Just before turning 30, after working for two chemical manufacturing companies, I was headhunted and offered a tremendous job opportunity with a large salary increase and company car. I did not accept the position, as it would have meant leaving the chemical sector. The rest of my career, I decided, would be built around the word ‘chemistry.’
Shortly afterwards I accepted a plant manager position in Winnipeg with Dustbane Enterprises, the nation’s largest fully integrated janitorial chemical and industrial equipment company. I soon moved to Ottawa to oversee Dustbane’s laboratory services and product research. I also joined the board of directors of a national chemical trade association and served one term as chair.
My early career would not have advanced as successfully without the vast network I developed and the experience I gained by staying in the chemical community. My work responsibilities and titles evolved from laboratory technician to research chemist, plant manager to general manager, eventually attaining marketing and administrative executive roles.
There is no other organization in the country that will help you develop your own network better than the Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC), no matter what stage you are at in your career. The CIC has deep roots, starting at the community level and moving up to the international level. It is a place for friendship and professional advancement for students, early- and mid-career chemists and even those poised to retire.
How to start? During your university education, become involved with a CIC local section and gain insight from members with experience in outreach, career, technical and social events. Your CIC membership and experience on executive committees are valuable additions to your curriculum vitae, communicating career drive and management potential to future employers.
Attend the two largest annual chemical conferences in Canada, both organized by the CIC. The Canadian Society for Chemistry’s Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition draws more than 2,500 delegates while the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering’s (CSChE) Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference attracts more than 1,000. Listen to plenary and keynote speakers to discover what opportunities the future holds. Approach speakers and audience members with your career-related questions. Consider that almost all of the 60 exhibitor companies employ chemical scientists and engineers and that they are always on the lookout for new technical and marketing people.
Finally, consider the value of the CIC subject divisions and forums. The CSChE Process Safety Management (PSM) division runs a three-day symposium attended by many industrialists; career people in this specialty are the third highest-paid professionals in the United Kingdom. (Canada would be right up there too.) Spend three days with 50-plus PSM leaders and you are bound to strike up a professional relationship. In any given three-year timeframe, the CIC has more than 200 companies that sponsor and participate in our programs and activities. They all have an awareness of the CIC and its chemical scientists and engineers.
SCI Canada, the business forum of the CIC, also presents opportunities. It runs, in conjunction with the Canadian Green Chemistry and Engineering Network, the annual Green, Clean and Sustainable Chemistry seminar. Time spent with these chemical entrepreneurs will benefit you far better than Internet searches.
Connectivity played an enormous role in my career success; I would be pleased to meet with you to discuss how networking can help develop yours.
Roland Andersson is the executive director of the Chemical Institute of Canada. Respond to his column at firstname.lastname@example.org.