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Bench & Cubicle

Want a promotion? Chemjobber says to take the initiative now

Changes in the job market offer a chance to be the boss

by Chemjobber, special to C&EN
September 18, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 34


People in suits climbing a red ladder onto a white arrow angled upward.
Credit: C&EN/Shutterstock

Some have called it the “Great Resignation,” a large increase in pandemic-inspired job departures and openings across the economy. In one widely discussed survey of 2,452 Americans, 55% of those who are working or seeking work say they’re likely to search for new employment in the next 12 months. Perhaps you’ve seen this trend in your own workplace. I certainly have. People are considering new opportunities—often provided by a friendly recruiter—and are leaving longtime positions.

Job changes create opportunities as well. I predict that in the next year, there will be a wave of promotions amid all the change and growth within the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. If you want to be a boss for the first time or lead more people than you currently oversee, now is a good time to take some initiative to reach those goals. While the academic promotion process is formal and lengthy—unsurprising when lifetime tenure can be on the line—industry promotions can happen with surprising speed and spontaneity.

My own promotion story shows what can happen if you show interest in an open job. When the person who had my position before me announced their departure, I thought, “I could do that job.” I asked a senior manager what he thought, and he felt that it was a reasonable move. Another manager was supportive and said, “You better move fast” before they advertise for the position or talk to recruiters.” Spurred by her comment, I told the CEO I was interested. He initially said no because he valued my contributions in my current job, but he later asked me to take the position temporarily. It became permanent a few months later.

I’m pleased that I made this move, and I attribute my success to seeing an opportunity and taking it. Many people are happy working in the laboratory and are not really thinking about where they stand in an organization. But advocating for yourself is key. If you are a good fit for a more senior position, only you can tell people that you’re ready.

I hadn’t mentioned my desire for a promotion to my managers before the opportunity arose. That was a mistake, one that I am fortunate did not hurt me long term. Clearly stating in your annual reviews that you aspire to management positions is an important first step. Taking leadership opportunities when management offers them and finding senior leaders to mentor you are also key aspects of getting promoted. Don’t forget that excelling in your job day to day is step 1 in this process.

You’ll inevitably be asked why you desire a promotion. While it can be as simple as wanting more responsibility and the money that comes with it, that’s not a compelling reason for your company to offer you a supervisory or managerial position. Neither is wanting to become the boss so that [insert coworker here] does not, even if that’s a motivator for you. Think about your goals for your new position and how you would achieve those goals to ultimately make your organization better.

I’m enthusiastic to see what changes this wave of labor mobility will create in the chemical industry. I hope the industry will take the best lessons from the pandemic to become more resilient and flexible. Many people have worked shifts to follow social distancing protocols, have changed policies to allow for unusual childcare arrangements, or are regularly using Zoom, and I’m positive these and other experiences during the pandemic have pushed us to make changes for the better in our organizations. Taking initiative for that next promotion could be the start of making your company and the chemistry enterprise better.

Chemjobber is an industrial chemist who blogs about the chemistry job market at Find all his columns for C&EN and suggest future topics at

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


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