Career Resources - Plant Your Chemical Career Now

As a student, your days (and sometimes nights) are full of classes, research projects, and perhaps teaching responsibilities or another job. Graduation, and the start of your “real” career seems way off in the future. There’s plenty of time to worry about that later, when graduation looms closer. Right? Wrong. 

Even while in school, you need to invest time, thought, and effort to built your reputation and your professional network. These are the bedrocks upon which your entire professional career rest, and the earlier you start building the better off you will be. 

Start by figuring out who you want to be. Do you want to be known as an organic chemist with expertise in steroid synthesis, or an analytical chemist with expertise in HPLC? You have many different areas of expertise and knowledge, but only you can decide which are your strongest assets, and which you enjoy using and want to emphasize in the next stage of your professional career. Then, make sure to describe yourself that way when making new professional connections.  

Once you have an idea of who you want to be, let the world know by crafting your online persona (also called your personal brand). Create a professional profile on LinkedIn and the ACS Network. Go beyond just filling in the facts: join and contribute the conversation in groups that interest you, especially ones related to your technical areas of interest and expertise. Not only will you learn about current developments in your field, but by contributing useful information and opinions you will build your reputation among your fellow professionals. 

Make time every day to do something that will advance your career. Read journal articles in fields only slightly related to your research, and see what you can learn from them. Set up automatic email alerts on job boards, and track hiring trends in your field over time. Nurture your professional relationships: have lunch with someone new, email an interesting article to a distant colleague, serve on a committee, or write and publish a thoughtful blog article on new developments in your field. 

While these things are important throughout your career, you need to get even more serious about narrowing down your options 12-18 months before you need a new position, so you can have one ready when you graduate. Any gap in employment is bad, and it has been shown that your odds of finding a job go down dramatically as the period of unemployment lengthens (they drop 45% after 6 months of unemployment By narrowing your focus to what you are really excited about and qualified for, and knowing what the market is, you will be an the ideal position to put the pieces together and make a graceful transition into the next stage of your professional life.   

Think of your career as a garden  You need to plant seeds now, water and nurture them over a long time, and they will grow into beautiful plants that you can harvest later to meet your needs. This requires planning for the long term, investing significant time and energy early in the process, and then continuing to invest for as long as you want to be able to harvest. 


ACS Resources:


Other Resources


Job Search Engines

  • LinkUp  ( – gets postings directly from companies
  • Indeed ( – aggregates results from many other search engines




Professional Societies

  • American Society for Indexing ( - professional organization devoted to the advancement of indexing, abstracting, and database building
  • American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIST) ( - society for information professionals leading the search for new and better theories, techniques, and technologies to improve access to information
  • Association of American Publishers ( - trade association of the book publishing industry
  • Association of Independent Information Professionals ( - provides a wealth of resources for those who want to know more about the information industry and independent information professionals
  • NFAIS ( - serves groups that aggregate, organize, and facilitate access to information
  • Society for Scholarly Publishing ( - works to advance scholarly publication and communication and the professional development of its members
  • Patent Information Users Group (PIUG) ( - Organization for patent professionals.  The web site has great links and the discussion list is free to join.  Many companies advertise patent searching positions on their discussion list.


This article was written by Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants LLC.  Lisa is a freelance technical writer/editor and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists:  New Formulas for Chemistry Careers,” published by Oxford University Press.