American Chemical Society (ACS) experts have concluded from ACS member surveys that members can expect to hold several jobs during the courses of their careers. These may be for a single employer but are more likely to be for several. The same is likely true of other industrial science and engineering careers. The era of the one-company, 40-year career is over. The employment world has changed dramatically in other ways as well. Hot technical specialties can “cool off ” quickly.
To succeed in this constantly changing career environment, it is best to focus on six lifelong competencies that are transferable from one job to another and from one career to another. These are:
• Have a long-term perspective on your career. Maintain your skills even in areas in which you are no longer active.
• Satisfy your customers’ ever-changing needs.
• Become and remain a creative, effective, and efficient problem solver. This requires developing criticalthinking skills.
• Develop a global perspective. This means developing cultural understanding and sensitivity. Mastering a second language can be a tremendous aid to career development.
• Become and remain motivated and persistent in the face of challenges.
• Live a healthy and balanced life. This is often essential to both career success and personal happiness.
Let’s look at each of these competencies more closely.
Have a long-term perspective
Business and technology needs will change many times during the course of your career. Understanding these needs will enable you to remain flexible and successful. For example, during the mid-1980s the price of crude oil dropped sharply and remained low for more than a decade. In response, the oil industry cut R&D employment sharply. Some flexible scientists and engineers applied the technology they had learned to environmental remediation and continued to have successful careers, albeit in the environmental industry not the petroleum industry.
Sometimes it can also pay to look back as well as forward. For example, a decade ago crude oil prices began rising again. The technologies I mastered during the 1980s became relevant again and extended to new areas such as producing oil and natural gas from low-permeability shale. I had never lost my interest in these technologies and today they constitute a major portion of my consulting business.