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Employment Index: STEM professions, updates

This is not me, I swear.

It’s been a long time since I did a post on this subject. That’s because for a very long time, nothing much happened. That’s not to say that I haven’t been busy. I have career counselors who are working hard so that I can get a real, permanent full time job. But it has been all up hill, day after day.

I actually did have a full time job, briefly. But the hours were not conducive to carbon based life forms and the benefits were laughable. I might have stayed there but I could barely pay to keep the lights and wi-fi running. This is what I think the employment statistics are really showing. The jobs out here are baaaaad. Nevertheless, I was in good company. I worked with an archaeologist and a software developer, both of whom were very underemployed.

So, I resigned and have taken a job with a temporary staffing agency. The pay is better, the bennies still subpar. I am *finally* starting to get phone interviews after an 8 month drought.

A couple of people have posted about the STEM profession statistics that lately got a bit of notice. Only 25% of those people with a degree in a STEM profession are employed in their degree field. Quite a few of the people I used to work with are no longer doing research. Some have become adjunct professors, some are teaching in private schools, some are doing medical writing, some real estate, one went to law school. Some went to Cambridge because they were the remnant of our closed facility and got laid off- again. And people ask me why I don’t want to go to Cambridge.

Some other interesting things I have noticed. I have job alerts that are still running from when I set them up in 2011. It looks like the pharma industry is sending weak but faintly detectable signals that it is trying to hire more computational chemists. In particular, I am seeing postings from a large and well known company looking for comp chemists. Of course, you still need a PhD, blah-di-blah-di-blah. Fine, whatever. {{OMG, if I see one more “PhD” requirement for these positions that do not actually require a PhD, I’m going to scream}} But the posting has been out there for more than 30 days with no takers. You would think a headhunter would have found someone by now. Nope. It’s just sitting there unfilled. Not sure what that’s all about.

It could be that there’s some pompous hiring manager who is laying out some unattainable standards and no one looks worthy. Or maybe the most likely to apply are just not into it now. From my own perspective, I’ve been burned- badly– and I am very, very leery of relocating in order to work for a company that was pretty straightforward about its previous massive layoff decisions. Now, if someone wants to contract with me to do work from my home in Pittsburgh, I’m all ears. Or if I only have to show up for facetime once every couple of weeks and do structure based drug design from my home office, that’s cool too. Fortunately, comp chem is the kind of job that makes that easier to do than most chemistry positions. Still, the industry laid off a lot of people in their prime, interrupted their research mid career and told them to fend for themselves. From my own personal experience, I was at my peak performance mentally when I was laid off. Call me a late bloomer. Then I had to shift gears downward because I wasn’t in the same environment nor did I have the same steady stimulation. That induces a state of mental inertia. Ramping back up would be, um, interesting. There would be a lot of catching up to do. Not impossible but it does make one wonder what the point of the last four years of mothballing me was.

The most experienced and smartest among us have mostly gotten on with life in a different job to one degree of success or another. Asking them to get intellectually and emotionally invested in research again with very little guarantee of a lasting career might be asking too much from them, especially when they will probably end up socking the money they make in some conservatively invested fund or hide it under the bed in preparation for the next layoff. If you can’t actually spend the money you make, it does make you wonder whether the job is worth it. Perhaps this will be the lasting damage of Pharmageddon.

The last thing I want to mention is onboarding. This is ridiculous. I have had to fill out papers for a background check that asked me to list every place I have lived since I was 18 years old. If you don’t have a permanent full time position somewhere, the amount of documentation you need to provide to prove you’re not a criminal or lowlife waiting to steal the company’s paper stock is over the top. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to how many background checkpoints you will be asked to provide. A pee test is mandatory and, Ok, fine, you can have my pee. Test away! I am boring when it comes to pee content. But the other stuff? Does a job application have to be this humiliating? Nothing is off limits.

I will say this: elderly people have no idea what the work environment is like these days and I’m going to bet that most senior women do not have the proper documentation to get a job. They will have to be experts at web searching old addresses if they’ve ever moved or changed jobs. They will need to provide all kinds of drivers license information, birth certificates, and social security cards. Every name change has to be properly documented. It’s a giant pain in the ass. Imagine having to show your papers to everyone you meet- all. the. time.

I’m not sure what the purpose of this is. Even lowlifes and ne’erdowells have to have a way of making a living. How does one rehabilitate themselves or mature if these infractions follow you all your life? We’re not just talking about criminal actions, we’re talking about credit checks and stuff. I don’t consider myself a risky employee and it still makes me nervous. Technically, I’m between jobs. I have tendered my resignation from one but my background check isn’t complete for the new one. What happens when the checker confuses me with the person with the same name who has a record like Lindsay Lohan’s? (This has actually happened during a real estate transaction. I was shocked at how much trouble that other Riverdaughter had gotten into. The DWIs were over the top.) Nevertheless, as long as she comes to work sober and does her job, what’s it to the employer?

Anyway, it’s not me! I’ll sign an affidavit if I have to!

So, that’s the update. I hope this saga comes to an end soon. I hate this much paperwork. It’s either endless applications or endless onboarding. One thing is for sure, once you have lost your first class citizen status with a full time job and all the benefits that your employer’s safety umbrella provides, it is very hard to get back in.  It doesn’t matter if the layoff wasn’t your fault, the system seems determined to blame you anyway.

I guess this is the place where I should list all of the applications I have submitted since I started this series. I’ve lost count, honestly. I know that I have applied to one company for 31 positions and have attended several job fairs where they were the starring employer. So far, nada. I have a spreadsheet of applications that I need to update. Let’s just say that it’s a lot. Forgot to mention that I had to prove my Microsoft Office skills. I scored advanced for Word and Excel and I think I am an expert in PowerPoint. But Outlook? WTF?? That should have been a slam dunk and I was only average. Weird. I think there was something wrong with the shortcuts I was using or something. Anyway.

10 Responses

  1. The average modern corporation wants mandarin intelligence and educational attainments for coolie wages. 👿

    • That’s a bit unfair. I’ve worked with a lot of Asian colleagues. They came here for a less oppressive lifestyle and prosperity. I’m sure they’re just as disappointed at the way things have turned out. Many of them have been laid off as well.

      • *sigh* Note to self: avoid metaphors from Asian culture in the future, to reduce the risk of being mistaken for anti-Asian bigot. 🙄

        • No, I totally get your point. It’s just a word from DeadWood days. But in this case, I actually have worked with them and they’re us now. I’m not going to get into sensitivity training or anything. The problem is that at the same time we’re laying off Asian scientists who have been here for decades, we’re replacing them with cheaper knockoffs. It’s not fair to either group.

  2. I feel like I know you, Qqvl. Have we met?

  3. No. Do you know many GE999 fans? o_o

  4. I think a better possibility is that PhD job left open really isn’t open. Some companies have openings just to look like they’re hiring. Or to collect resumes. Or just to see if the perfect candidate applies. It’s something I’ve realized with my own extreme underemployment, but it’s also listed here.


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