Dr. Madhura Pade (Materia Inc., An ExxonMobil Subsidiary)
For most new graduates, the first six months at a new job are equal parts interesting, crucial, and nerve-wrecking. These first six months give you an insight into your new employer and how they “work”— organization, policies, chain of command, people in your team and outside, and overall dynamic between different teams and people— while teaching you some important life lessons along the way.
The first few days and “On-boarding”
Every new employee has to go through a standard “on-boarding” process with set expectations— meetings, reading, training, etc. First few days at your new job generally involve introductions with your supervisor, teammates, and new colleagues, depending on the structure of the company. Simultaneously, you will probably spend some time on setting up your desk i.e., spending time with the IT department to set up your computer, email, access to important/ relevant data and literature files/ folders, installation of apps, etc.
Initiation and Goal-Setting
Once the initial set up is complete in a couple of days, you will be inundated with past research activities, technical reports, and literature articles! Not just reading, you will also be invited to “initiation” meetings, usually with their supervisor and/or team, to discuss project requirements—goals (short and long-term), expectations, future work, etc. For industry jobs, companies usually hire people with project-relevant expertise, having already secured funding for the project. Funds are allocated to teams according to the company’s goals. For research and development teams, in the short term, the team is expected to generate successful and usable data to show viability of the research, which is then be used to either continue the project or secure more funding to expand scope of the project. In cases where the funding comes from different state-wide or national agencies, writing grants may be required as research work progresses. Along with reading and understanding technical information and general literature exploration, another important step of the “on-boarding” process is safety training. All companies that deal in chemicals usually have a set of required training modules that need to be completed prior to starting actual laboratory work.
Working in the Lab and on Projects
Once the required administrative and safety-related steps are completed, focus then shifts to actual lab work— experiments, data collection, data analysis, and report writing. Depending on the size and type of the company, part of the lab activities can also include training on different instruments. Lot of work-related duties depend on type and size of the company and the position for which you are hired. For example, for a research chemist at a big company, your job will revolve around planning and conducting experiments to develop new products that have the potential to expand the company’s portfolio. Once you make candidate products, the samples are passed on to the team that handles testing. The testing team will conduct the tests you requested and pass that data to you. Then, your next task will be to analyze the data and write a technical reports. At a small company, you may have to wear multiple hats at once— make the candidate products, test them, analyze data, and compile technical reports.
Not just technical work, the first six months teach you vital professional lessons such as soft skills, teamwork, time management, and multi-tasking. You learn to adapt to new professional surroundings in a short period of time. With constant interactions with teammates and colleagues, you quickly learn about different personalities and how to deal with them professionally and communicate effectively. Overall, the first six months at a new job are a great learning experience for skills that are required for a successful professional career.