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Career Support

Women Chemists at Various Stages of Their Careers

At the Western Regional Meeting, October 2013, the  WCC of the California Section presented  a panel discussion  involving women chemists at various stages of their careers. Here is a summary of their tips and advice.


Career Tips.
John C. Fetzer, PhD

In these tough economic times, the loss of a job is either a constant threat or something that happens that you must surmount. Having been part of a corporate downsizing a decade ago, I can both empathize and give a few thoughts that might be of help (with the aid of the passage of time it is easier and the ideas have been hashed and rehashed numerous times).

Job loss used to be a rarity, not only in chemistry, but throughout all walks of life. Companies actually “hired for life” with an intent of a full-career employment. In government service and academia, layoffs or firings were as rare as hen’s teeth, except for the most egregious violations of policies.

Over the past twenty years in industry, and over the past decade in the other two venues, losing a job is something that is increasingly commonplace. Managers now look upon employees as a “cost burden” rather than as an asset. If a company needs to cut costs, the first place to look is at the headcount. If there is a merger or acquisition, employees are thought of as redundant assets.

Governmental budget shortfalls have translated into downsizing in government agencies and within colleges and universities. Tenure no longer is a lifetime guarantee of a position.

With these changes the mindset of affected chemists ought to change, too. But too often it has not. The values learned as we grew up, for older chemists prevail, even though they are antiquated. This results in several emotional responses to losing a job – anger and guilt being the two most prominent ones – that are unwarranted.

Anger at an employer might be justified if the job losses were selective because the question of “why was I targeted?” comes into play. But if there were wholesale layoffs, a certain percentage, or some such thing, then you just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being part of a division that is totally removed is just an outgrowth of a specific business decision, not due to you, your work, or its importance to that business.

Guilt is also misplaced. In most cases you did not actively lose the job in most cases. If you had made different decisions or performed at an extremely higher level, you might still have ended up in the same situation. I had an outstanding rating for performance in my last year of employment. But there was a decision to decrease the business direction and therefore advanced-degree chemists were selectively reduced relative to other employees.

Getting past these two emotions is not easy, but you must keep reminding yourself that they are unnecessary. You must move forward, especially to meet the needs of finding a new position. You cannot undo the job loss. Spending time, energy, and mental focus on it are counterproductive to your own career. Look at the former job as if a door has closed (because it has!). Look at the potential new position as a door opening, when you find it. Put all of your thoughts and efforts into finding that door.



To enhance career assistance to ACS members, the Department of Career Services has launched Advanced Career Tools (ACT), a suite of services, which includes nearly 300 articles of frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) about career-related issues; access to professional career coaches; products such as career CD’s and books; and customized features such as e-mail alerts. The FAQ’s in ACT are available at at no cost, while the professional career coaching is offered to ACS members at a discount over the market rate.The Career Consultant Program continues its long history of success with one-on-one, member-to-member, free, confidential career counseling. Members are now able to view consultant profiles and self-select consultants online This ability reduces the response time to members and puts the consultants and members directly in contact with each other to initiate career-focused communication.


If you need any kind of job search help, please feel free to set up an individual appointment with Linda or Sandy in Berkeley or  El Cerrito  at a café and time of your choosing. Then we can go over whatever is holding up your job search, review resumes, or give tips for interview skills.

Contact email/telephone:

Linda Wraxall 510-236-8468, mailto:

Sandy Nixon 510-918-0523, mailto:


The California Section maintains a list of local employers of chemists. To obtain a copy of this list, as an Excel spreadsheet file, contact the California Section office, or e-mail requests

This ACS site combines the prior C&E News online career information and ads site with the former ACS site. At one location one can now peruse current job openings in the chemical sciences. ACS members can open accounts to view the latest job postings and can file their resumes online. The first place to look should you be in a job search mode.

Science magazine’s on-line job search page and weekly career updates.

Lists jobs available, by category, in the San Francisco Bay Area; also, allows posting of resumes.

Good general job information for California’s main cities with useful job search help.

Online job listing edition of the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Papers; find a job; post a resume; post an ad; searchable by profession title.

San Francisco Chronicle job listings on-line; searchable by profession title.

Job listings and career information in the Los Angeles Times; searchable by profession title.

A Web site with good career advice, and many links to other job sites, designed not only for lady chemists, but also for the rest of us.Click Here for Career Tips to Be a More Successful Chemist offered by John C. Fetzer, PhD, of Fetzpahs Consulting