The Value of Informational Interviews
People love to talk about themselves, which
is why informational interviews are a low-
stress and fun way to find a job. Informational
interviews can help you decide which jobs,
companies, etc., best suit you, find jobs that
are not advertised, and expand your network.
Use your network to identify contacts. You
can even call the corporate headquarters and
say, “I am a student looking for career advice. Could you please
give me contact information for the person in charge of the
chemistry lab?” People are flattered to be asked, and will usually
go out of their way to answer a few brief questions. Give a brief
overview of your strengths and interests (not your résumé —
that is for applying for a specific job), and ask about the sorts of
jobs you are suited for. Find out what they look for when hiring,
what advice they have for you, if they know of any openings,
and if they can recommend others whom you could interview.
Thank them, and then send a thank-you card in the mail. This is
how I got my dream job!
Posted by Kurt
You’re Selling Yourself
Pursuing a job is similar to selling a product.
You’ve got to understand the product (
yourself) and then sell the features and benefits
to the purchaser (the employer).
Consider what you did in any previous
position (even volunteer or part-time) or in
class research, and then present details
that are relevant to the specific prospective
employer. Make a realistic analysis of your education, and pres-
ent meaningful highlights and accomplishments along the way.
Oh, and don’t forget the most important part of what makes up
your personal “product”: you.
How do you stand out? We are all special in our own way.
Maybe you are very hands-on/mechanical, or you can draw.
Do you have a language or cultural skill, or maybe even a fine
sense of smell/taste? Were you a”‘human GC” in your qualitative analysis class? That might put you on track as a flavorist or
fragrance developer, as an example. Tell your whole story and
vary it gauged to what will most interest an individual employer.
Remember: an attractively packaged product gets the buyer’s
attention first. Make it good, and after you make a great first
impression, they will want to see more of you, and in their
be prepared to explain to a prospective employer how you meet
the requirements for a potential position. The reference should
have a current copy of the résumé you sent to the company, and
a sense of the position description and what interests you about
Choose people who will honestly speak highly of you.
References from people who are highly respected in the chemical field are beneficial. Having been involved in interactions with
your references also helps. Some companies have employee
referral programs that encourage employees to recommend
outside candidates for open positions. This “indirect” reference is
one of the best references you can have.
Instructors, undergraduate research directors, and guidance
counselors who have observed your work and have seen you
work on teams to complete projects and assignments can be
references. Coaches, staff, club or activity advisors, and administrators who have encountered you demonstrating workplace
and leadership skills are also possible references.
Be sure to confirm that each person you choose as a reference will provide a good reference for you and be readily available. I suggest accumulating a master list of six references
from which to choose, along with their contact information: the
person’s full name, title, professional affiliation, professional
address, professional e-mail, telephone number, and relationship to you.
When company officials receive a reference list with your
résumé, some choose to contact them immediately — even
before the interview. Others use the reference list at the same
time they do due diligence on candidates with verifying services
and the Internet. Either way, this list, if assembled with care and
sent to hiring managers and contacts, will do its job to get you
Posted by Dan
Who Are Your References?
Developing personal references for your
résumé is a lifelong activity that should begin
now, as an undergraduate. You need to main-
tain an active list of people who can provide
potential recommendations for graduate
school or when you enter the job market.
A reference should know your strengths and
samina azad is a senior scientist and supervisor in R&D at Steris
Corporation in Mentor, OH.
lisa m. BalBes, of Balbes Consultants, is a freelance technical writer
and author of Nontraditional Careers for Chemists, published by Oxford
University Press (2007). She blogs on Career Development for Scientists.
peter Bonk has worked in industry for more than 25 years and is currently
head of chemistry at CSCS Corporation in Warwick, RI.
kurt headrick is chief chemist for Vale Inco Labrador Operations in
Goose Bay, Newfoundland, Canada.
tony (aV) metzer is a technical/marketing consultant and principal of
Magma Resources. Based in Murray Hill, NJ, he is engaged in applied chemistry, engineered systems, and commercial development in the process, water,
environmental, and separations technology fields.
dan eustace is an adjunct at the University of Connecticut who has more
than 30 years of experience in applied research and development, project
management, health, safety and environmental protection, and manufacturing