If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.


Career Tips

How to maintain a positive attitude

by Brought to you by ACS Careers
February 28, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 7


An illustration of a happy woman.
Credit: Yang H. Ku/C&EN/Shutterstock

There is an old saying that you can’t change what happens, but you can control your reactions. While it may not always feel like it, controlling your attitude can go a long way toward determining how satisfied you feel with a situation. Whenever you find yourself facing a big change—starting a new job, moving to a new city, onboarding a coworker—approach it with a positive attitude, then take concrete steps to make that positive outcome a reality.

Attitude is everything. If you think you can succeed, you probably will. If you think you will fail, you probably will. So approach your new adventure with the attitude that it is going to turn out well, and then do everything in your power to make that happen. When there is a setback (and what project doesn’t have a few?), assume that you will find a solution to the problem.

Look for the good. If you look hard enough, you may be able to find some good in a hard situation. Maybe you’ve learned that you never want to do a task again, or you really aren’t good at technical writing. Great! You’ve eliminated those paths as future career options, you know to get help when you have to do them, and you can move your career in directions where you can be successful.

Adjust your expectations. Maybe this is not the situation you dreamed of, but it is where you find yourself. Set reasonable expectations for what the work will be like, what you will get out of it, and how you can use this experience as a stepping stone to move yourself into a better situation.

Find a purpose. You’ll have to get through the work, so find a goal for yourself or a reason that makes it worthwhile. Why did you agree to this situation in the first place? What are your personal values and motivations? Is there something in the bigger picture that you can hold on to? What is it about this work that is meaningful to you?

See the big picture. Make sure to look beyond initial impressions because the event or activity may have a broader purpose. For example, a group may decide to hold regular meetings to hear progress reports, but the true purpose of the meeting is to make sure people will get things done. Remember to see the big picture in interpersonal relationships, too—you never know what is going on in other people’s lives. Given the ongoing pandemic, everyone is under stress, especially when traditional support structures are unavailable. If your situation is caused by interpersonal issues, think about the other person. Is there something going on in their personal or professional life that is affecting how they are treating you?

Many times you will find yourself in a less-than-ideal situation. Dwelling on just how bad it is will only lead you into a spiral of despair. Instead, allow yourself to be disappointed for a short time, then take a deep breath and decide to move on. Don’t wallow, but make the best of taking one step back to take two steps forward.

Get involved in the discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first issue of every month in C&EN. Send your comments and ideas for topics for future columns to


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.