Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wanted: Chemistry Life Coach

Clicking around on LinkedIn yesterday, I ran across a promoted blog post by Fast Company, titled "8 Signs You've Found Your Life's Work." I thought, 'Hey, that sounds a lot like me,' and checked it out. Written in flowery motivational-ese, it says a lot without saying much. And the writer? Owns her own self-help firm. [Sigh]

Life. Yeah, there's an app for that.
Can anyone tell me when the "life coaching" industry vaulted into the popular ethos? I understand that Benjamin Franklin and Dale Carnegie got things going, and Stephen Covey's Seven Habits sprung partially from these works. Web 2.0 allowed a leveled playing field and hyper-democratization; anyone with a smartphone and 15 minutes became a self-proclaimed guru. Thus, we now have Lifehacker, a blog devoted to using software and gadgets to improve oneself, and even an app (Epic Win) where you transform humdrum activities into a video game (While playing E.W. you earn "XP" for completing daily tasks, and unlock prizes and boss fights for 'quests' such as washing your clothes or getting to work on time).

Waxing on motivation brought to mind some particularly grueling grad school moments. There wasn't always much time for foresight or personal development, what Seven Habits might have called "Quadrant 2" activities. But instead of writing essays, taking personality quizzes, or structuring schedules, what if we could get some useful career advice?
Then it hit me: Chemistry Life Coaches!  Here's a potential example:
Client: "So, uh, how do I become a better chemist?" 
Life Coach: "Write more papers. Read literature. Give posters."
(See, the job basically writes itself!)

Seriously, though, who do you ask for advice about professional scientific development? Your grad school mentor? C&EN articles? Former bosses? Grad-school buddies?

Let's see - 'Symposia for Dummies,' Chapter 1...
Perhaps the blogosphere fills that role for now - Chemjobber has a good thing going, and I've certainly seen Ash and ChemBark post about some soul-searching topics. I also note that ACS hosts quite a few development webinars and events at National Meetings. I'd argue, though, that there's still quite a vacuum to fill with trustworthy advice and "how-to" booklets.

So who'll step forward to create "Labhacker?" "Epic Tenure?" Write that first book, "How to Succeed in Chemistry (While Really Trying)?"

I'll be waiting.


  1. 1) Test comment.

    2) Thanks for the plug.

    3) You could really imagine this being a great job for a smart, independently employed chemist.

  2. I'd like to write "Who Moved My Chromium III?"

  3. Thanks for the plug. By this token I would think that Carl Sagan was the ultimate science coach. Maybe we can start on some motivational volumes of our own, starting with "How to Win Grants and Influence Committees"

    1. There are quite a few of these books out there actually. Maybe not specifically for chemistry people- but for scientists. I've seen several on the book list for Technical Communication. Now- this is a bit different because some of these people are trained communication people- and their input is helpful. However, you get little flaws in their work- like telling people to always write in the active tense instead of passive tense. (Are journal articles still in passive tense? I learned this in '95/'96 when I took o-chem.) I'm a bit out of the loop on publishing formal research. I'm assuming passive tense is still relevant.

  4. Maybe it's something that can be built by piecing together everyone's experience... why wait for a single guru if technology and internet allows us to do something better :)

    1. I agree with this. If loads of chemists posted a short piece on what they do, how they got there, and why they do/don't enjoy it, then people in education, or fed up with their job, can look through them, see what they find interesting, and learn how to get there from someone who's already done it.

      Anyone thing that'd work?

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