Job market

Chemistry careers – think bigger!

What do Sir Joshua Reynolds, the Fish Room and Chemistry-related careers have in common?  Well, you would have seen all of these (almost – think statue, not man!) if you’d made it to the Royal Society of Chemistry’s jobs fair, “Chemistry World Jobs Live” on 25th November in London.  But this event was not just for budding chemists – the messages were relevant to a whole range of  job-seekers looking for a career in science.

There’s a real breadth of opportunity

I stopped at the RSC desk where I spoke to Johnathan who’s currently on the RSC graduate programme. He had this to say:

I didn’t want to spend my time in a lab and this programme allows you to rotate in publishing, policy and campaigns.  What worked in my favour was writing a blog at university and contributing articles to my university science magazine.  I did 3 months of a PhD after my undergrad where I was also involved in a publishing project.  This really helped me when it came to applications and the interview.

Sarah Ward, Recruitment Executive for the RSC stated:

There are exciting opportunities for graduates.  Apart from the Graduate Programme, we run a Publishing Editor Scheme – these are permanent roles and expose you to the full range of activities – technical aspects, referencing etc. – on over 30 journals and databases.  And we don’t just take chemists.  Our trainees come from other science disciplines such as biology and physics.

Further down the room, I chatted to Grant Mitchell, Research and Technology Manager of Croda Europe. Grant commented on the opportunity to work in a more commercial role:

We offer lab-based roles in synthesis, applications and product testing.  But the opportunity is there to move into a commercial area such as marketing which is what I did for 4 years before returning to manage lab teams.

Get experience and try new things

One of the themes that emerged from panel discussions was embracing opportunities to get experience and try new things.  Ricky Martin, Managing Director of Hyper Recruitment Solutions is a case in point.  Ricky arrived at an interview in his final year of university believing he was going for a lab-based role to suit his Biochemistry degree.  As the assessment day progressed, Ricky realised the job was for a recruitment agency.  After the day, he spoke to some friends who reminded him that he was pretty good at selling things and ideas.  So he decided to join the company when the job was offered.  8 years later Ricky has started his own recruitment firm with seed funding from Lord Alan Sugar! Other panellists picked up the reins, with Dr Bibiana Campos Seigo, Editor of Chemistry World Magazine recommending:

Make a plan for yourself and then break it if you see an opportunity – embrace those things that happen by chance.

At the Oakland Innovation Limited stand, Emma Caruthers, HR and Administration Coordinator told me about what they look for in their candidates:

Oakland has teams of analysts and consultants that help clients looking to develop products all over the world.  We are looking for people with scientific curiosity and the ability to think outside the box and integrate into our teams.  But the degree subject is less important.   We recently hired a PhD who had studied supernovae.  None of our work involves supernovae or is ever likely to but she had the right approach.

I spoke to representatives of AstraZeneca, Lubrizol, Hexcel and AWE.  All talked about the range of opportunities on offer.  Others also spoke of sandwich placements/years in industry as excellent opportunities to experience the culture of their organisations.

Some final thoughts…

  • Many of these companies are not just offering lab roles where experimental techniques are core requirements.  They offer a range of commercial, publishing, strategic consulting and other opportunities as well. They also emphasise the importance of a well-rounded introduction to their work – for example Hexcel’s Early Career Programme.
  • A number of representatives did not find their niche straight away and many were still developing their careers.  Employers understand that you will be developing your career ideas in the jobs they have to offer, so it is not imperative to have it “all worked out”.
  • Chemistry World Jobs Live is an excellent (and free) opportunity to speak to large and small firms in a great environment (the Fish Room!) where you can take time to chat to employers, find out what is on offer, and come away with a very nice RSC document wallet.  What’s not to like?  Look out on the RSC website for future events
  • A range of employers related to the chemical industries and other sectors will be on hand at the Warwick. Chemistry Chemistry Careers Fair on 20th February 2014, 4-6pm on the Science Concourse. This event is open to Warwick University Students studying Chemistry or Chemistry related degrees – look out for further details on myAdvantage.

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