One respondent tells chemical industry professionals to be creative -- it aint the old days. Look to innovate using new trends that provide a very measurable value in the bottom line. Nobody can argue with hard, quantitative dollar results that are a result of creativity and hard work. Do not be fooled; upper-tier management demands better salaries for their very tangible top performers. Set goals and have a personal career strategy that benefits you and your company.
Piggy-backing on that suggestion is this one from another respondent: Find a company niche and be proactive in promoting it. To most senior managers, the job market is full of commodity-type employees, not niche players.
It is also becoming increasingly important to understand the business side of things in addition to the technical side. Be flexible, and learn as much as possible. Become an expert, and think customer service, a respondent says.
You reap what you sow, says another respondent. The agricultural chemical industry has gone through a massive consolidation during the past five years, so the key job opportunities have become even scarcer. If you have a passion to work in this industry, then you have a shot of moving up and becoming a major player.
A changing field
Of course, the sector of the industry in which youre employed plays a big part in your prospects. The pharmaceutical sector appears to be an area of growth, which can correlate with higher salaries and larger raises (Figure 2). The pharmaceutical field has been challenging, rewarding and educational, says one respondent. Also, I have found some measure of job security in this field.
Another says, In my case, its the oil and gas field, i.e., upstream or E&P [exploration and production]. Now is a great time to join: Capital spending is up, companies are hiring engineers and scientists; the work is very challenging; and the pay and benefits are generally very good relative to most industries.
More and more, though, some of the once-lucrative chemical industry jobs are moving overseas. The traditional chemical and petrochemical industries are mature -- at least in the West, says one respondent. Unless you want to live in exotic places (not travel, live), get into biotech or materials engineering, e.g., nanotech materials. They are exciting, growing fast and are challenging fields.
Translation: learn languages
Migrating overseas oftentimes presents an additional hurdle: talking the talk. Learn to speak another language (e.g.: Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, French, German, Japanese) in addition to English, a respondent says.
Language isnt only important to those who work overseas, but can be a tool to help you earn a higher salary here in the United States. Be sure to take composition and technical writing classes in college, one respondent advises. The ability to write effectively greatly improves your earning potential.
The chemical industry continues to be a good place to work, say our respondents. More than one-fifth are very satisfied with their jobs; nearly half say they are satisfied (Figure 4).
Some employees are once again feeling bold enough to reassess their compensatory situations and look for new job opportunities as the country emerges from the recession, however, lingering threats of layoffs and offshoring continue to dim opportunities for some (Figure 5).
Chemical industry professionals can always tweak their skills to boost their value to employers; the trick is getting your employer to pay you what youre worth, which is another article in itself.
Money isnt everything
Even if youre not making the money youd like right now, its important to remember that salary is just one component of job satisfaction. Almost 44% say challenging work is the main reason people give for being satisfied (Table 3).
|What makes your work satisfying?||Percentage responses|
|Salary and benefits||17.5|
|Recognition by employer and peers||12.6|
Salary has never been the most important issue in my career, a respondent says. Interesting and challenging assignments have always been more important.
Despite setbacks, many continue to be optimistic about the industrys potential. There are now, and likely will continue to be, many solid career opportunities for engineers in the chemical industry, a respondent says.
When I was younger (in my 20s), I was always apprehensive about the future and my opportunities, another adds. In hindsight, everything worked out and I can now look back on my career at its midpoint with a great deal of satisfaction.