Looking Out For the Future

One of the mailing lists I’m on has had a discussion recently on how professionals in our field can adapt to changes in the world. The conversation started when someone asked what cities were doing significant hiring, so they could relocate there and find a job.

While this is certainly an option, it may not be the best one. Just because an area has low unemployment doesn’t mean you will find a job there, let alone a job you like. Furthermore, that area may not continue to grow, and you may find yourself having to move again in a few years.

A better strategy is to be flexible not in where you will live (though that can be important), but to be flexible in the type of work you will do, and the industries in which you will do it. By applying your skills to a new field or industry, you can continue to learn and grow professionally without having to relocate (unless you just like moving!).

If you keep up on trends in your industry, and in the world in general, you can see the early warning signs of companies and industries that are on the declines, and ones that are growing. If your area is on the way out, start learning the vocabulary and quirks of ones that are on the rise, so you will be positioned to transition when/if it becomes necessary.

To help you out, Fortune magazine has published a list of growing market segments. Many of these segments are science-related, or could benefit from scientific input. Which ones are of interest to you? Which ones will you keep an eye on, or learn a little more about?

Maybe the message is getting out?

I’m seeing a lot of blog postings lately on networking. With all the bad economic news, people are starting to realize that it really is other people who can help them, and meeting other people is called “networking”. I saw a great post the other day that said The worst thing about networking is the word itself“, and I agree with her. Everyone is constantly meeting new people – some you will quickly forget, others may become good friends over the course of time. “Networking” is no more than making sure

Purely professional online networking, Linkedin is the undisputed leader. Jason Alba just published a new version of his book I’m on LinkedIn — Now What?. If you’re not using LinkedIn, or not using it effectively, this inexpensive, quickly read book will get you started. You will learn not only how to improve your own profile and make yourself more “findable”, but how to use the new features and searches to connect to people who can help your career.

I’m also seeing more people, and more different kinds of people, on social networking groups like Facebook. Facebook is almost completely a social site, full of games, interaction, and fun. While it can be a way to deepen a connection with a professional colleague, it can be difficult to decide exactly what, and how much, to share.

And as great as electronic networking tools can be, they are not a substitute for meeting actual people in person, spending time with them, and finding things you have in common. That is what causes real connections, makes you remember them, and might make them remember you.

So make time to have coffee with a friend, lunch with a colleague, or contact an old employer just to catch up. You never know when a casual contact will provide you with a valuable nugget of information, or even better, will give you the chance to help someone else out. Reach out now, when you don’t need anything, and your contacts will be more willing to take your calls when you do need something.

Shall we play a game?

Research has shown that continual learning and exercise keep your brain young. (At least that’s the excuse I use to play too much WordTwist and Scramble on Facebook.)

So, I sometimes invent other games to keep myself occupied when bored, and hopefully stretch myself a little in a new direction. One I’ve been playing lately is “how many jobs were involved in that?” I’ll pick something and try to see how many different jobs I can identify that were involved in creating that product.

Suppose I pick a book. The author is obvious, as are the book seller, shipping and transportation people, printer and paper supplier. Editor is easy, but there may have been a developmental editor, copy editor, marketing manager, and more. Graphic artist or photographer involved in cover design and any images, as well as indexer. Maybe fact checkers (depending on the kind of book) and layout artist. What about the chemist who developed the glue used to hold the pages into the cover?

How many more can you think of? Are any of them interesting enough for you to want to explore them more?

Hello world!

I’ve been collecting career development information for almost 15 years now, as a volunteer career consultant for the American Chemical Society. Over the last 2 years, I collected even more, writing a book on nontraditional careers for chemists. I realized it was not doing anyone any good just sitting in my closet, so I created this blog to share it with the world.

I hope you find some of it useful.