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TL;DR: My current position does not afford me the opportunity to gain experience in some tasks that are viewed as standard junior level tasks for my industry. How does this affect my chances of getting a job with the same title/responsibilities at a different company?

Introduction

For the past 2.5 years, I have worked as a contractor as a junior/early career geologist at a small company that provides onsite technical support/assistance to a United States federal agency. I have done fairly well in my capacity as a geologist and the government PM (who I essentially report to) at this federal agency holds me in high regard with respect to my abilities, competency, and work ethic (said PM is vocal of their satisfaction and has encouraged me to apply to vacant federal positions within the agency).

With all this being said, my job responsibilities as an early career geologist in some respects are quite different when compared to say someone who is a junior geologist with the same years of experience as me but at a different company. A general example of this might be: A geologist is expected to log cuttings/cores produced from drilling wells. This is generally considered to be the real first step in working toward a senior geologist position in industry, while I as a geologist with the same years of experience am expected to observe/oversee the execution of this logging/fieldwork while never having performed this task professionally myself. As my education has given me the training and skill-sets to understand the "ins and outs" of drilling and logging and how it should be performed/executed, to me it doesn't seem inappropriate for me to observe/oversee this task. That being said, I have never performed drilled/logged professionally nor will I ever been give the opportunity in my current position.

It should be noted that my time in this position has also given me a lot of responsibilities that only mid to senior level geologist/scientists are tasked with. The flip-side to this is that in being given nontraditional roles and responsibility as a junior staff, I have not been given some of the more traditional junior geologist duties that most people with my time and experience are given.

Problem

It is likely that my contract will not be renewed in the coming year and as such I am looking to secure new employment as a early career geologist but at a different company. I am looking to stay in the same industry as well.

I have applied to multiple junior/early career geologist openings that are commensurate with my experience,education, and training at various other companies but as of yet, I have not secure new employment. I have interviewed a few times but no offers.

Question

What is the likelihood that my nontraditional career beginnings will have a negative affect on my chances of getting a job as a early career geologist at a different company in the same industry?

Further Clarification:

1: I work in the environmental remediation industry.

Edit

Added more details relating to my job position, title, and country.

  • Have you applied to said vacant federal positions within the agency? – Ben Barden Apr 17 at 20:48
  • Worth noting that this is highly dependent on what field you are a Worker in (and the country). Some fields are much more flexible than others about such things. Questions like "Are there lots of jobs that are similar to but distinct from the core job of my discipline?", "Is it possible to jump up to a leadership position without a firm grounding in the fundamentals?" and similar are very important to you here, and at least somewhat field-dependent. – Ben Barden Apr 17 at 20:50
  • @BenBarden I have applied for positions, unfortunately it is very difficult to be hired by this agency due to a set of very particular hiring practices that do not work in my favor. – LeakyAquitard Apr 17 at 20:58
  • @BenBarden I work in the environmental remediation industry – LeakyAquitard Apr 17 at 20:59
  • I will say that you're being very cagey, and I don't think you need to be. All you're revealing here about yourself is that your work experience has been somewhat nonstandard (though not inherently bad) and that you expect that your contract is going to collapse and take your job with it, so you're looking for something new. Editing the post to include your country and field is going to be of significant benefit as far as figuring out how to help you, and even in the small chance that someone who knows you identifies you, seems unlikely to do you significant damage. – Ben Barden Apr 17 at 21:02
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Unfortunately for you, there aren't all that many people on this site who are either geologists or in environmental remediation, so you're unlikely to get much in the way of field-specific information. That having been said, there are some more general techniques and insights that you might find useful.

The first thing is that no one is going to see your current experience as a black mark. It means that you have somewhat less experience in particular tasks. That means that if you're looking at a job focused around those tasks, you won't have as much experience in those tasks, and may need to settle for a position that doesn't fully reflect your number of years. This is potentially annoying, but as worst-case-scenarios go, it's not terrible... and when it comes time to move up to a higher-tier position, you can reach back and leverage your existing observation and management skills better.

The second thing is that you have specific niche experience as an auditor/overseer that is far beyond what a geologist of your years would normally have. As you've discovered, there is a market for entry-level and junior-level auditors/overseers. If you're happy to keep doing the sorts of things you've been doing, your resume and references are excellent for that, and the only question is whether or not that specific job market niche is large enough for you to consistently find jobs in it. Other similar roles might be as a direct assistant to a senior-level geologist who was fulfilling the standard senior-level role for a particularly large organization, as a budget pick for a government contractor who wanted some degree of oversight but didnt' want to pay for a more experienced geologist, and so forth.

The third thing is that you have been demonstrating a number of skills that employers tend to find generally useful and valuable. You've likely shown abilities in organization, generation of reports, establishing and maintaining customer relations, and so forth. Having a resume that leans heavily on those skills might get you hired for roles that are more on the administration side while petering off on the pure geology side, but it will get you hired. You're going to have to figure out how much that matters to you. Are you willing to write proposals for geology-themed contracts? What percentage of your time at work are you willing to have consist of writing proposals for geology-themed contracts?

Finally, there's the advice I give everybody, when you're looking for a job. Tell a story. Potential employers are going to look at your resume, look at your coverletter (if there is one), hear your spiel (if you have a chance to give one in person) and possibly stalk you online at least a little. From that, they're going to assemble in their head an idea of who you are as a person and as an employee. That idea is what they're going to base a hire/no-hire decision on. To get out ahead of that game, look at what is true about you, figure out a true story from that information that shows them that you are what they want to hire, and then make sure that the information you present sells that story. Based on what you've written here, I'd bet that you could easily tweak your resume description of your current job, and come up with at least three very different (all true) stories about what kind of a job it was, and what that implies about you as an employee (and, by extension, which employers might be interested in you for which positions). Of course, you shouldn't sell yourself to a job that you don't want. If you're telling a story about yourself, make sure that it's one you're willing to live if and when they take you.

  • Agreed. Overseeing, and taking responsibility for the results of, scientific tasks is just as valuable to employers as doing those tasks yourself. Believe me: If (heaven forbid) there's scientific corner-cutting in those tasks, you'll be blamed! As part of your quality responsibility, you could (given time and other resources) take it on yourself to repeat some of those tasks to reproduce the results. – O. Jones Apr 22 at 10:31

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