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Dragon's Den

ButhenuthGeoscientists who have been made redundant, or arm-twisted into ‘voluntary retirement’, as well as those still awaiting a first job, know that unemployment can make you feel invisible and unwanted. And the awful truth is, you may well be right.

Being ‘wanted’ part-time can be problem, if it doesn’t pay enough. Part timers may not wish to relinquish what they have, but find their choice of something different is then restricted. A retiree may not be on a final salary pension, and may wish to earn more. So where are these geoscientists, with their experience and undimmed vigour? Being invisible makes them incredibly difficult to reach and help.


Many head first to the Employment Agencies; but the experience can be mixed and dispiriting. It is easy to forget how much you know and love your subject, and that this could be generating income. But how?

Turning expertise and ideas into a service or product means solving four basic problems. First, identify what you know and like, that others will be interested in buying. Second, narrow this down to a product and service that is yours, and yours alone. Third, identify the market and fourth, get to that market.
Solutions to these problems are not simple, but everyone who starts a business benefits from training. Training means avoiding all the wasted effort and resources that we call ‘learning the hard way’.

All manner of ‘career Coaches’ ply their trade online, but scientists and engineers need A different kind of guidance, sorting out ideas for a business that will truly be ‘theirs’. This usually requires a private and personal journey, during which you consider your talents, experience and aspirations. It is often tough and may be disheartening, but tried and tested pointers are there to help you. You are not always the best judge of yourself. You need an outsider who can see you as others do – especially your potential clients.


Those involved with Fellowship and Chartership know that the Society is sensitive to the needs of individual Fellows; there is a will to support them, for they are the Society; and suggestions as to how it can best serve its members come best from the grassroots.

Is there a need, then, for a ‘Self-Employed Geoscientist Group’? This would provide a forum for individuals, who have been successful as single person Limited Companies and sole traders, to pass on their experience to beginners. It would also provide networking and collaboration, and a forum for all those whose employment is not as full as they would wish. It could become a seedbed for spin-outs from other Specialist Groups, and a focus for entrepreneurs looking for “get-up-and-go” geoscientists.
If you think this idea has potential, please let us know at [email protected] marking your email ‘Specialist Group’. With sufficient support, a proposal for forming such a Group can be developed.

*Dr Christine Butenuth (originator of ) and Dr Michael de Freitas, First Steps Ltd.