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New Thrusts in Career Services

by H. N. Cheng, Chair, Committee on Economic & Professional Affairs
July 31, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 31

Credit: Courtesy of H.N. Cheng
Credit: Courtesy of H.N. Cheng

We live in a time of change. The change is reflected in demographics, as shown by the 2005 ChemCensus survey, which indicated a drop in the percentage of chemists who work in chemical and related manufacturing; an aging ACS membership; an increasing proportion of women members; and increasing racial/ethnic diversity, especially for Asians. Data from ACS and other sources also show increasing significance of small businesses as employers, increasing multidisciplinarity of chemistry, and globalization. There are also technological changes in the ways that we communicate and conduct business. For example, nearly one-third of those hired last year in the U.S. reported that they used the Internet as part of their job-search strategy.

In 2005, an ACS Membership Satisfaction Survey was taken of a random sample of 3,542 ACS members. When asked to identify the top two or three ACS services that they considered most important, career-related programs were among the highest ranked. In focus group studies, members indicated the need for better Web offerings; online networking; and information regarding business start-up and career assistance, especially at middle or late stages of careers.

In view of these needs and the changes occurring in the workplace, the Committee on Economic & Professional Affairs (CEPA) and the staffs of the Department of Career Management & Development (CMD) and the Department of Member Research & Technology (DMRT) are collaborating to revamp and reinvent career services at ACS. We aim to use state-of-the-art technology to provide enhanced career services with a strong focus on career management. New offerings will be phased in over time; however, we shall continue to provide current services while effecting these changes.

Improve Services. As part of our new initiative, CEPA is collaborating with CMD to conduct an inventory and gap analysis with respect to programs offered through the committee and CMD. We are reviewing programs and delivery mechanisms with the goal of improving quality and scope of offerings.

Focus on Career Management. Consistent with our new thrust, several new presentations and workshops presented in Atlanta and planned for San Francisco are being directed toward career management and development. We have also started to segment audiences and services to better serve members at different stages of their careers. These services include efforts related to consultants and people seeking second careers. For example, efforts are under way related to entrepreneurship and alternative certification for secondary school teachers. Furthermore, a special interest group (SIG) has been formed and has organized a workshop on consultants for the San Francisco meeting.

Improve Communication and Training. For the San Francisco meeting, CEPA has organized four events and cosponsored eight symposia and SIG sessions. In addition, C&EN-Chemjobs Career Center is offering 30 professional development workshops relating to résumé preparation, job searching, interviewing techniques, and career transitions.

CEPA has prepared and updated a number of publications about employment and career development. Brochures have been revised that describe what a chemist should know before accepting a job in industry, academia, or government, or as an independent consultant or contractor.

An experimental workshop, "Preparing for Life after Graduate School," has been developed jointly by CMD and the Office of Graduate Education and was presented successfully at Princeton University. It will be presented at several other schools, including Purdue University, later this year.

Pay Attention to Small Businesses. Because small businesses now hire almost an equal number of chemical professionals as do large businesses, CEPA is paying more attention to them. An advisory group is being formed in conjunction with the Division of Small Chemical Businesses (SCHB) to assess the needs of small-business employers with the aim of better serving small businesses through the C&EN-Chemjobs Career Center and C&EN-Chemjobs Online. In our programming, we have been increasingly cosponsoring symposia and workshops with SCHB. For example, in San Francisco, CEPA will cosponsor three symposia or workshops with SCHB.

Leverage Technology Platforms. Earlier, CEPA prepared a career workshop in DVD format. The reviews indicated that this format would be favorably received by local sections. As an experiment, we will digitally record the ChemCensus symposium in San Francisco. The CEPA executive committee is also participating in the ACS Career Volunteer SharePoint Site, initiated by CMD and DMRT. Good exchange of information is being achieved among ACS career consultants, CEPA, and staff members. Furthermore, an online book club premiered on June 12. ACS members are encouraged to read books on career development and join a discussion led and facilitated by Dorothy Rodmann, longtime career presenter and consultant.

Address Relevant Professional and Employment Issues. One area of concern is the possible dilution of employment benefits. To gather more data, CEPA has added a section on employee benefits to the 2006 Comprehensive Salary & Employment Status Survey. The data are currently being analyzed and will be available in early 2007.

With regard to standards and ethics, CEPA has prepared an e-pamphlet on the proper use of sources and references. We are revising "The Chemical Professional's Code of Conduct" and "Academic Professional Guidelines."

This is a brief overview of the many activities related to economic and professional affairs. If you have comments, please write to me at

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.



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