From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

June 2016
« May    
Watch-Outs. 97. Helium discovery, Jobs-computers-automation, and Impact of Sweet Chemicals
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Post-docs, Observ. Trends, Undergraduate majors, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 11:12 am

There is a section of Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s book
Second Machine Age that reviews the term “technological
“  It is attributed to the use of human labor
not finding application in the emerging economy and finds
causes from inelastic demand (machines, robots and computers
replacing and not taking breaks in fault-tolerant activities),
people not adapting to skill needs  and long term cost
reductions.  Two recent articles speak to recent job loss
in the chemical enterprise and the perspective from a
different field, economics.

I cannot think of another situation where there is
big news of finding an unexpected source of a
needed chemical other than rare earth elements
in China..  This time it is helium.

Food science resources that might help us
manage chronic diseases seem to be rare.  The
resources we see available are mostly proponents of
use or pharma companies for encouraging various
drug candidate use.  Here is one on sweeteners that
should be shared widely.

SOURCES:  J. Bessen HBR 2016, “Computers Don’t
Kill Jobs but increase Inequality

                      The Economist, 6-25-2016 “Special Report:
Artificial Intelligence

                      Dolan, Detroit Free Press,  “Dow to cut
700 Jobs in Central Michigan

Despite simple explanations that computers are growing
jobs due to new applications and broader usage, the
story is not as clear as Bessen writes.  You cannot
predict what you should learn and additionally, academics
are generally a technology generation behind actual
usage.  The Economist special section covers briefly
what is known and gives more up to date detail that
many fields are continuously evolving with new AI
methods ie ‘deep learning software available on open
source basis.’

Dow recently announced job losses in the chemical
enterprise that will have ripple effects as they “rationalize
their labor force needs”.   Sure there are business priorities
globalization will play a role as information can be shared
instantaneously and worked on anywhere in the world.
so you can see technical experts with advanced expertise
surviving, but there is much uncertainty for those seeking
full time, longer term employment.

The Economist series places one leg on each side of the
fence (pro and con), but you should look for areas of
opportunity (what robots and computers cannot do).

The longer term ripple effect of Dow-DuPont acquisition
and spin-offs are a visible example that the chemical
enterprise is not immune from this despite what popular
literature tries to sell.

SOURCE:  NYTimes feed “Huge Helium Source found in Africa
I was somewhat aware of the shortage of helium used
in many advanced technologies from Nick Leadbeater.
Working with Helium One, a Norwegian exploration firm
Oxford geologists uncovered a gas field rich in helium.
It is material released from rocks due to volcanic heat
in adjacent rocks.  The finding is of large commercial
value and may lead to testing other similar formations
goldilocks zones“.

There are important implications for industry.

SOURCE:  S Ernst, Amer. Laboratory, “Sweet Tooth”
 June/July 2016 p. 6-7.
Ernst’s article on Sweet tooth captured my interest.
and led me to look at  There are
a number of metabolic tendencies that may the result
of food formulations that attract customers to purchase
and ingest what may not be best for them.  The website
seems to be a terrific repository of reviewed information
not biased by organizations that profit from its content.

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Preparing for Career Paths in Grad School
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Mentoring, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 7:35 am

In the past seminars have been offered about “other documents
[realizing as Don Straits has indicated that often we need to
convert an uninterested reader to an interested reader] and
dealing with uncertainty” in our lives [where we referred to a
matrix that identifies what we might do if we feel anxious, confused,
frustrated or stuck].
While these are helpful in certain aspects of career development,
we are looking to address things we can do in graduate school to
gain skills and prepare for career paths.

For this seminar I thought it helpful to review some trends,
review psychological factors that influence our decisions and
talk about the concept of professional presence.  What I think
might be meaningful for the audience will be to highlight several
Mind organizing tools reviewed in Daniel Levitin’s book,
The Organized Mind. ”

- shift the burden of organizing to the external, learn the
patterns that already exist and build on them
- encode new information with mental discipline tricks–
spell a new name, formulate an association strategy
- learn and value the “daydreaming mode of thinking”
- searching and filtering
- blend in organizing home, personal and social lives,
time and business.

Today’s graduate education is so often concentrated on
the technical literature devoid of application and a notable
absence of practical psychology of what it is like being a
professional… shall we call it meta-science?

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Watch-Outs. 96. Credit Card Use, 2016 Fortune Rankings
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 7:44 pm

No one tells you that when you are out of state or country, your
credit card may be rejected for a purchase.  It is helpful to have
a second card handy and available and to notify the credit card
company of foreign or out of state purchases/travel and when
there is a sizable purchase.

The world of commerce and business can be modeled and projected.
Nonetheless, models are always approximations and usually wrong.
So, when looking for positions good mentors point to looking at
the real data and emerging trends.  Two sources are this month’s
Fortune magazine and a ground breaking book by Brynjolfsson and
McAfee about the second machine age which points out so many
things about the growth and decline of career paths, companies and
the job market itself.

We were traveling 3000 miles away from home.  We had stayed at
a hotel where we charged our room and I believe we had charged
a meal purchase.  Marriott Card

Then we stopped to fill the gas tank and charged the purchase.  Our
Fidelity and AAA VISA cards where rejected.   We learned that
international purchases, electronics or jewelry purchases, credit
 card balance [for those who carry a balance]. expiration date or
security code errors, expired credit card, gas or rental car charges
[especially if out of state or there is no credit delinquency in your
history],  can lead to card rejection.

Fortunately we had a Marriott Rewards Visa that was accepted.
Lesson Learned:  Call your 800 number on your card before your
trip, telling the operator where you planned to travel.

As a result, we needed to call the two card companies that rejected
the purchase to reinstate the accounts.

SOURCE:  Fortune, June 15, 2016 “Fortune 500 Lists” of
Companies and Industries.
This issue is a must for job seekers who wish to consider a
corporate career path.  First glimpse at Pp. 16-17 which
shows the “profitability of different industry segments” from
1995 - 2016.  The energy sector has taken a major nosedive
from top to bottom in the last 2 years.  Three sectors that
consistently led the pack are financials, technology and
healthcare.  This does not mean there are no jobs in energy
or sectors not in favor.

Brynjolfsson and McAfee have written about the second machine
age that we see upon us with sustained exponential improvements
in digital technologies and areas of commerce that use and
benefit from digitization, winners-take-all economy, and
the new ranking of fields, leaders and superstars.

P. F29 - F36 gives industry sector rankings of companies.
P. F37 - F42 gives ranking based in each US state

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Job Offer. Background checks, Persistence, and Professional Way to Turn down an offer
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Job Offer (Situations), First Year on Job, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 3:23 pm

A colleague was encouraged by her PI to apply for a postdoctoral
associate (PA) position.  She was screened and traveled to an on-site
interview.   She reported back that the interviews went quite well
and she was optimistic.  Soon after (less than a week), an offer letter
came for a one-year appointment as PA.  The first paragraph also
included starting date, annual salary of $42K, the supervisor’s name
and proviso that a background check was a precondition.
[There were usual links to policies and benefits.]

My follow-up comments to her included:
- congratulations, but keep looking
- concerns about inserting phrases in the offer letter about learning
what they find in the background check, following Al Sklover
The “Background-Check” Provision in Offer Letters –
A Risk You Should Try to Reduce
- critical review of the starting salary using ACS salary comparator.
[$42K is at the 30 percentile of such offers.]

Initial back and forth negotiations said nothing could be done with
salary, but relocation assistance would cover all expenses.  No
support for green card application was forthcoming but they
understood the background check concern as her name is common
and could easily lead to confusion in such checks.  She approved
the offer and signed the document.

Not two weeks later did she attend another conference and met
an entrepreneur who invited her to come for an interview for a
position that looked even better than the post-doc.

She was encouraged to pursue the position.  She had two separate
interviews and dinner with the firm’s president.  The result was
a very nice offer, more than $20K higher, with a series of positive
incentives (including assistance with obtaining a green card). 
The problem was that she had accepted a post-doc offer.
Can you go back and turn down an offer to accept a better one?

Yes!  It is entirely feasible.  Yet, it is important to respond
professionally on both offers. Review the second job offer diligently
and confirm the offer details and starting arrangements (like
background check as, above).  Then, practice a turn down
conversation with the first supervisor.  Have all the details ready
and professionally articulated.
Then, do it in person, not via an email.

Her follow-up:
“I thought phone would be better and direct rather than just sending
an email.  As mentioned in this article you just sent, Dr. …. said that
my decision is certainly not convenient for them.  But he appreciated
that I called in a timely manner and discussed the situation.  He
realized that my preference has always been to work in industry, and
this job sponsors me for work authorization in the US.  I also told him
that I would be happy to help them in finding the best candidate for their
position.  So, in the end, he wished me best luck for my future career.

…After the phone conversation, I sent an email to the HR person …
acknowledge her and let her know my decision.  So she won’t [proceed
with other paperwork.”

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Professional Behavior. Psychology background on Decisions- Dan Ariely
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Job Offer (Situations), Mentoring, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 2:14 pm

One of the books I have read recently was “Predictably Irrational
by Dan Ariely, ‘The hidden forces that shape our decisions.’

Three concepts were revealing in understanding certain decisions
we make
1. arbitrary coherence that directs preconceptions
2. market norms and social norms influencing what is considered
in explaining resolving conflicts
3. how ownership pervades our life and shapes many things we do.

Arbitrary coherence signifies an anchoring effect (being first to set a
price or cost or salary) that encroaches on our minds for decisions. 
Considering where this preconception arises and how irrational it
may be can allow us to bypass this habit of mind.  (think:  negotiation
and other numerical choices)

The most telling concept for me was the difference and impacts of
market and social norms on decisions
.  Social norms seem to be
common in collective cultures.  It results in collaborations that lead
to a benefit to one person or group and builds on a social relationship.

Market based norms are revealed when money is involved and you
feel like you get what you pay for.  It can be controlled by contracts
or involved when rewards are given that have a certain monetary value
or equivalence.
Companies like to influence a market based transaction by bringing in
a social component.  It is this mixing of market and social norms
that changes the nature of decisions and the appearance of ethical

Companies also like to bring in social based norms in motivating

Finally, Ariely highlights how we feel the influence of owning a
physical (house, shoes, pen, whatever) or
nonphysical item (idea, virtual, insurance)
on decisions to change.  Ariely introduces several lines of thought
that help us manage our urges when ownership can impede our
decision process.

There are many situations where managing these psychological
concepts can lead us to more professional behaviors

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Time to Talk about Skill, Luck and Appreciation
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 8:00 am

Have you ever thought about what it will take for you and
each one of us to reach the American Dream of the pursuit
of happiness, fulfilled life and liberty (equality, rights and
justice under law)?

So much is heavily weighted on how the privileged have
advantages.  The fact remains that outside of that, luck and
skill play roles for ourselves and our careers.

We have talked about practicing and putting in the time and
energy to master skills where in the end
   success = potential * serendipity  [LUCK]
We have mentioned Jim Collins’s concept of Return on
, in other words, when good fortune happens what you
do with it.  He also strategizes on how you plan for and
capture luck.

Building on these is a nice piece by Bob Frank in NYTimes
Are you successful
, where he cites
+  Mona Lisa became famous after an Italian maintenance
employee at the Louvre stole it and it was recaptured LUCK
+   Statistical correlation between Economics professors
where manuscript authorship is in alphabetical order giving
lead authors faster recognition LUCK
 +  Your country of origin and even your month of birth
can correlate in the past with different success measure
trends. LUCK

To me M Mauboussin’s piece gave me a moment to pause,
as he asked three questions in relation to the relative
importance of luck and skill-
1- can you accurately predict an outcome and from a set of
starting conditions /influences?  If so, is it easy to implement or
a challenge?
easy- SKILL dominates;  challenge- LUCK may.
2- what is the frequency of ‘reversion to the mean’ outcomes?
low- SKILL         high- LUCK or external influences
3- can forecasters predict outcomes consistently?
yes- SKILL          no- LUCK, or bad question or phrasing

Being able to look at any outcome and appreciate the
contributions of others, nonetheless will influence
attitudes and future opportunities in striking ways.
Look at every chance to express your appreciation
for that will be an influence.

LUCK = preparation + attitude + opportunity + action comments (0)

Did you know? Pre-employment Testing
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, First Year on Job, Legal matters, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 6:50 am

Al Sklover posts a “did you know…” blog post every once in a
while.  So, I thought it might be worth mentioning something
some applicants would consider after interviewing.  Knowing
something about what else may be expected from each
successful applicant includes polygraph, credit, security
background and

Applicant medical evaluation and drug testing.

You might be aware of mental and competence testing that
some employers have third parties administer.  Also, it is required
by federal law to pass alcohol and drug testing of blood and
urine.  There is a benefit for employers since insurance premiums
can be lower.  In addition, employers seek to maintain a drug free
perception, which also includes nicotine from tobacco products.

Complications occur with medications and statutes that legalize
controlled substances in certain states.  Thus, marijuana is listed as
a schedule I drug under federal statutes leads companies to fire or
refuse to hire, if detected.

Certain prescription medications may also trigger a red flag, so it
is worth knowing about medications that physicians prescribe for you.

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Can Job Security be decided by an Algorithm?
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Networking, First Year on Job, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 8:54 am

Can job security be relegated to  rely on algorithms?

My short answer is probably not, because it makes assumptions
to achieve an outcome in a reasonable amount of time.

Our careers make many shifts, turns, abrupt endings, transitions
and shifts at many unexpected times.  Why are they so
unpredictable?  For one thing, they are human endeavors
that result in and from mistakes or put another way less
than optimal outcomes.

I viewed Derek Lowe’s blog “The Algorithms are coming,”
in which he discusses and Angewandte Chemie article about
developing optimum and projected synthetic organic chemistry
paths to making synthetic target molecules with computer

As we decide it is a more efficient habit to employ algorithms
in our life, it is appropriate to ask such a question in relation to
important outcomes like dealing with job security. 

An algorithm is a set of commands or instruction steps designed
to achieve a suitable outcome or optimization, like page-rank,
min-max, and many others.  Algorithms have been in vogue
for centuries.  We observe many situations where robots, laser
optical devices and machines are making tasks minimizing human
intervention and judgment.  In fact, many “aggregators” use
algorithms to match up job descriptor keywords to display
positions a job seeker might apply for.

There will be an increasing marketing of career path algorithms
to lead you making your choice.  It is a very complicated
series of decisions that has a very long lead time, building
up of experience in some cases, developing soft and
wise skills and assessing your own desires and needs,
which often cannot be put into a search tool keyword list.

I found McHenry Community College has a nice list of
suggestions offering that it is not just a concern when in
a job seeking mode, but throughout our career as things
change.  An algorithm will not do this.


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Hot Topics. Free the Science, Chemistry-Economics, New Materials Methods
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Mature professionals, Post-docs, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 10:51 am

How can you bring new ideas to an organization?  When
first mentioned, members will say–that’s crazy!  We’ve
done it before or it has been tried and look what happened….

Three possible revolutionary (and helpful) ideas are
offered here.  One has been mentioned before, free dissemination
of high quality chemical information
.  Free the science!

There is a large hew and cry about increasing employment
for people in the chemical enterprise–
technicians, engineers, biochemists, and many sub-disciplines.
Are we asking the blind where to look and how to find trends,
opportunities, and ideas?  We should have a whole division
entitled, Chemistry and the Economy which uses Economists
tools of data analysis and superforcasting!

Can we predict the outcome of experiments?  Yes when we are
lucky… that is why we do experiments.  A group from LANL,
I heard from a member of my network, uses informatics based
adaptive design to define new materials.

Many are not aware but over a hundred years ago a group of
separated from the ACS and formed their own
society since their needs were not met.  At this time the
critical needs of the world are not met by large commercial
interests and privatized, high cost journals.  There is a
critical need to radically change how good information is
shared.  A model for this has been published and is being
implemented.  The incremental, “nibble at the apple” approach
that is not affordable outside large institutions should change.

Chemists are not economists.  Economists are not chemists.
Why are we asking chemists to assess the economy and
report on how the chemical enterprise evolves and what
will be viable career fields in the future.  You can not look
at the past to predict the future.  Things change fast.
We need, as a society, a new division dedicated to asking
economics questions about STEM fields.

The ACS, NESACS and other sections and divisions have
no influence over creating jobs in the private or the
public sector.  There is a crying need for the ACS to
define a new and important role, outside of the chemical
realm that asks the questions we are not able to develop
answers or even superforecasts.  Please let’s develop a
new division!

Many have learned that hunches tested  by trial and error
have yielded new materials for practical materials.  Think
of for example lithium battery cathode material.  The
LANL group has developed a partial factorial designed
experiment approach that is quicker and more efficient.
This brings in innovations in statistical design much
needed in designing materials of the future.

1 comment
Professional Behavior. Cultural fit, Productive Habits and Pausing
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Networking, First Year on Job, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 10:19 am

Approaching a job search and change feels like a change in mental
frame of mind, yet it should be little different than our routine.

Since what we think and how we behave comes down to routine
actions in response to a cue to achieve an outcome, certain habits
should be our professional pattern.  However, in different circumstances
and millieus, it might be different.  Thus, we need to figure out our
professional presence in these settings to be productive.

Some elements of our professional presence are expressed in
Charles Duhigg’s latest book.  Duhigg writes about
 a motivation (in particular “the five whys”)
 b teams and group norms that matter most
 c managing our focus (understanding reactive thinking and cognitive
 d stretch and proximal goal setting (plan with probability, not certainty)
 e decision making (using Bayesian psychology and probabilities)
 f innovation (using scaffolding and choice combinations)

Much of this we learn after the fact and some we do not ever
recognize.  If a job is not a good fit, we can feel less confident and
it seems like an act.  Trust can be missing with co-workers. 

Much has been discussed about what to look for in our careers.
Anna Hunter described it well when she mentioned the cultural
fit of us into an organization is the highest indicator of satisfaction.
The fit, she indicates, is a feeling (emotional), matches our interests
and values, involves tasks and interactions that serve our skill set

to continually grow and improve.

What tasks engage and excite you?
With whom did you work with and how were you related to them,
relationship-wise? [SUPERVISOR-PROFESSIONAL,
PEER-PEER]  What was the nature of your role?

Early in your career it may be helpful to experience different situations
and perform a pause moment to think about the experience both during
and reflecting afterwards on its bigger picture.
Pausing will help you prioritize the cultural aspects

When we are involved in the interviewing continuum, which happens
earlier now than in the past, we would seek out directions rather than
destinations and explore what we need to make progress.  Many positions
are not advertised and we need to match our intentions which we need to
put into words and demonstrate in competences and potential.

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Critical Reading. Patents, business results and technical literature
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Job Offer (Situations), Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 12:48 pm

One of the short discussions we had in our class this year was
on the role of critical thinking.  It was not elaborate or drawn
out with many inferences and examples like it could.

It was about reading with a “thinking” attitude.

One of the members brought up how he would teach undergraduates,
especially how to read the technical literature.  The citation he used
mentioned the old paradigm structure of the scientific method, as
if it were gospel. 

Another view is to seriously evaluate the source who funded
the work, who gains from its publication and the true value?  What is
it do you want to learn from the report, communication or
article?  Is this too hard to ask?

This blog has cited Galea’s Fortune piece which points out biases.
Scientific literature can be read [or mis-read] with a structure
to influence the readers’ take-away message.

The Economist offered a remarkably insightful piece about corporate
financial results on which we depend on for employment, investment
and purchasing.
  It should be totally unbiased and reflect truth as
well.  The article puts forth the “carnival of confusion, obfuscation,
and fibbing” that would make “even presidential candidates blush”.

The article speaks to Valeant, Microsoft, SunEdison, GM, GE
restating earnings, adjusting figures, and using measures of
profit that do not have regulatory significance. 

Rules of thumb:  profit should be revealed in standard accounting
rules, without adjustments for mature firms
                              firms should not have large and persistent gaps
between official accounting and adjusted profits
                               firms should not have low tax payments, since
it should be reporting profits to investors and government
                                look at the “cash flow”
Look at this before sending in your application!

For the first time I have seen CEN talk about reading the patent
[and not an ACS journal article] to learn about something.
The recent issue revealed more significance can be gained
from reading the patent literature
.  While not the headline
or example, this statement is something we will not find
many research professors teach our students and post-docs.

There is something legally binding in patents.  When researching
the literature about your work or potential job applications,
patents should be a must area to review.

1 comment
Rules of Thumb. Dealing with new or unanticipated situation, American Business culture, Responding to No
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, First Year on Job, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 1:39 pm

Connecting a phrase used on Royal Pains that we are “binge
watching” with a recent book I have finished provides the
inspiration for this entry.

Jeremiah Sacani (played by Ben Shenkman) utters a rule
 of thumb psychologists are attributed with for dealing with
new social connections or unanticipated situations– F-R-
an acronym for 1- face the person or situation, 2- react
in a way that gathers information and understanding, 3-
in a way that reveals you are looking from being
in another’s shoes, 4- affirm what is going on in our minds
and what we think, 5- “kill it” and reach a conclusion.

Alan Webber wrote a thoughtful book, Rules of Thumb  ,
that touches a cord that resonates with many audiences.  Part
of that is he lists 52 and the other is that it seems like
authentic Americana.  One in particular struck my funny bone,
having to do with what Americans like.  Thus what resonates
with American businesses and audiences.
 - Want things that work;  pride ourselves in getting things
done, and making things happen.             Does it work?
-  What will make things better;  look for ways to adapt and
make things better or find another use.  Can it work better?
-  What is new or next or never been done;  what can we do to
innovate and even self-improve.      What is new and better?

This brings up a rule of thumb connection to a connection in
Adam Grant’s TED talk on what brings about Creativity.  Three
disciplines that make a positive impact are:  allow ideas to
percolate up
and problems to germinate in our subconscious; 
manage our fear and doubt by partitioning it into doubt of
ourselves and doubt of our ideas
and then say ‘what have I
to lose if I do.’
His example is a thought provoking one making observations
about the internet browser we each use.  See the TED talk….
Fear not the possible failures, realizing that we are judged on
ideas and growth mindset.  Try many new things.

Webber’s Rule #13 is Learn to take “no” as a question.  No
is not necessarily a negative and can teach us critical things.  
It is said we are not trying hard if we do not hear a no.

Webber’s come back for no is:  Thank you– for the time,
attention and feedback.  We should try to not take things
personally and pursue what is
     missing or
     expressed wrong or

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Weakness Discussions. Have trouble “saying no” to requests
Filed under: Recent Posts, Mentoring, First Year on Job, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 6:20 pm

After you have a conversation with people and
see how they behave and react to requests you
can predict one of their weaknesses is they
have trouble saying “no” to requests.  Even
when the requests are not in their best
interests and may go against them.

I encountered two people who were surprised
when I predicted that they would agree that was
their weakness.  Both a young man and a young
woman were from international cultures.  The
same can be said with some American traditions,
but there are some slight differences.

This blog entry is about identifying people who
make such requests that are not in your interest. 
It is also about what we should be doing in a way
that realizes we will face these and what we can
do to more easily and more honestly deal with
these requests and feel good about ourselves.

Pier Forni has written that exercising self control
realistically is working toward your goals, but
refraining from doing so at another’s expense in The
Thinking life (2010).
If you reach out and help someone else reach
their goals while reaching your goals you are
exercising “self-control” at its best.

The first step in defining when and when not to
say “no” is: understanding what the steps are to reach
your goals.  Then maintain self control to identify whether
a request aids in helping someone else reach their
objectives and yours.

Mark Goulston wrote about the different personalities
we will encounter who might ask for our help.

He classified them into a series of toxic people and Givers:
Toxic people are needy as they demand constant attention
and help, use emotional blackmail to get what they want,
and offer gratitude only if it “keeps you on the hook.”
    BULLIES - go after “easy prey” - your actionset boundaries
    TAKERS - ‘hit you up’ every day for an easy favor - your action:
immediately ask for something for them to do for you in exchange.
    NARCISSISTS - want to be the center of attention - see them
for who they are

    PSYCHOPATHS - cold, self-centered, ruthless, manipulators
- avoid

Then there are GIVERS who reciprocate, share and pass on
credit and attention and look for the benefit of the team and
each individual contributor.

Look at the people who play a role in your life
Write the response next to their name to the following:
    Can I count on this person to provide practical assistance
                              emotional support
                              prompt assistance when I am in trouble
                              financial support

1.  Set Boundaries;  What are your goals?
2.  Propose another way or another person to help or delegate
3.  Ask questions for clarity;  do the right things the first time
4.  Create more “thinking time”
        schedule time to think;  think with partners
        turn waiting time into thinking time


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Reference Check. What is asked and how you can help yourself
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Position Searching, Job Offer (Situations), Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 5:01 pm

It is an essential part of the interview process that you will
provide references and they will be contacted.  As we know,
it is wise to ask if a person can provide a good reference for you
before you offer their name for a reference.

Recently, I was asked if I would act as a colleague’s
reference.  After her interview, she and I skyped to
share what the interview was like and to get prepared for
my part of her interview.

The reference checking can happen before you might
interview in places that know your reference.  That can
act as a sanity check to go ahead with more detailed

It can happen after the interview in two or three ways.
One is a phone reference check.  A second way is
to ask for your reference to complete a detailed form.
And a third variation is to ask for a letter of reference,
which would be similar to the common letter of
recommendation sought for academic position applications.

The reference checking process can be done by a HR
staffer or more frequently these days by a contracted firm
that specializes in this service.  Both the candidate’s
performance and my credibility are tested. 

So, during our Skype I asked the candidate what she learned
about the position and the company.  In addition, I asked for
a few personal/professional details so that I could strongly
describe that I knew the candidate.  She was involved in several
seminars, a course I led and we traveled to an international
meeting at which she overcame weather problems.

In our reference checking conversation, I confirmed personal
history and information about her strengths, weaknesses and
near term goals.

The person I spoke with, Sharon, politely confirmed her information
about me that the candidate provided.  Then, she asked if it was a
good time to complete this assignment.  I indicated yes.

There are standard questions that are usually asked:
 - how long is the business relationship and what was the formal

 - is there any reason this person is not qualified to work in the
 - provide details of directly working with the applicant on a project
 - assess the applicant’s performance on the project
 - please describe the candidate
 - what are her leading strengths
 - what performance factors could the applicant improve
 - would you recommend we hire this applicant

So, knowing specific personal strengths with examples and areas
the applicant needs to improve are very important.  Having an idea
of the applicant’s reflection of how the interview day went will
reveal if the applicant was comfortable with the culture and
people experienced.  The reference needs to find a way to express
strong desire with the opportunity and be an advocate.

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Comments on Individual Development Plan Templates
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Mentoring, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 11:04 am

IDPs– We find these shortcut tools in many organizations.  We have
shied away from bringing this up after a conversation with Judy Grutter
a true guru in the field of career management and personal counseling.

IDPs are commonly planning documents or templates completed over
the next period, commonly, a year.  They are reviewed, revised and
discussed with supervision with the aim of guiding performance to
achieve  objectives leading to outcomes.

There is a common misapplication of this format to apply to managing
careers and long term goal achievement
.  No disagreement that
objective setting to achieve goals
is reasonable and important for
ourselves, teams and organizations.

There is no argument that a person is greatly aided in her or his career
quest by doing a 360-degree, self assessment
of emotional intelligence,
hard skills and interests, values and strong talents, personal behavior
tendencies, cultural biases, experiences and expectations. 

Expecting IDPs to do all this is just the beginning of expecting to do
too much.

There are other skills, soft and wise skills, that most IDPs seem to miss.
Some IDPs try to fix weaknesses and others extend a person’s strengths.
Nonetheless, the author needs to own the document and not be just what
the boss wishes.

What are some downsides of exclusively expecting IDPs to be a career
management guide? 
1.  needs to establish desired outcomes in an ever changing marketplace
2.  needs to have clear objectives
        getting a job, any job is not enough
3.  requires specific priorities and have strategies and keystone habits
to focus, limit distractions and understand perfect is the enemy of good.
4.  can put undue pressure on individual if someone else creates the
5.  understand human’s Fear of failure and be resilient (wise skill) 
6.  adapt to changing conditions and needs

There are ways of dealing with the career management uncertainty.  We
need to understand both the piece that IDPs may partially provide, and
all the other pieces that must be supported elsewhere.

This blog suggests that career management have three options in
planning– specific focus, contingent outcomes, and a ‘Z plan’ where
everything works out perfectly.

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Watch-Outs. 95. Meso-facts, Scientific results, Changing criteria for evaluation, Belief in Scientific Literature
Filed under: Recent Posts, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 1:33 pm

When Samuel Arbesman came out with his book The Half-Life of Facts
this blog noted its relevance in several entries.

There is an element of truth and much controversy that results
from scientific literature, especially when it presumes
hard facts.  It is especially true when we conceive of
a very complex world where small differences and
shifting criteria and lead to different conclusions and

Recently Jeffrey Flier tried to simplify the complex
world of scientific literature in a WSJ piece
saying that there are costs that need to be met to reproduce
all the experiments leading to scientific reduction of
hypotheses to test.  This was met, in comments to the article
by disdain, as it does seem to oversimplify the causes as
due to (1) design and statistical analysis, (2) publish to
achieve personal objectives, misplace motivation, (3)
review and acceptance criteria for publication.
[All of these have merit.  But do they cover all the
test, sample, experiment, analysis, interpretation space?]

He focuses a remedy more on the third root cause.

The Economist reported the evolution of scientific
study in the use of COMPare to examine the problem
from a slightly different perspective (which they
referred to as outcome switching).

There also is the prevalence of the impact of scientific
“stars” on allowing new interpretations from
entering fields.  In the same issue of Economist
a short piece points out how there are similar
impacts in several fields.  Related to this is a quaint
story of perseverance to publish overcoming rejection
to hold out for one’s findings.

This post offers no solutions to the complex problem
where details matter and being able to reproduce
results allows theories to stand the test of time.  But
what results in one lab’s hands may be different from
another and from what happens in the murky real
world, where there are many things potentially
different from a laboratory setting.

1 comment
Interview Questions. What do you want to do next and What motivates you
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Position Searching, First Year on Job
Posted by: site admin @ 1:22 pm

A couple of interesting conversations spur this entry.  One colleague
asked for help in developing a response to the question:  What does she
wish to do next after achieving her PhD?
  [So as the advice goes:  the
solution of many problems is in the framing of the question, its boundary
conditions and assumptions.]

She has a long term goal of reuniting with her family.  This can be
achieved in several ways, in terms of relocating.  Yet, she only viewed
it by one path of her returning to live at home [boundary condition].  So,
my response was philosophical that many  more unintentional factors go
into our career choice, other than an initial goal.   I offered salient
features of a self-assessment (values and interests) as one factor
and opportunities that open up to us…more practical 

Then added ‘Fulfillment in your career often does not result from the
work itself, but in the quality and care you bring to your efforts.
Few of us find their career through logic.  Many find their career
through connections and sometimes through coincidence.

We cannot really predict where we end up in our career.  We may set
goals.  They may not be realistic or realizable.’

A second conversation brought the question:  How do I respond to
the question:
What motivates me?  To that I responded, pick two from the
following six:

  1. career progression through the ranks and opportunities
    for promotion and advancement
  2. lateral moves with increasing job responsibility and skill
    building (like, rotational assignments in other areas, joint
    ventures, and others)
  3. Acquiring new technical skills (outside training, certification)
  4. Developing leadership intuition or managerial and administrative
  5. Balance in family life and work life
  6. increased compensation and other forms of compensation

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Trends in Technical Careers. Tips for Telecommunication, Hacking of Scientific journals, Interviewing Strategies
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 2:57 pm

Since Julian Assange opened access to critical files and
espionage, it was only a matter of time when we would
see wide spread hacking of scientific literature.  While we
do not and are not condoning hacking a recent report tells of
amazing hacking of scientific journals.

We share an article which talks about tips for professional
telecommuting and virtual meeting/interviewing.  While we
have entered previously on this topic, a couple of elements
are true and new. 

Then, I looked at a nice “Acing the interview” presentation.
The speaker gave some insight that I share as preparation
for taking interviews.

SOURCE:  A. Staller, Open Access vs. illegal Access ECS

A grad student in Kazakhstan presumably released hundreds
of scientific journal articles.  While many have come out
arguing that the current model limits scientific progress in
the Internet age, this could accelerate the process of open
Yet, it remains to be seen how a justifiable income stream
can come from open access models.  Perhaps the music
model on the internet may find its way into scientific
literature for the masses.

SOURCE:  WSJ  3-18-16 “Rules of etiquette for virtual

While it is a common trick for interviews, this article points out
it is improper etiquette to not know all the attendees/observers
in a virtual meeting.  The “who just joined beeps” are unwanted
distractions and finding a way to say you are leaving a meeting,
via announcement or texting to or having another cover announce
your imminent return. 

SOURCE:  I. Bloch, Ace the Interview, Strategies

She does cover the usual story telling strategies, STAR, and
background research (salaries, glassdoor, connections,
grooming, good questions, and more), what comes out of
this webinar is 
(1) in US you have to promote yourself,
(2) identify what separates yourself from other applicants,
(3) come up with three 3 strengths  and be able to insert
them at appropriate points
(4) on weaknesses, avoid identifying a core competency issue
for the positions

1 comment
Professional Behavior. Digital Breadcrumbs, Candor and Linkedin Profiles
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Public Relations docs, Mentoring, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 7:41 am

Calvin Pappas wrote about things to improve your Linkedin profiles
recently.  I found it interesting in that it separates Linkedin from
the majority of profile settings by managing and controlling access
and viewership.  This allows, in other words, you to manage your
profile’s “digital breadcrumbs.

This connects us to Elizabeth Charnocks book– “E-Habits” which
attracted my attention recently.  The Toronto Star offered an interesting
article describing her company, Cataphora, which creates mathematical
models of our digital presence
to assess witnesses for prosecuting
attorneys, ‘bad apple’ analyses of employees [’banana peel throwers’],
future employees or whistle-blowers [Dorian Grey effect– fake
images of themselves]  and other common sense images of people’s
habits that may reflect character traits.

One area of relevance to professional behaviors is the consistency
of your resume to other digital images and reflections of you on the
.  Their software models whether there are (intentional or
unintentional) discrepancies in your public relations documents with
the “digital YOU.”

She offers the idea of a website that creates one version of your

This leads us to receiving feedback from mentors to providing feedback
and upgrading our habits to be more in sync with our true goals.  Ed
Catamull’s Creativity Inc
talks at length about how speaking with candor
in a  trusting and digestable manner makes us better and our efforts more
productive.  He writes about the formation and development of Pixar and
generalizes on the trial and error processes they evolved in digitizing
creative efforts.

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Legal, Security and Insurance Matters.
Filed under: Recent Posts, Job Offer (Situations), Legal matters
Posted by: site admin @ 9:21 am

The title is written to get wider attention.  Legal is the lead word,
but I will start with insurance.

I noticed a “rider” on our homeowners insurance policy.  It is
an extra “technical support program” service they provide.  I called
the number and learned that they will offer remote phone and
remote access of your devices to solve technical problems.
When you buy a new computer, this service costs $150 and up
yearly.  Worth your while asking for and using this free of charge service. 
[devices:  computers, smartphones, iPads, tablets, Office
applications, Printers, scanners and network connectivity;
Firm:  Commerce]

A helpful guide on trusts and wills was sent out by our estate
planning attorney firm about the terms wills and trusts.
A will is a “death document,” as it only goes into effect when
you die.  There are six provisions:  distribution of assets by name
and through court probate process, guardians, executors.  It is
usually shorter (cheaper) and does not allow for tax complications.

A trust is a living document that evolves by your direction through
your life.  It is enacted in cases of disability, covers all aspects of
wills and can avoid probate to settle after death.  It can manage
all succeeding affairs regarding your estate and beneficiaries.

These documents are important as our estates exceed our
debts.   SOURCE: Cody, Cody McCarthy: Estate Law)

Al Sklover provides definitions, examples and exclusions
of confidentiality and non-disclosure
that help us understand
what confidential information is, the four exceptions and how
to protect yourself.
His four exceptions are truly noteworthy– sharing to perform
specific duties, when the information is already in the public
domain, to comply with the law, and with the consent and
direction of management.


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