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August 11, 2010
If You're Not A Chemist - What Next?
So here's an unpleasant but necessary topic: what do you do if you're getting out of chemistry entirely? The pharma layoffs of the last few years have made this all too real a decision for too many people, and I recently heard from a reader here who's facing that exact problem.
My first piece of advice is an obvious one: try, if possible, to do something where your expertise can still be an advantage. Look for fields where knowing organic chemistry or drug discovery could be a selling point, something that an employer would be interested in but can't always find. Work (at one level or another) in patent law or technical writing are options that I know some chemists have been able to find.
Failing that, I'd still try to find something where your general training as a scientist can be used to make you stand out. A lot of us are surrounded by researchers all day long, and we tend to forget that our lives are pretty anomalous. The habits of critical thinking, of asking whether what you think you know is true or not (and being willing to test things to find out) are not as widespread as you'd think (or hope). That's a more nebulous proposition to sell to a potential employer, to be sure, but it's still worth keeping in mind.
I (and a number of people out in the readership) would be interested in hearing from people in the comments who've moved out of the immediate field of chemistry - voluntarily or not. Where have you ended up, and how did it happen?
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