Closing the Gap

SPIE builds up its services for early career professionals.
01 October 2006
Beth Huetter
SPIE is increasing efforts to support and promote early career professionals as they get a foothold in their professional lives as well as with the Society.
An early career professional is someone starting his or her first job after graduation, or a person changing careers. This group often faces more challenges than even students or more established SPIE members. Early career professionals are just beginning to form support networks and connections to the industry, and must now find a job, follow business trends, and further improve their skills.
With a great student membership program already in place at SPIE, an early career professional program was a logical progression.
"Our student program has grown from a couple activities to more than 30 student events and more than 80 chapters in just five years," says June Thompson, manager of SPIE Membership Services. "A program for early career professionals is the next step."
SPIE membership among younger people is growing, and the Society felt it was important to get early career members more involved and to provide them with additional support. For example, conference chairs recently began two-year rotations as a way to encourage new committee participants.
Several special events tailored for early career professionals debuted at the Optics & Photonics symposium in August. In the panel discussion, "New Career? Come Get a Head Start," volunteers discussed career strategies for early career professionals. Donald O'Shea, editor of the SPIE journal Optical Engineering, gave a talk about scientific writing and how to get published -- two skills especially important to early career professionals.
Services that have been available for some time are also receiving new attention.

Launched in 2001, SPIEWorks is a website designed for current job seekers and employers, and also offers links to grants, fellowships, and tutorials on scientific writing and presentations.

SPIEWorks isn't just a website for job seekers and employers; the service also hosts career fairs each year at SPIE events.
A new section on the website has been launched called "Great Minds: Advice from the Experts," where members offer words of advice to early career professionals.
"They may give someone exploring their options a brief view of different careers. I hope to expand it," says Allison Romanyshyn, SPIEWorks manager (see sidebar).
Beyond the website, SPIEWorks also offers three career fairs each year -- at Photonics West, Defense & Security, and Optics & Photonics -- where members and recruiters are invited to mingle. Posting jobs the week of these events is free, and job seekers can indicate whether they will be attending the event. According to Romanyshyn, employers will use this information to set up interviews with promising candidates.
SPIE course coordinator John Cain also began offering professional development workshops this year.
"We began by offering one-on-one individual resume consultations through SPIEWorks at a couple of meetings, and quickly realized that I was largely repeating the same information for each student," says Cain. "Certain aspects of resumes for this field are unique, and the workshop addresses these points in some detail."
SPIE plans to build its early career professional program dramatically over the next few years, so stay tuned for future developments.

Penny for Your Thoughts
Think you know a thing or two about what it takes to succeed in the world of optics? E-mail Allison Romanyshyn at and offer your two cents for "Great Minds: Advice from the Experts" on SPIEWorks.

Beth Huetter, SPIE Staff Editor

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