Rather than cutting workers, chemical companies in Germany have turned to less aggressive cost cutting methods, Koch says. BASF in Ludwigshafen, for example, avoided layoffs by cutting back on overtime and transferring personnel to other locations, says Sarah Ulmschneider-Renner, head of talent resourcing at BASF. The company has begun expanding its workforce again, she says, with a focus on attracting applicants from around the world. “We are increasing our efforts in [human resources] marketing and worldwide job-posting strategies,” she says. “As a result, we are already seeing a significant increase in applications for our R&D positions from abroad, including the U.S.”
Polymer chemist Jordan Kopping is among those who moved from the U.S. to Germany to work for BASF. He began working as a research scientist in Ludwigshafen a year ago. Before crossing the Atlantic, Kopping earned a Ph.D. in polymer and organic chemistry from the University of California, Davis, in 2006 and completed a postdoc at UCLA in 2007. In 2010, after teaching at a community college and working at a biopharmaceutical company, both in California, he started applying for positions in Germany. “I had nothing at the time tying me to the U.S., and I’ve always had the idea to try something international,” Kopping says. He chose Germany because of its strong economy and because of his interest in the language and culture.
While job searching, Kopping enrolled in an intensive eight-month course to learn German. “One of the things I highlighted on my résumé was that I was committed to learning the language,” he says. That dedication demonstrated, he says, that he “would fit well into the culture and also into the way of life.” Language skills are not everything, of course. BASF is looking for Ph.D. scientists who have done research in state-of-the-art chemistry, says Ulmschneider-Renner. In addition, she says, chemists should include extracurricular activities in their curriculum vitae. “This information is often neglected, but we consider it extremely useful in forming an initial impression.”
Koch invites American Chemical Society members who are looking for positions in Germany to get in touch with GDCh’s career services office. “We will try to help,” he says. But he also warns that applicants should be top-notch in their field. “If you’re not good enough to find a job in the U.S., you won’t find one here in Germany, either.”I don't really think of working in Europe as a solution to American chemists' unemployment problems -- that said, it is a viable adventure for those willing to invest in the needed language skills.