Chemistry GRAD alum (’20) Christopher Junk recently lunched with a group of graduate students to discuss his unique career path following academia. He provided insights on networking and advice to the group, who are beginning to explore next steps in their own careers, based upon his experiences.
Junk is a first-gen grad, meaning the first in his family to attend a four-year college, whose research work focused on fluorine chemistry. He attended a small liberal arts college, where his advisor’s connection led him to work with Professor David Lemal at Dartmouth. While Junk admitted that he did find graduate school difficult at first, he appreciated the breadth of the curriculum and the research opportunities available to him. Junk noted that if he could have done anything different during graduate school, it would have been to travel more and to collaborate more.
During his talk, he particularly stressed the importance of networking—something many graduate students are unwilling to do—as the working world is very interdisciplinary and requires communication between people from all manner of backgrounds. Highlighting the importance of collaboration, Junk pointed out that there is no reason to work hard on your own, if one can collaborate and increase their efficiency to solve a problem. However, as a self-professed introvert, he did recognize that networking can be very difficult at times. He also noted that imposter syndrome will never go away, but it’s important to remember it’s only a perception that doesn’t have to be your reality.
To overcome such obstacles towards networking and collaborating, Junk highly recommended understanding one’s own personality (e.g. taking a Myers Briggs test), stress behavior (how one deals with stress), and needs (e.g. Junk knows to budget his energy if he needs to network), to be able to deal with situations that could be personally difficult.
These strategies helped Junk find a position at DuPont after graduation, but when the company went through massive changes in 2015, he started his own consulting company, CJIdeas. In this new role, he uses many well-developed soft skills to grow his business, including telephone skills, likening the conversation as a pitch where you need to convince the person on the line of why they would want to work with you as soon as you get on the phone. Despite being an introvert, Junk favors meeting people in person and highlighted the benefits of being able to read the person’s body language and personality, which eliminates misunderstandings that can occur when communicating by email or phone.
Throughout the talk, Junk emphasized the need for a healthy work-life balance, and an understanding of the fact that any job is temporary—especially now since the model of a one-job career life is mostly gone. As a scientist-turned-entrepreneur, Junk strongly encouraged the students to understand their own personalities and start to identify what their specialties are to form a personally tailored career path.
Dr. Junk is happy to correspond with any current grads, postdocs, or Guarini alumni. He can be reached through his LinkedIn page.