As the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has ground economies around the world to a sudden halt, job seekers are facing the impact of lab shutdowns, university hiring freezes, and the stress of making their next career move amid sudden economic shocks. Although uncertainty reigns, individuals can still position themselves to be successful when looking for a job in industry or academia by taking advantage of resources and advice from those who have been in their position before. ACS is hosting a series of Virtual Classrooms that can help students in finding their path and preparing for roles in academia and industry.
Especially for those searching for careers in academia, the path to finding their first position can be difficult. It’s important to know what kind of position you’re interested in earlier in your studies, explained Bioconjugate Chemistry Editor-in-Chief Vince Rotello. “If some [career] paths don’t start the right way, it’s hard to go back. If you want an academic job at a research university, you don’t want to get yourself into a temporary [teaching] position. It’s difficult to get out of that short-term teaching job and back into research.”
Although being sure about your path from the beginning can help, not all career trajectories are set in stone. Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry Editor-in-Chief Joseph Loo explained that he started his career in industry before returning to academia. He now works as a professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry and in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at UCLA. “Students shouldn’t expect to find a job that meets their needs for the next 30 or 40 years. They have to be very open to finding a job that satisfies their current needs but eventually, your life is going to detour and go in a different direction. You need to be flexible about that.”
Those embarking on their careers right now have even more reasons to be flexible, as the sudden economic downturn has forced many people to rethink their plans. The difficult environment, however, doesn’t mean that there are no smart career moves to make right now. Many chemistry jobs are essential, with companies continuing to hire throughout the crisis. C&EN’s jobs board is constantly updated with new positions in industry and academia, and checking for new listings frequently will ensure that you see positions that could be a good fit.
“If you’re looking for an industry job, go out and apply. There are positions available and there are companies that are looking to make sure they can get good talent when they open up,” said Rotello.
Students who had planned to start their postdocs in a few months and are now in limbo, because of travel restrictions, lab closures, or both, can still use this time effectively. “If you ask around, there will be people who need a researcher for a few months,” advised Organic Letters Editor-in-Chief Erick Carreira. “It’s not business as usual, and you have to work a little harder to find the opportunities, but they’re out there.”
ACS Applied Polymer Materials Deputy Editor Jodie Lutkenhaus also advised perseverance in the job search. “The most important thing is to persist and do not give up. Keep applying, because if you don’t apply to jobs, your success rate is guaranteed to be 0%.”
No one knows completely what the coming months will bring, making now a more crucial time than ever to ensure you’re ready to apply to jobs and postdoc positions when they become available, and bringing a renewed importance to maintaining and growing your professional network.