R.Nicholls and L. Stevens presented a case that listening
is an underappreciated and poorly instructed skill that
has many barriers.
Also, it is incumbent on our educational system to
engage students in regular exercises that will be an asset
in all endeavors.
Nicholls and Stevens write about a University of
Minnesota approach that improves outcomes. Notable
are four activities of the listener:
The authors provide some appropriate cases and
suggestions some of which may apply in your situation.
Then, Zenger and Folkman reveal what you and I
think what we should do and that those things are not
enough to be a great leader-listener. As the key
requirement for being a leader is listening to others —
Key among them:
Reading Chris Voss’s book on negotiations convinced me
that we need to keep learning. Don’t ever stop the process
of gathering new information from different sources,
2. 3 kinds of “yes”: commitment, confirmation, counterfeit
3. Ackerman plan– set your goal, then first offer at 2/3 point,
calculate at three smaller increments
use lots of empathy and different “no” strategy to counter, before
you increase your offer.
use non-round numbers in your final offer
after final number, throw in nonmonetary items
Some universities have a section of their graduate
school orientation that will involve self assessments
for each. It is so important that this part of
technical professionals education is incorporated
as it is so often missed or at least delayed so that
reflection and use of the learning can be part of
- Who likes “small talk”, working by themselves,
who gains energy from crowds.
- Pointing out the difference between the
“golden rule” [treat others like we want to be treated]
We have a new competitor in science, technology and
engineering fields. It is the Internet, computers and
automation. We can be competitive in our careers if
we can do things that computers and robots are not
If you are like I am you were taken by the news that
three Irish investigators reported interpreting the
behavior of light’s angular momentum. It goes back
many years when lasers were originally reported and
how many important devices and technologies are
based on stimulated emission.
NON-INTEGER ANGULAR MOMENTUM LIGHT
Ballantine et al have reported that light may be
characterized with a different property than wavelength.
INFLUENCE OF NEW TECHNOLOGY ON HIGH
John Comley surveyed the field and projects where
developments and advances will come in computational
biology especially using confocal imaging where
CRISPR-Ca9 technology will be exploited.
Scientific thinking has undergone an evolution in the Internet
age. Science commonly rationalizes outcomes based on
each effect has a cause.
Various publishers promote journal impact factors JIF to
measure ” the importance of articles by the number of times
an article is cited. This measure in light of the continuing change
of technical literature is changing and deemed less significant.
Did you know you can change irrevocable trusts that you create
with your attorney when (1) tax law is revised or cease to exist,
(2) family circumstances change, (3) errors exist in the the documents?
This is a document professionals should know about and
decide if and when it fits in your financial plan.
Linkedin profiles have not and should not replace resumes.
They are part of your professional presence and a
link is offered.
Ewen Calloway summarized recent discussions on the use of
journal rating and previewed articles in various fields that
suggest it going away. Worth looking at.
FINANCIAL DECISIONS FOR YOUR FAMILIES
Trusts are often created to save paying federal estate taxes in
relation to a specific tax law. There are, according to Cody,
Cody and McCarthy, five ways trusts can be modified: (a)
have a judge restate your intent, (b) adjust pay-out options
to current situations, (c) change the terms of the trust due to
unforseen circumstances, (d) invoke a trust advisor without
going to court, (e) consider another “do-over” trust.
So, if you find a need to modify your trust, or you waiver
in creating an irrevocable trust, there are things you should
know to help you.
Robert Hellmann wrote that resumes and profiles have many
of the same information. But a resume helps us obtain interviews
and the profile does support the interview screening process
and much more. Hellmann proposes an active profile approach
in your job search.
Don’t indicate openness to opportunities in your Headline
Don’t put unemployed or looking for a job in your profile
Do consider using more informal language than the targeted
Hellmann’s article is worth taking seriously in your career
BONUS VIDEO SERIES: The Australian series “The Future
of Water” is definitely of high value to view. Each segment
offered incredible insights into the bigger picture. I was
very surprised by the underground reservoir in South
America that was recently defined.
Innovation, experimentation and support from
leaders are often the keys to bringing progress.
Look for countering information, add more factors
and categories… Then apply the Bayesian logic of probabilities.
The suggestion here is this tool is one that can be broadly
applied and due to ease of use widely adapted. It is like
using shared cloud storage or using search engines.
With several requests for career paths outside the US
and in non traditional technical roles, we learned,
advised and compiled useful documents for each:
The seminar on the titled topic highlighted three
key areas that people in grad school can focus on
in addition to items successful predecessors pointed
An email came from Lee the other day:
“guidance on contacting a job poster before sending a resume”
which seemed curious.
Was it a poster session?
Was it a position seen on a job board?
Did it ask to upload the resume to an online address?
We clarified things over the next few days. He read an
attractive job board posting on Linkedin for a firm that would
make sense for his career path.
But, we know you help yourself in obtaining an interview if you
can be referred by an employee or better yet the hiring manager.
To do that Lee might informally contact an employee who is
part of your network or extended network and pursue at
least an ‘information interview.’ It would possibly allow a
‘networking interview’ as well. [Parts of the Interviewing
Continuum, see the side bar for details on each type of interview]
My suggestions to him included:
1. CONTENT It would be important to formulate the public
relations documents incorporating keywords that will be sought.
2. FORMAT If you can speak to someone who does interview
for the company you can ascertain if there is any specific
elements and style resume reviewers prefer. (business style
focus, chronological, technical focus, research summary,
particular cover letter, Europass format for international, etc.)
3. Does he have network members who work at the company?
Has he spoken with the network contact about the position?
(Think about possible win-win situations– employee referral
can lead to a bonus for the employee.)
4. Liz Ryan wrote a nice piece how Linkedin can assist the
job search process of narrowing down the companies, finding
hiring managers, learning about the culture and interview
expectations you may encounter. This too could lead to a
pull marketing mechanism since you might be able to curate
your Linkedin profile to be picked up by recruiters.
5. Plan a follow-up campaign that includes thank you notes,
talking up the network participants, modifying the PR documents
as appropriate, setting a timeline for follow-up communication
and including it in the cover letter.
6. Do detailed research on the firm. Patents, business results,
7. Enter total information into your job search spreadsheet
that tracks all communication.
We had an interesting problem dealing with a vendor who wanted us
to commit “right now.” It is a situation that can happen broadly in
many employment scenarios.
James Baker provides situations where you might feel manipulated
in making decisions–
1- pressure with deadline: question how real the deadline is, test
the parties motivation and propose what will be best for both
2- pressure with competitive price, vendor or approach: ask for
details on the quality and terms of the competition. Look for other
features you offer or provide.
3- missing person to be consulted or limited authority: ask to meet
with the person who has final authority or find out who makes the
final decisions regarding delivery, price payment, exact details of
4- moral appeal: what is underlying motivation, indicate you are
looking to be fair with all and create good long term relations
5- good guy/ bad guy: understand the manipulation and understand
that your requirements and needs are included
6- name dropping or association of related situations, number of
other clients, or similar customers.
Intimidators will use every trick they have and know. When they
find it will not work, they will become friendly. It is just another
“face.” We need to find a way to convert them into someone who
we can reach an agreeable outcome with.
Another good resource is provided.
There is a section of Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s book
Second Machine Age that reviews the term “technological
unemployment.“ 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:
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
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.
HELIUM FIND IN AFRICA
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
There are important implications for industry.
TEMPTING SWEETS MAY NOT BE ALL THAT GOOD
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 Sugarscience.org. 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.
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?
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.
CREDIT CARD NOTIFICATIONS
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.
PROFITABILITY AND GROWTH TRENDS — INDUSTRIES,
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
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.
“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.”
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
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
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
There are many situations where managing these psychological
concepts can lead us to more professional behaviors.
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
Luck, in other words, when good fortune happens what you
do with it. He also strategizes on how you plan for and
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
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
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)
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
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.
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.
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
opportunities 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.
DISSEMINATE KNOWLEDGE FREELY
Many are not aware but over a hundred years ago a group of
scientists 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.
NEW DIVISION: ECONOMICS AND CHEMISTRY
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
LANL INNOVATIVE DEVELOPMENT
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.