In grad school I kept hearing that chemistry PhD;s were in demand in fields other than chemistry, yet out side of some patent lawyers, I haven't actually heard of any. In this job market, how does a person (willing and able to adapt) go about finding different options?
First, figure out what you're good at, and what you like to do, and most importantly where those two intersect. Then, find a way to use what you know to leverage your way into a job where you can do what you love. If it's really your true calling, you'll probably discover you've been doing a lot of relevant work already, you just didn't realize there was a career path doing that.
Here are a few resources to start researching nontraditional careers:
List of job titles for nontraditional careers for scientists - http://balbes.com/wordpress/?p=129
Chemistry subfields, including some nontraditional - http://portal.acs.org:80/portal/acs/corg/content?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PP_SUPERARTICLE&node_id=1188&use_sec=false&sec_url_var=region1
Resources for exploring careers are listed at http://balbes.com/Careers/resources.html .
These fields include:
I haven't updated the links in awhile, but most of them should still work. Please feel free to let me know of any that don't. The bottom of that page also has links to a few articles on how to decide whether or not to switch, and how to make the switch.
There is a list of books dealing with careers for chemists at http://balbes.com/Careers/books.html , including many that talk about nontraditional fields.
FULL DISCLOSURE: If you buy my book, Nontraditional Careers For Chemists: New Formulas for Chemistry Careers, I get about 25 cents. Thank you in advance.
And if you want to be really inspired by people who majored in chemistry but went on to become famous in really different fields, check out http://balbes.com/Careers/majors.html .
FWIW, I went through all the links over the holiday weekend, and updated everything. Everything there now works, and goes to the correct, live page. If you know of any resources that should be included but are not, please let me know and I'll be happy to add them.
Darren this is the right time to find different options.In this economy, if you are trying to find traditional chemistry jobs, you ended up with competition with thousands of resume. I know this is very easy to write but tough to do. But, believe me this is only easiest way. I still remember my senior scientist's words, "Find your unique ability, than no one gonna compete you".
The Self-DIrected Search though comes with a list of Job Titles that correspond to your particular personality bent. As Chintan says finding your particular niche is what is important. Comparing the job titles particular to your personality with your work experience may bring you to an area of work where something will materialize.
I bought my test from the Phoenix based http://www.hollandcodes.com/ I was suprised at the insight it provided. I found it important to have a tangible paper copy to work from and not using the electronic version that is also available.
Wishing you the Best,
Message was edited by: Paul Knoll
Once you have decided what you are good at, and what you want to do, there is still more work.
You need to find companies and jobs that need that done. You need to find specific examples of times you've done those things, or very close to those things, in your own professional history, and use them convince the company that you are the right person for the job. If you have no specific experience, you may need to take on a volunteer job, or find some other way to really DO the thing you think you can do.
I often tell aspiring writers to write newsletter articles, blogs, and so on, so they will have a portfolio to show prospective employers.
Companies want to hire someone who can do the job, and the best way to show that is to have already done it.
There are lots of ways to get experience doing new things.
You can ask to take on extra responsiblities or tasks that let you try out new areas. This lets you find out whether or not you really like doing that, and also gives you some real experience to put on your resume if you decide to move in that direction.
You can look for volunteer opportunities that would let you practice/acquire that skill.
You can take a class in the new field, ideally one that has a final project in which you can try out your new skill in a way of your choosing. If you do a final project that is related to your profession, you can use that as an example of a time when you exhibited that skill.
For example, lots of people want to be technical writers, and most of them think they can write well. 🙂 I suggest they offer to edit a newsletter, document procedures at work, start a blog...anything that forces them to write, regularly and where others will read it and provide feedback. Often they find they don't really like it - but if they do, they've built up a nice portfolio of article to show prospective employers.
Just to kind of expand on what Lisa has said...even if you don't end up working at a bench the fact that you can understand science lingo (which yes I would say science has its own language) it can put you as a front runner in many of the areas of occupation revolving around science such as sales, patent law, etc.