Headrick’s passion has taken him near the top of the world. Just outside the Arctic Circle, in the Canadian province of Newfoundland & Labrador, Voisey’s Bay is reachable only by air or sea. Summer nights never get totally dark, Headrick says, and winter days can have only six hours of light...
When Headrick was considering the job, he recalls, his wife’s reaction was, “I didn’t marry you to live away from you.” Weeks later, Headrick says, his wife concluded that she would see more of him with this job, because the two weeks off really are days off. However, it is difficult to be away when you have small kids, says Headrick, whose children were five and nine years old when he started this job in 2005. And because of the site’s remoteness, he says, you may not get home in time during emergencies. [snip]
...Headrick has a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry, but he also studied geology and had always wanted to work in the mining industry. When he began job hunting, mining companies were not hiring. So he worked for the Canadian federal public service and then joined academia. It was during his stint as a teaching lab manager at the University of Alberta that he decided to quit so he could pursue his dream job full-time. It wasn’t easy; it took him a year.
“The first thing I did was to consult an ACS career consultant,” Headrick says. “I had to build a network, and that takes time and effort. Eventually, I got referred to the chief chemist for Vale in Sudbury, Ontario, who was retiring and looking for someone to replace him. ” From that referral, he learned of the job at Voisey’s Bay.
Shortly after landing his dream job, Headrick volunteered to be an ACS career consultant. “When you learn chemistry, they don’t teach you how to market yourself. You don’t learn about how to find a job,” he explains. “I learned a lot, and I would like to give back.” He does career consulting during his two weeks off. He is now helping ACS members in the U.S. and China.
His advice: Think of nontraditional ways to use your knowledge. Build your network. Be involved with ACS to make contacts and get new ideas. Do informational interviews; summarize your strengths, and ask people what places could use them. Use temporary staffing agencies to get a foot in the door. Be flexible; if you’re not willing to relocate, you’re significantly limiting your options.
That’s believable advice from someone who went to extremes to follow his dreams.For what it's worth, I have great admiration for Dr. Headrick -- he knew what he wanted and figured out a way to get it. That sort of determination and career savvy is terribly important for a chemist to learn. It's also great of Dr. Rouhi to highlight the role that the ACS and its career consultants played in helping Dr. Headrick get where he wanted to go.
My problem with these comments and editorials about networking and being 'flexible' is that it doesn't speak to where we, as a society of industrial chemists, might be going. When I read about "temporary staffing agencies", it reminds me that those positions are quite often have lower wages and benefits (and obviously) much less job security. There isn't much data to suggest that once your foot is in the door, that the door will actually be opened to you. Also, is there any unwillingness to relocate for chemists, mid-career or otherwise? In her excellent article on the issue, Susan Ainsworth demonstrated very high willingness on the part of chemists to move away from family.
Dr. Rouhi's tenure as C&EN editor-in-chief hasn't been long enough to explore the full scope of the #chemjobs issue, so I can wait patiently and with interest. I look forward to Dr. Rouhi exploring the policy implications that while the balance between employers and employees tips further and further towards the former, member salaries have been relatively stagnant for the last decade.