Friday, April 29, 2016

Are you a chemist and over 50? Write in!

A phenomenal request from Logan's Run:
I would be much more interested to read "how chemists keep their jobs past 50," but I think that getting enough anecdotes to write a story would be challenging. 
Are you a chemist, still a chemist, not a "boss of bosses" and over 50? I would love to publish your story. Please write in to chemjobber@gmail.com, and I would be happy to publish your story. Anonymous or not, that's up to you.

(My father, whom I love, spent the last ~15 years or so of his engineering career basically working his heart out, running completely scared of being laid off from his employer before he could reach retirement age. He woke up every day determined to be a great asset to his company, thinking about his job pretty much every waking moment that he was not thinking about his family or his other (few) responsibilities. I'm not sure that's attainable for most folks.) 

14 comments:

  1. I don't have a PHD but have an MS and am currently working as an analytical chemist back at the bench at 60.

    Early in my career I worked for Dupont in a biotech type area for almost 14 years (not analytical). I started with a BS there and got my MS while working there, and would up as an "Area Chemist" before I got caught in a layoff.

    I quickly found a job at a pharma startup doing analytical and was there for almost 14 year as well. Started as Staff Scientist and wound up as Associate Director Analytical R&D ...

    But when the FDA wanted another Phase 3 trial for our lead product I (along with almost everyone else) got laid off. That was in early 2009 at the depth of the recession..

    I was out of work for 1.5 years and was worried my career was over - something I could not afford...

    But then I got a job at an unusual but well funded biotech startup back at the bench. I make less now with less benefits, but it's a lot better than being unemployed!.

    BTW I am not the only over 60 chemist there.

    There area number of scientists in their 50's there, as well as a number of people just out of school.

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  2. What, still at bench at fifty-two,

    A bright productive chap like you?

    Why, if your throat is hard to slit,

    Torch your lab and run from it!

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  3. Ph.D. 1991 here. Synthetic organic chemist, pharma mostly. Given that I liven in fear of losing my job each and every minute, I can't convey my current gig. But I worked at several places, large and small, always resisted management, I preferred to work on the front lines. Always productive in each place (papers and patents). But now 50-something and I fear every minute I'll be walked out the door. My only advice - make sure at the end of each day - you have adequate skills so that you could get a job. I left the bench in my most recent gig and feel extremely hard to place. Take every job anticipating your next job - if it became necessary.

    Wish me luck this week, every day's a mystery. Looking forward to other stories.

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  4. I'm 47 and I am having the same fears.

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  5. 48, MS synthetic chemist, still working at the bench after 20-mumble years at the same big-pharma job. Seem to have hit my own personal glass ceiling 10 yrs ago, but for some reason they keep me around. It's not because they respect me or my contributions, that's for sure. The longer I do this job, the less they think I know. But I've been saving like a depression survivor since this merger/layoff madness began, and I'm ready to walk away at any time. (Just not for free)

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  6. A bench chemist, turned sixty and still soldiering on at academia doing research. Previously was let go from big pharma (after 20 years!) but then found refuge in an academia. Initially when I accepted it I had some misgivings (how long would I last?) some trials and tribulations but still hanging in there. Came with at least 30% reduction in salary but doing OK. Gives me lot of time to relax,recoup, recharge and be there for your family in academia job that went missing during big pharma days. Still getting benefits but not those merit increases and bonuses that flowed in industry. Happy that am able to survive another day and love what I have, while I have it!

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    1. I'm 47 and doing the same thing now.

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  7. Sorry!! but I am too busy swimming against the tide to write anything!! (shit. and I am only 42).

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  8. Every time I go to log in to LinkedIn I think of Logan's Run ... What I hate about the idea of over 50s at the bench is that they don't seem to get the respect that they deserve. I don't know why not, I suppose you're only as good as your last project. I think that this is a phenomena of working in the corporate environment. This is why I'm thinking of working for myself (again): the corporate environment doesn't have anything to offer people who have the ambition to work on interesting, challenging and lucrative projects _at the bench_ ... so f*ck 'em.

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    1. LinkedIn and Logan's Run, that's hilarious, yes, I get it. I now worry my current employer has employed trolls to connect with me.

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  9. I worked 28 years in the DC area in the space battery business doing benchtop chemistry for a major aerospace firm(a little of everything...R&D, failure analysis, life testing) They closed my lab in 2012 (various financial reasons as industry goals changed over the years in the space industry)and it took me over a year to find another job. I was 50 yo (and female-not that that matters) at the time. I was getting to the point in my job search that I was considering a major career change (like going to nursing school)when I finally landed a job at the community college running the chemistry labs. The job is a lot less stress than industry and a lot less money, and pretty mindless...but has other pleasures, like passing the torch to the next generation of scientists (I just pray the torch doesn't extinguish). I feel lucky though as I have 2 female chemist friends locally, who went through something similar (i.e. lay-off at 50). One now drives a city bus (and makes the same as I) and the other teaches zumba at a gym. We all wish we did more meaningful science-ing though (thanks Hollywood for that verb).

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  10. After working during the 90's in the environmental compliance testing business as an analytical chemist, specializing in GC and GC-MS work, I got sick and tired of getting laid off every three or four years as my employers flamed out. After the last layoff in 2002, I decided to try for a PhD, even though I was starting this mad quest at the age of 42. I worked as a flunky stockroom technician at a local university while I re-took some undergrad courses that I wasn't too hot in fifteen years earlier, including the full calculus and differential equations sequence and PCHEM. I applied to the Uni's chemistry grad program and got in, but they made me do a MSc first to prove that I could hack their program. Now, I have finished my research and I am off support (no TA work) and I am writing my dissertation. Looking at the dearth of job opportunities for someone my age (56), and frankly for any chemists in my region, I am at a loss for what to do now. I feel that I have at least 20 productive years left in me, but given that I am anchored in my region by wife/house/family obligations, it appears that I am headed for finishing out my working years in a part-time retail job. Lucky that I am now an expert in making/using CO...

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  11. Had I not been a writer, I would surely have become a chemist. Back in college I was offered a recommendation by my Chemistry professor. I was good in chemical formulas and I guess she was impressed lol.

    Best,
    Writers Hub
    writershub.org

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