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Preparing a blueprint for advancing your professional development

by Wayne E. Jones Jr., director-at-Large
March 21, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 11


This is a photo of Wayne E. Jones Jr.
Credit: Courtesy of Wayne E. Jones Jr.
Wayne E. Jones Jr.

What do you need in order to develop professionally and advance your career? What do you need in order to successfully complete a career transition? How can the American Chemical Society help?

These are questions that ACS continually asks as it seeks to support students and chemical professionals pursuing a range of career pathways. This is especially true as our society and ACS are responding to the global pandemic of COVID-19 and the demands on our lives and careers to work differently. The answers help advance the global chemical enterprise while addressing several of the United Nations sustainable development goals—namely, goal 4: quality education; goal 8: decent work and economic growth; and goal 9: industry, innovation, and infrastructure.

Initially, our focus as chemistry students and professionals is on completing our degrees and identifying venues for disseminating scientific results, such as journals and meetings. As we matriculate through the academic space, information about careers and the employment market becomes essential to ensure a viable future where we can contribute to the advancement and sustainability of the chemical enterprise. Once employed, we also need opportunities for developing technical and nontechnical skills, adapting as the landscape and needs of the global chemical workforce change. While ACS has a rich collection of professional and leadership resources and opportunities for individual development, the question is, What should we cultivate next?

In 2019, recognizing that ACS could be playing an even larger role in professional growth and development, the ACS Board of Directors established the NextGen Leadership Task Force. This task force asked what you need so that you can develop professionally and advance your career and how ACS could help. Responses highlighted the need to align the collection of ACS resources and opportunities and the need for guidance through this collection, helping each of us find what is relevant to our current and future needs as we navigate our careers. The NextGen Task Force recommended, and the ACS Board agreed, to establish a competency-based portfolio to help chemists advance professionally. The framework for this portfolio takes into account the multiple ways that chemists become highly effective professionals throughout their careers while managing themselves and leading others.

Our goal is to have a blueprint ready by the end of the year that outlines the path for building the portfolio.

Implementation teams, working in collaboration with ACS staff, are now developing the blueprint for building this portfolio. Using the framework as a guide, we will work with various employer partners and subject matter experts to identify the various competencies that an effective professional may need in one or more of the six areas within the framework. Additionally, we will confer with those of you who are seeking to transition from full-time work to part-time or consultant work. We recognize that needs differ according to where people are within their career spans. We are seeking to identify where there are gaps in our current offerings and where there are opportunities to develop new learning modules to address professional development needs.

Throughout 2020, the implementation teams will focus on various guiding principles to develop the path that will lead the society toward deploying a holistic professional and leadership development portfolio. Specifically, the portfolio will need to meet the needs of global and diverse audiences—recognizing that ACS members work around the world, as well as for a variety of organizations, is critical in our development of the portfolio. Thinking about this from a competency-based perspective allows us to focus on meeting the needs of employers and employees. Deploying the appropriate evaluations and assessments will be critical as we seek to ensure relevance, quality, and that you are acquiring the skills that you are seeking. And finally, we want to ensure that delivery methods are adaptive and provide you with options for consuming the content. This is just a brief synopsis of the guiding principles—the foundation for building the portfolio in a consistent manner that will help us provide a valuable professional development experience for chemical scientists. Our goal is to have a blueprint ready by the end of the year that outlines the path for building the portfolio.

As a professional membership organization, ACS is positioned to provide professional development that goes beyond periodic scientific presentations, individual courses and workshops, and other onetime interventions. We can help members pursue continuous improvement and learning, guiding them through self-assessment and preparation of a personalized development plan. The professional and leadership development areas outlined above are the beginning of this process.

This portfolio will aid in the skill development of chemists while positioning ACS to be ready to respond to workforce development needs of the chemical enterprise. It is an investment that will benefit each of us, as well as future generations of chemists and our community.

As chair of the implementation teams, I would like to ask, What do you need to develop professionally and advance your career, and how can ACS help? Please contact me at

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.



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