I get asked from time to time about how to become a cosmetic scientist. I have already talked about what kinds of qualifications you might need. But I think there is an assumption that the only way into this line of work is to get a job. That is what I did and what most of the people I know did too. But the world moves on and I wonder whether that is still the only way. Indeed, is it even the best way? I can certainly think of some big drawbacks to having a job as a scientist, and some of them apply to pretty much any kind of job. Here are five reasons not to get a job.
1. It isn’t safe. If you work for a company you are totally dependent on them for your income. If they decide they don’t need you any more you lose your monthly cheque.
2. No Control over your career development. As a scientist you enter the job market with a fair whack of very useful skills. But there is still a heck of a lot more that you don’t have. You are going to have to learn a lot of different stuff if you want to be really useful, and if your company or your manager aren’t sympathetic this is going to be a struggle.
This doesn’t just apply to things like training courses and attending shows and conferences. If you want to improve your skills over time, there is no other way than to keep careful notes of what you do. You should have files on all the raw materials you come into contact with. You should write reports of what you have done. Even things like making sure you get everyone you deal with’s phone number so you get in touch with them again if you need to are really important in making you productive. Your current manager is unlikely to see things this way and will be much happier if you just get on with the short term priorities.
Management Guru Peter Drucker once wrote “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” This is true in spades for scientific work, and certainly for development work.
3. Too many projects. A development project is a demanding thing which is both stretching and exhilarating. There is nothing quite so satisfying as delivering a great product after all the hard work and problem solving it involves. You can sometimes do a couple at the same time. Half a dozen? That changes everything. You now have no chance of doing a good job and are perpetually late on delivering.
4. Management. Managers don’t do anything. If they stuck to that, they would at least not do any harm. Many of them however insist on telling other people what to do, and this is where the trouble starts. Developing new products means doing new things and learning new skills. It really needs your full attention, and you need to be ready to change everything you had planned if it turns out that your assumptions were wrong. They usually are.
Managers hate this sort of thing. They like things predictable and preferably typed up neatly in regular reports.
Managers are always a time consuming distraction from getting the job done well. They can often be the major obstacle to product development adding months to timelines and even sabotaging the project altogether.
If you can find a way of doing development work without a manager, you will be able to develop much better products.
5. Office Politics. Like all other organisations, companies are full of people and where there are people there are rivalries, plots and scheming. Scientists aren’t actually much like Sheldon Cooper in the Big Bang Theory. They just as prone to this sort of behaviour as other humans. But they generally aren’t as good as these sorts of games as less technical but more savvy folks. As a result, the boffins usually come out worse from this kind of thing.
So while I recommend the job of being a cosmetic scientist, I have distinctly mixed feelings about the wisdom of getting a job. In a future post I’ll look at the alternatives.