ACS Helps Graduate Students and Postdocs Kick-Start their Careers

Sarah Zaccarine thought that her only career options after graduate school were either industry or academia. But after attending the American Chemical Society’s Career Kick-Starter Workshop earlier this year, Zaccarine realized that a PhD in chemistry offers many different career paths. Now, Zaccarine is exploring career opportunities in science policy or science communication.

“I didn’t want to do the traditional path going into industry, academia, or national labs, so hearing ACS mention this fourth sector that’s nonprofit, communication, or policy related was validating,” says Zaccarine, a graduate student at the Colorado School of Mines. “It gave me a great starting point for what that actually looks like and how to network within that sector.”

Exposing students to different career paths is just one of the many goals of ACS’s Career Kick-Starter Workshop. “This workshop helps students and postdocs think through what’s important to them, how their competencies could contribute to different work environments, and how to get their first job, one that helps them flourish,” says Joerg Schlatterer, manager of the ACS Student and Postdoctoral Scholars Office, which organizes the workshop.

ACS launched the workshops in August 2019. The program is an updated version of the Preparing for Life after Graduate School Workshops that ACS had been offering at universities around the US since 2005.

“We changed the structure to be more interactive,” says Natalia Martin, project manager of the ACS Career Kick-Starter Workshop. “It also focuses on a wider range of career options. Before, it was more industry, academia, and a little bit about patent law. Now, we give a broader perspective of all the available options in terms of not only sectors but also roles within each sector.”

Schlatterer says the Career Kick-Starter Workshop helps students navigate the individual development plan process, such as how to use the ChemIDP career-planning tool. “We focus on professional development, including how to write a cover letter and résumé, how to do an interview, how to network and leverage your network, and career exploration,” Schlatterer says. During the workshop, participants can also sign up for a one-on-one session with a career consultant.

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