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General Forums => Generic Discussion => Topic started by: Fishy on November 20, 2012, 09:52:41 AM

Title: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: Fishy on November 20, 2012, 09:52:41 AM
Hi, I'm new.  I thought this was a general chemistry forum but it seems to be for students.  I got a Masters in analytical chemistry in 1996.  In 1997, I got a job that lasted until September of 2011.  I was the head of the HPLC department and eventually had three helpers.  We tested mostly food for vitamins and additives.  The 10 people in chemistry lost their jobs when the company sold to a larger company that moved the chemistry department thousands of miles away.  Since then, I have applied to 100 some chemistry jobs and 100 some non-chemistry jobs.  I have gotten one interview to manage a warehouse selling pet toys, and they didn't want me.  I don't know what to do with my life.  I need money to pay for my many animals but have enough savings to last another year or two.  There are simply no jobs out there for someone like me.  I tried tutoring but nobody wants me to tutor because I haven't done it before (except in college).  I can't get a low paying job at a pet store or grocery store because I have not worked similar jobs before, and they all require specific experience.  I have forgotten more chemistry than a remember.  Looking through some of the questions in the forum, they are all just ghosts in my brain, mostly things that I never had to use in the real world in my job.  I cannot afford to go back to college and get a new degree.  I feel like I have to plan for a future where I run out of money, have to get rid of all my animals, and end up living in my car.  Ideas?
Title: Re: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: Arkcon on November 20, 2012, 11:54:17 AM
Well, you ideally want to find another new position as head of an analytical lab, likely one that does HPLC, or other chromatography, like GC.  I hope your resume lists, for your last position, specific directives, initiated by you as head of the HPLC lab, that improved the function of the lab over the years.  I hope you have specific tasks, that you oversaw, that solved very tough problems, for example, developing a new, validated method for a tough analysis or orchestrating a new sample submission or results reporting method to eliminate bottlenecks in getting results out.  If so, you may have better luck soon.  I'm currently looking for analytical chemistry position, but I wasn't head of the lab, so I can't make the claims that you can.  But I do find upper level HPLC analytical positions on career websites.
Title: Re: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: curiouscat on November 20, 2012, 01:22:52 PM
Find a Technician  position at a University. Lots of labs have Staff positions that might be a good fit for your skills. Might not be the most glamorous but better that a toy store and it'll pay a decent wage.
Title: Re: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: Fishy on November 21, 2012, 07:44:55 PM
I thought I would be at my job forever.  They literally couldn't run the company without me.  There were hundreds of things that only I could do.  That was, until they sold the company to a bigger company who had hundreds of chemists elsewhere.  Even then, I spent six months trying to teach them my procedures.  They begged me to move to Iowa but I couldn't give up the rest of my life for a job.  When I started in the chemistry department of this food testing lab, there were only four of us, and I was the only one to run the HPLC's.  They chose those machines for me.  I could have just as easily done GC or AA but now I'm stuck with only HPLC experience since I joined them in 1997.  I had three assistants at the end, and there were 10 people in the chemistry apartment but I was never officially anything more than a "chemist" on paper.  I was not a manager.  I could not make decisions aside from HPLC ones.  I wasn't even allowed to place orders (I had to beg my supervisor to order things, and he made those decisions; the company never had excess money) until chemistry left, and I made orders as an outsourcing coordinator (things like packing supplies).  I made untold HPLC decisions over the years but, here's the thing, I NEVER documented those.  Why would I?  I was going to be there until the day I died (there was no retirement plan; other chemists literally worked Friday and died the next day; my predecessor worked Friday, birthed her child that night, shipped the baby to her mother in China on Saturday, and came to work on Monday so she wouldn't have to miss any work; we were a dedicated bunch!).  I can recall certain tests that I did but I never did anything fantastic.  I mostly ran the same tests over and over and over until they became a part of me.  I was never given the chance to do more and now I simply can't get a job.  Once they asked me to become their QC person.  They wanted me to do it on top of my 40 hours a week doing HPLC with no raise either so I said no.  If I'd said yes, I'd still be there now as the guy who said yes still runs QC for them (the microbiology lab is still there).  How do you get a minimum wage job in retail with no experience?
Title: Re: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: Arkcon on November 21, 2012, 09:10:35 PM
Spend some time, sitting down, think about the things you've done, and try to write them down now.  Try  to think of things that other people from your company would remember and corroborate.  If you can't find anything, then you weren't the head of the analytical lab, just the guy who was there the longest.  That's not the best way to get the best laboratory job, but still a useful thing to talk about when you try to find one.
Title: Re: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: Fishy on November 22, 2012, 11:07:45 AM
I never said I was head of the analytical lab.  I was head of HPLC which means I did all the HPLC and made all the HPLC decisions (aside from what tests to do).  I was there the second longest in chemistry after the head of chemistry.  None of that matters though.  There simply are no jobs like what I did.  I can't afford to go back to school for another degree.  My next thing to try is to start selling my life's belongings on Ebay.  I haven't used it before so I'm a bit reticent.
Title: Re: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: Arkcon on November 22, 2012, 01:42:15 PM
Like more than a few people, you've become despondent, and its stopped you from trying at all.  Tell me, what happens when you type in your zip code, and the term 'HPLC' into Careerbuilder and Monster?
Title: Re: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: fledarmus on November 23, 2012, 10:15:56 AM
Location is a real challenge - there are only a few places to find reasonable concentrations of chemistry jobs anymore, so the choices are to tie yourself to small companies that seem to pop up and disappear all over the landscape, or make yourself free to move.

One thing you might look at is the companies that are making and selling the HPLC systems. Many of them have in-house chemists that do some method development for customers trying to choose columns and methods for repetive analysis, eg quality control or production. Depending on your familiarity with the ins and outs of different models of HPLC systems, you might also look for a sales, service, or customer training position. Many of them are regional, so although a lot of travel time may be required, you might be able to base yourself in your current location.

This isn't a great time to be looking for chemistry jobs, and the more specialized the job, the more likely you will have to relocate to find one. I wish you the best of luck.
Title: Re: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: Fishy on November 23, 2012, 06:01:10 PM
I will not relocate for many reasons.  I have not given up in that I am still applying to half a dozen jobs each week even though none are exactly what I'm qualified to do, as close to home as I'd like, and so on.  I get no responses (e-mails or calls) from anybody.  I am aware that working for instrument-making companies is a good option.  I know Shimadzu very well (my HPLC's were from them, and I got to know their sales and repair staff like friends), and it's very close.  The problem is that for all of their positions that have come through in the last year, they require significant travel.  Due to the animals in my care and my dying mother, I must be home every day to do chores.  There are no other such companies near here.  I practically begged the people at Shimadzu that I knew to give me a non-traveling job.  They have such jobs but none are available.  I told them I could answer phone calls (tech support), be a secretary, develop procedures, teach classes, and so on.  They have zero interest.
Title: Re: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: sschoe2 on November 25, 2012, 11:10:56 AM
My position was similar to yours though I am a more recent graduate. I applied and applied and applied and got nothing but crap jobs from temp agencies or nothing at all. I started out HPLC, then went GC, the GC/MS. I also live at home with 2 dogs and an ailing mother.

Now I am the sole analytical chemist at a small company running a small lab. It took 3 years thousands of applications, nearly 2 dozen interviews to get this position.

Although my story could be interpreted as hang in there I honestly and very scared for my future and the future of the profession in this country in general. As tough as this sounds, it may be time to consider a new career entirely. Anyone who can pass upper level chem courses is among the top 10% in intelligence and can do a great many things and can have a better future than science is capable of providing.
Title: Re: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: Fishy on November 25, 2012, 03:42:49 PM
I'm so glad that you finally got your job!  I haven't had an interview in chemistry since I got the job that lasted 14+ years.  I was in the top 5% in high school and voted "smartest female" by my classmates.  I am good at school.  I could get another degree but I would have to spend money that I'm trying to save (perhaps get a loan even), and then there would be no more a guarantee of me getting a job in that new field than the one that I'm in now.  I don't think degrees are worth so much these days. 

Back when I was in college, there were at least half a dozen labs doing environmental, analytical, and/or food chemistry within 40 minutes of my home.  Every single one of those went out of business, most more than a decade ago.  The company I was with for 14 years actually bought one of those small companies.  The owner of that small company had turned me down to work for him.  He called me "worthless" because I said I couldn't read an old refractometer.  I hadn't used one before, and I have poor vision.  I now use one weekly on my saltwater tanks.  Anyway, that owner came to rely on me as his primary chemist once we bought his company.  And see, I still say we because I still feel like I was part of that company.  It was like a family.  Instead of laying off some people or asking us to take pay cuts, they sold the company to a huge company, a company that buys little companies, tells them the world is great, and then shreds them.  My former supervisor (who is under contract with said big company thousands of miles away until 9/13) and I have spoken about his possibly returning in the future to start a small, specialized lab.  Pie in the sky I guess.
Title: Re: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: IsotopeBill on January 29, 2013, 12:52:54 PM
I hope things turn around soon.  I was unemployed for 8 months, and received only one offer, but one was all I needed.  So don't give up, keep looking everyday, answer every job post that looks even remotely possible, etc. etc. etc. 
About your tutoring attempts:  did you ever think about something like volunteering at a local high school for a few hours per week?  "Volunteer" of course means you don't get paid, but it would give you tutoring experience (and I bet you'll find that you start remembering the subject matter a lot more than you thought you would) and it might give you a sense of purpose. It doesn't look like you have a lot of time to do this, but it might be worthwhile to consider.
There are many websites you can use for your job search, of course.  I found was very useful:  it's basically a  search engine tailored to job searching, and you can set up a profile to help your searching.  Linkedin is also worthwhile

Best of luck
Title: Re: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: Babcock_Hall on January 29, 2013, 01:16:39 PM
The book "What Color is your Parachute" helped me focus and think about my career.
Title: Re: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: Woopy on January 29, 2013, 02:31:57 PM
Since you have a master's degree, you are qualified to teach at the community college level. You could try getting an adjunct professor position and go back and review your old books and reteach yourself the material. I think my own community college is hiring for a chemistry professor position. Why not give it a shot?
Title: Re: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: sschoe2 on February 16, 2013, 08:26:44 PM
Teaching community college might be a good idea. You might also have the benefit of being able to take courses for free or greatly reduced cost to begin a career transition. I know if I ever loose my current job I will just use the time to go back to college for a career change rather than end up wasting away as a permatemp in a dying field again.
Title: Re: Analytical Chemist at a dead end
Post by: baileyrgr on March 03, 2013, 05:22:11 AM
Dedicate an even while, sitting down, think about things you have done, along with just be sure to write them down today.  Try  to imagine of things which others from the company might possibly remember and in addition corroborate.  If or when or when you can't come upon anything, then you weren't the head of the analytic laboratory, just the man that had been for a bing search engine the greatest.  That's not the greatest system to have the ideal laboratory job, however still a useful thing to talk about since shortly as you just be certain to discover one.