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Offline Guitarmaniac86

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Career Advice Needed
« on: March 25, 2019, 10:56:44 AM »
I finished my PhD two years ago and struggled to land any kind of lab based role in organic chemistry. Being desperate for a job I took job as a medical writer and I hate it. Two years of it and I really, really, cannot see myself doing this job any longer. I am at a point where I just dread getting on my motorbike and riding two hours to a job I hate. Over the past two years, I have applied for roles but I haven't really got anywhere. Is it too late now and should I give up? The last interview I had was four months ago and the interviewer raised his concern: "I am concerned you have been out of the lab too long now and you no longer have the required skill." I tried to defend myself by explaining that it would be hard to forget basic lab skills in two years. The interviewer was very dismissive. I never got the job. That made me all but give up hope, but I keep applying.


I feel that you never forget lab skills. I feel very confident that I still have the skills with six years of lab experience (four years PhD, one year research based MSc and a year in industry) to excel in a career. Is it really too late now?

All advice appreciated.

Offline Mitch

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Re: Career Advice Needed
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2019, 12:12:01 PM »
Two years doesn't seem like a long time to me, but HR employees are not chemists and you will have to get through them in order to get your foot in the door. It probably should not take 2 years to get a chemical job with a PhD. Have you networked as much as you can, like gone to ACS local chapter meetings, ask your old professors to forward your resumes when recruiters email them, or ask your other chemistry colleagues to forward opportunities your way?
« Last Edit: March 25, 2019, 01:16:38 PM by Mitch »
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Offline Enthalpy

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Re: Career Advice Needed
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2019, 12:15:33 PM »
Forget skills: that's difficult to estimate, because (almost by definition) you don't remember what you have forgotten. When you try to review the rests of your ancient skills, the result is "I remember all this, and this, and this...". It needs an external input to realize that you have forgotten all that, and that, an that too. When I threw away my notes just 10 years after the diplomas, there were complete courses I didn't remember to have attended. OK, not in the domains that interested me.

The other aspect is that one refreshes quickly what was already known. Having forgotten isn't the same as having never known.

When applying for jobs, keep in mind that the employer rarely tells the true reason for not hiring you. Most often, the recruiter preferred someone else, but won't tell you because this decision is subjective and hard to justify, so he seeks simple explanations. In a different opportunity where he would not prefer a competitor, he wouldn't tell "too long out of job". And then, there are the truly embarrassing reasons, like "don't want a Latino / a Muslim / a woman / etc" which would be illegal in many countries. Or even more often, the company has published a job description but cancelled the position because it lacks money or plans to sell the subsidiary - something they won't tell the customers, creditors, competitors. In such situation, women think "because I'm a women", black people "because I'm black", older people "because I'm older" and so on.

Most times, a personal director considers his duty to make reproaches to you, as a part of the present and future negotiations for money.

You get easily paranoid for searching for a job, but you shouldn't.

Offline Guitarmaniac86

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Re: Career Advice Needed
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2019, 12:54:24 PM »
Two years doesn't seem like a long time to me, but hiring managers are not chemists and you will have to get through them in order to get your foot in the door. It probably should not take 2 years to get a chemical job with a PhD. Have you networked as much as you can, like gone to ACS local chapter meetings, ask your old professors to forward your resumes when recruiters email them, or ask your other chemistry colleagues to forward opportunities your way?

I have had some things thrown my way via lab colleagues but they never came to fruition, or I just never got an interview. I was (still am) introverted and a recluse during my PhD so I never grew my network much. Social anxiety meant I rarely went to anything with more than 10 people. Couldn't face it.

My profs are no longer with the university I attended and GDPR means the university cannot give me any details to contact them (apparently) so I am stuck there too.

I have reached out to recruiters but nothing ever comes of it, or they push me towards jobs they want me to take, and they never have my interests at heart. (Many times I have been pushed towards a sales role when I want a lab role... Things like that put me off recruiters).

Offline jeffmoonchop

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Re: Career Advice Needed
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2019, 02:40:14 PM »
You should join cheeky scientist. They will help you find a job.

Offline Enthalpy

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Re: Career Advice Needed
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2019, 07:09:13 AM »
Economy doesn't do well these last months in Europe. Near-recession or stagnation in Germany and elsewhere. Do you try in Canada for instance?

Offline Guitarmaniac86

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Re: Career Advice Needed
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2019, 06:47:26 PM »
Economy doesn't do well these last months in Europe. Near-recession or stagnation in Germany and elsewhere. Do you try in Canada for instance?

I can't leave the UK, my wife won't move with me. The only way to leave would be to get a divorce and I am not willing to do that for a job.

Offline jeffmoonchop

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Re: Career Advice Needed
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2019, 07:20:29 PM »
I have a job in Canada but it was very difficult to get. There are not as many jobs in Canada as there are in the UK. I haven't looked recently but I worked for reckitt benckiser and GSK in England and they were always hiring lots.

Offline Enthalpy

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Re: Career Advice Needed
« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2019, 06:03:17 AM »
How badly is the economy doing in the UK? The standard indicators like unemployment rate and GDP growth are unreactive and very late. As seen from abroad, I notice many companies in the UK move their production to other countries or close.

A far better indicator of the economy's health, more sensitive and faster, is the number of unused commercial premises. Just look around you, deduce if companies are hiring. If the companies have difficulties, they won't admit it and the government neither, but chances of finding a job are bad, and it's not a matter of individual skills.

Offline Guitarmaniac86

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Re: Career Advice Needed
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2019, 04:58:40 PM »
So I have applied to about 15 or so jobs since I made this and all have been rejected at application stage. The recruiters I have worked with have obtained feedback and it boils down to their clients wanting someone either fresh out of uni or someone who has been working in the industry since leaving uni.


I am basically never going to get a job as an organic chemist because I left uni, became a medical writer, and now want to get back in the lab. I have been told... Too late, should have got into it straight out of the PhD.


I want to run an idea by you all. Is it worth asking companies if they would allow me to work for them for free for a couple of months, so they can see what I can do, and if they like me, then hire me on salary? Or does this come across as desperate?


Oh. And I just lost my job as a medical writer. They know my heart is not in it. If I cant work in a lab, there is literally no other job I want to do... Its been my lifes passion since school.

(Failing that I'll try and be a chemistry teacher. At least I can pass my passion on to the next generation).

Offline Mitch

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Re: Career Advice Needed
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2019, 05:30:41 PM »
Pretty sure it's against federal law to have someone work for free. Anyways, if you want experience, can you go volunteer for a professor at a local University?
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Offline jeffmoonchop

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Re: Career Advice Needed
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2019, 06:17:22 PM »
strongly recommend not working for a university. Honestly, you need to apply for a lot more jobs than 15 in almost 2 months. I applied for hundreds of jobs, however, you should make sure you spend the time tailoring your resume for each job. And its not great you lost your job, you lost a potentially good reference. Spend time on linkedin connecting with people, add value to them and they are more likely to talk to you about job opportunities.

Companies use software which filters out resumes based on keywords. In a job description, copy all the words and paste them into a word bubble website, it'll tell you all the words they use most often, then add those words to your resume more than non-mentioned words.

Offline Enthalpy

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Re: Career Advice Needed
« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2019, 07:56:28 AM »
15 applications are not much at all. It would need a very well performing economy to get a contract or even several proposals after only 15 attempts. 15 applications in 2 months isn't a huge rhythm neither: when spending all the time on it (I understand you still had the previous job), one application a calendar day is feasible, the old way as paperwork plus phone calls.

I reiterate: don't believe the reasons given by potential employers. If the company is in trouble they won't tell it. If they preferred someone more white, male or parent with the lab chief, they won't tell neither. The heavy tendency of all employers is to answer "worker's fault".

The economy stagnated in the EU for the past quarters. That's a damn good reason not to find a job. In 2005 in Germany, I took >400 contacts in a year, with zero result. The crisis was patent in store closures, but not in the economy's statistics.

The UK's economy is said to have grown a bit in the past quarter, so keep hope and intensify the search.

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