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Career Tips

Be prepared for opportunity to knock

by Brought to you by ACS Careers
October 3, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 36


An illustration of a hand knocking on a door.
Credit: Shutterstock

The job market is hot right now, and opportunities abound. Even if you are not specifically looking, you never know when something will come knocking on your door. Knowing what you want from your career and having current information ready can help you take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

Redefine your dream job or goal. When your personal life changes, your professional priorities and goals often change as well. No one can argue that the past 18 months have been uneventful, and changes abound. Take some time to revisit what you envision as your dream job, and make sure it still fits your lifestyle. How have you described your dream to others, and if it were offered to you today, would you accept? What responsibilities, characteristics, and rewards would be required for you to accept?

Update your documents. Take a good look at your résumé, publication list, personal references, and entire career portfolio. Are they up to date, or do you have recent accomplishments that haven’t been added? Do you use current terminology, or is the wording outdated? Have you earned any awards, honors, or certifications that are not reflected? Do your documents emphasize activities that showcase your skills, or are they full of old accomplishments that don’t give a good picture of what you can do now? For example, is your level of expertise with various techniques still accurate, or have you moved from “familiar” to “proficient” or even “expert”? Have you added any activities or hobbies with skills that might be useful in your career?

Coordinate your online image. Do your résumé and social media profiles all present a coherent picture? Or do some focus on synthetic organic chemistry, while others read more like those of a business manager? Use your favorite search engine to find information about yourself, and update any content you can. Regularly posting new content online also helps ensure that relevant content is higher in search results.

Take an outside view. Try to look at each of your documents as an outsider would. If you did not know the person who wrote this document, what would your first impression be? What skills would you think they possessed, and what sort of career would you think they were seeking? If possible, ask some close friends or colleagues to review your documents and give you their honest opinion—and point out any typographical errors. Does your executive summary reflect your current vision and direction for your career? Does the entire document read smoothly?

Share your vision. Once you have updated your professional vision and all your marketing documents, make sure to share your professional goal with your network. Don’t be afraid to tell people that while you used to have a certain career path, you are changing direction slightly to focus on something else that is more in line with your current professional goals.

Career management is always important but rarely seems urgent, and consequently often gets delayed or ignored. Even if you update your résumé on a regular basis, you probably still need to do a comprehensive review to make sure all the pieces fit together so that you can get to where you now want to go.

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—Brought to you by ACS Careers


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