Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ask CJ: good online resources for unemployed chemists?

From the inbox, a question from CZ (this has been redacted for privacy and clarity): 
I finished my Ph.D. in [2012-2014] at a good school, with a great advisor (in terms of personality and his contributions to the field). I’m a [redacted] spectroscopist, and I did work on [redacted]. The work was really interesting, but very slow (I made all my own peptide samples, etc.) and I only ended up with three papers, and just one is a 1 first-author paper.  
Immediately after I finished my Ph.D., I took a temporary position teaching at my school and [redacted] (general chemistry and lab), which I did for about a year. I did eventually want to move into industry, but although I had had a couple of phone interviews at that point, nothing panned out, and the temporary teaching job was my backup for a while. In addition, my [spouse] and I met in graduate school, and finished at approximately the same time. We were trying to sort out the two-body problem; [they] continued on as a post-doc for [their] grad advisor while I taught.  
Eventually [they] got a post-doc at [redacted], so last [time period], we moved [there]. I had an interview or two with people [there], and while it was mostly positive, funding is poor. I've been unemployed and searching since [redacted].  
I have emailed many professors in my field, who were all receptive to my CV but did not have the funding for another post-doc. I've emailed professors out of my field, and applied to industry positions everywhere in the country, but haven’t had much luck. 
I wasn't able to find much on the web that indicates there are many people in my position - I was wondering if you knew of any social media groups? Also, I am continuing my job search, but I wanted to know if there was anything you or readers might suggest I do to bulk up my resume in the mean time, or improve my search.  
I've been picking up some programming and familiarity with MD software, but I’m starting to run out of ideas and would love some direction. 
To answer CZ's ending questions, I'd point out the ACS Online Job Club (I think it's still active, but I am not positive.) I might think about further teaching positions, although I recognize that's not a very fun idea. Surely there are coding/computationally-related things that CZ could do?

Readers, which social media groups do you find most useful in your job search? What do you think CZ should do?


  1. Suggestion: if you have a snarky comment, you should give 2 substantive comments along with it.

  2. I guess spectroscopists aren't very high in demand

  3. FYI there is an unredacted pronoun in paragraph 3.

  4. The best advice I can give, if they are set on staying in this field, is see if you can pick up some teaching there. While doing that, partner up with a receptive faculty member who will let you write for some grants and help you get enough initial research done to show proof of concept.

    The better advice I can give. Solidify your programming. Make sure you can code well and be able to switch programming languages quickly. Once you have a really good foundation, apply to Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. You'll make more money and live a much less stressful life.

    Good luck. Everyone I know who worked on the two body problem failed miserably at it. One or both are no longer working in science. For the ones that left science, they are all making more money and have more time to spend with family and friends.

  5. It would seem to me that possibly the best thing to do is move to Boston, even without a job, or the place where most of the jobs could be. In the meantime while you are looking for a post-doc or real job, what you could do if you love science and dont mind teaching high school is get a teaching certficate.

    Im stuck in academia (unfotunatelY) I pretty much advise anybody who wants to do research to move to Boston.

  6. Tough spot. The best thing I can think of is to look into the NRC/ASEE or suchlike fellowship positions that you've profiled on here before. The various military related postdoc positions may have an interest in spectroscopy and tend to pay well (for a postdoc). What's more earning one of those fellowships in now way precludes an industry career afterward.

  7. My advice is always to figure out the few things that are required in your next job. Does it have to be the same city as your spouse? Does it have to involve hands-on chemistry? Does it have to be in academia? Does it have to pay highly? You get to pick 2, maybe 3 things, on which you are not willing to budge. Everything else must be flexible. Once you figure out what is really important to you, and start casting a wider net, you just might be surprised at what's out there. Good Luck!

  8. Linkedin for chemistry position a lot of hiring takes place these days using LI.

  9. Facebook most certainly hires scientists with a programming background. I know a 2 post-doc cosmologist who couldn't find anything and ended up at Facebook by default.

  10. Hi! I was in a similar situation after my thesis defense. I helped my friend set up a lab, I volunteered to teach a course, I got a part-time job doing some data analysis. All of these things rolled into my current post-doc. I suggest asking friends and faculty if they know anyone. Also, community colleges (or the school where your SO works) often let you propose classes. My committee chair told me to just stay active, even if it is volunteer work. He was right! Finally, I totally agree with Anonymous about LinkedIn, but also ask on facebook and your school's Alumni Association.