Went to a Biospace career fair in 2007 in San Diego, and it was just a bunch of HR people, and lots of sales reps looking for jobs.

    I've been looking for something new for almost a year now (after an unwanted transfer last year), and am debating going to the Biospace fair at the BIO conference in a few weeks. They don't have many companies registered, but I remain eternally optimistic. It just takes one, right?

  2. CJ: About 4 years back, I went to one of these events here @ Bridgewater, NJ @ some famous hotel. I am telling you, it was total disaster and a waste of time. Recall that at that time a lot many were on the job block! In a hall (ballroom dance floor) that could accommodate 500 people, there were close to 800-1000 people waiting to be interviewed and such! There was a serpentine line full of all those hopeful chemists/biologist waiting their turn. These biotech companies should stop playing cruel hoax to stage these events and give a false hope. I mean it was close to a stampede. Me and my friend felt it was futile and had an apple cider (free!) and drove back home.

  3. I am not sure I would rush to blame the companies and their HR employees. These for-profit jobsites verge on the edge of being scams. In the case of Ladders they roar right over the edge. The blame I would put on the companies is lending their names to this sleaze.

  4. I think all the Biospace "career fairs" are the same. A colleague attended one in San Diego that was exactly as the other ones also described.

  5. As a recent Ph.D. in Chem/Bio living in the area, I was about to go to this but decided to work with the ACS virtual Fair on Monday. The same day, I talked to a Manpower rep about a job and was informed she had 400 resumes.
    I am coming to the conclusion that I need to do something else. I am looking for people that have taken those "transferable" skills" to jobs in healthcare, teaching, etc. Everyone talks about this, but I don't see people going in this direction so there must be a reason.

  6. I went to a job fair held in the MIT cafeteria when I was leaving grad school. Besides there being no employers that one would willingly work for, I was told that I should consider temp work. After four years of undergrad and four years of grad school (and thus about three years of research experience), both at pretty good places, I didn't really take the advice well. (I didn't say anything to the people there, but I fumed about it when I went back to lab for the rest of the day.)

    Job fairs are like slaughterhouses, without the dignity, hope, and empathy that the (temporary) denizens of slaughterhouses are afforded.