You learn and train in a wide range of technical skills,
develop writing ability creating public relations documents,
perfect public speaking and presentations in universities.
Over a 30 - 45 year career, most everyone gets relieved of their
position. Sometime it is sudden, other times there are indicators
that some positions will be severed and still other times we are
faced with a choice to stay or leave.
Have you looked at the proposed FY2018 budget for science,
technology, health and engineering? Mostly flat or cutback.
except for defense related expenditures (and the “wall”– which
will be paid for by someone else..)
Mlodinow, in Subliminal, delivers a clearly written book that helps
us understand Listening and Remembering. He explains that it all
comes from William Carpenter’s book “Principles of Mental
Physiology” in which he told that human brains carry out three
things simultaneously– autonomous functioning (without formal
thinking), conscious mental actions, and unconscious processing.
This is a story about two conversations. The first is
one with a very accomplished senior grad student.
`How do you figure out appropriate information that is important
and verifiable, relating to your interests and goals?
We can subscribe to publications. Does that provide what you need?
GOALS- Think through your “purpose”
1- Do you like what you are now doing?
2- What do you feel and think you want to do? Like is not
enough. Purpose is about setting up a direction and a path
and pausing and allow back up plans and ideal case formulation.
3- Can you do what you want? Know the difference between
your wants and what you are competent at. Understand your
priorities and values and your organization’s priorities and values.
4- Have you define your next and following steps involving
awareness, action and accountability
5- Who can you depend on for good, reliable advice? Who
will tell you the truth without involving their personal interests?
6- What are you willing to re-pay, offer up and return?
7- What do you to learn or gain experience in?
“Cousins” of these words are everyone, no one, always and never.
HL and I had an interesting discussion about a job
application for a pharma position. We arranged the
position via email where we asked and sent draft resume,
musts-and-wants and the job description.
It is important to realize that each cover letter, resume
and contact network association needs to be targeted
and properly researched and framed.
What kind of position is being pursued?
What specific skills or experiences will be expected?
What are your specific skills/ experiences that may apply?
Who do you know who might help and provide a reference?
The position seeks BA/BS with some senior research
experience or an MS. The skills sought are LC, MS and
working with bioassay prep and data analysis.
It is a stretch to have a senior undergraduate having
these, but our discussion proved that HL had good
experiences that could be of interest. HL had done
a semester of undergraduate monomer synthesis research
in junior year. Quite interestingly, HL had completed a
semester research abroad where detailed discussion
revealed working with and troubleshooting LC-MS and
data integration systems for study of metal binding to
It is now a challenge to create a document that points
out the specific instruments and work done both abroad
and as a junior. What keywords were used in the job
description? Find a way to articulate HL’s work using
those or comparable terms. Experienced reviewers will
We talked about the big difference in working in a
research lab where things constantly go wrong or need
maintenance and calibration compared with doing an
analytical course lab experiment where everything is
pre-ordained and set up.
Then we spoke about another element– who were HL’s
references? Has HL spoken to them about interest in
the position? Can each one of three provide “good
references? Does the reference know anyone at the
firm? Can HL get to meet or speak with the possible
network referral to learn more about the position, hiring
manager, and company situation?
Does HL have a quality Linkedin page? Let’s look.
What will be critical things to provide realizing the
first use might be for this LC-MS bioassay role?
What keywords, content and organization should the
Linkedin profile have?
What started out as a request for a resume review, morphed
- job description study,
- revising a draft resume highlighting key experiences
- critically thinking through references and the roles they
assume (and, also including a reference list in the PR
- critically thinking that a professional presence is
expected (Linkedin profile and working on that)
- outlining and drafting a cover letter for submission
- seeking out people who could be referrals for the
six other important steps.
Last weekend we were part of a team presenting a job search
workshop for undergraduate chemistry field majors at UConn.
It was well attended and provi ded resume reviews and mock
interviews in addition to four topical discussions tuned to this
Four discussion areas from the day workshop are presented to readers.
1. Thesis or non-thesis masters is a graduate school option that was
new to many. The thesis option involves a specialized project with
a professor. It can require a longer term of study due to the research
in your domain. The non-thesis option often involves a mini project
or a comprehensive exam to meet the requirements of the degree.
The exam is taken after you have completed certain courses.
Choosing the thesis option can allow you to receive an assistantship
during your program.
Some fields prefer the thesis option as it allows a learning by doing
a new project to come up with outcomes. If funding is limited, a
project reaches an end or facilities are not available the non-thesis
option can be preferred. Some fields, like geology, have reported the
non-thesis option has advantages as reported a Colorado School of mines.
2. Some firms reportedly use Jobvite to facilitate hiring. People
have reported problems uploading their documents. Jobvite specifies
that resumes need to be Word or “unlocked PDF” file formats
and that after uploading to populate application fields, you need to
use the attach button to include part for your application file.
You need to follow uploading instructions to the T. Some instructions
include word limits, some seek a specific number of writing samples,
and others have specific deadline dates .
Barbara Safani points out that many people make the mistake of
taking their formatted Word document and uploading it into a text
box on a company website. Formatting is lost. So it is prudent to
follow the specific job search instructions.
3. Traveling to an onsite interview can be a challenge. Ask for
specific directions to specific gates before you go. Know who you
are to meet and their telephone number in case of a delay, expecting
to arrive 10-15 minutes before your scheduled first meeting time.
Interestingly a number of companies now require following ITAR
regulations. Thus to facilitate the special ITAR badge bring your
passport with you if you are an international candidate.
4. I was surprised that my colleagues felt it was fine to ask about
salary during the onsite interview. This might be the case, if you
had a very promising position in hand or were working in a good
You should always be ready to respond to a salary requirements
question or what has been your salary in the past three positions…
There are pitfalls for coming in low or coming in high. So, a response
to that query would be here is a range and you would consider any
reasonable offer where you can make a difference doing something you
are good at.
This post reports on a class given graduate students on
Listening Skills. It was inspired by Nichols and Stevens,
yet the concepts described by Brenda Bailey-Hughtes and
Tatiana Kolovou were built upon with practical exercises
which were specifically reviewed for teachable moments
and subliminally presented for different learning styles.
Tom Friedman on Meet the Press restated the current situation
many job seeking technical degree individuals face.
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.
ACADEMIC SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
It is true, this blog is a supporter of open source publications.
With the internet, with the incredible expense of hard copy
publication (Chemistry texts at >$150), with restrictions
in information…. While exploring the topic in ACS, ChemBark
The impetus for sustainable chemistry, processes and
products continues. This blog seeks to continue to support
its innovation, know-how and application. My green lab
is shared in this entry.
Back to open source publishing, a dimension in textbook
publishing has emerged and has hopes will take off
as it addresses the cost and obsolescence issues.
Source: ChemBark (Academic) Employment
This blog category lists some unique and valuable information
for people in the academic career path. It is very readable
and contains tidbits from a career insider that are
thoughtful (UCLA, Haran) and helpful (StLUniversity,
SUSTAINABLE CHEMISTRY LABORATORIES
This web site offers all aspects of sustainable design,
development and training, especially on institutions.
While a company, Lumencor, sponsors this as it is
in the business of environmentally friendly light sources,
it shows a new trend in outreach marketing.
OPEN SOURCE TEXTS
Source: M. Melia, SFGATE, 2-11-16, “Open-
source textbooks gain in push for college affordability“
Article describes the texts as an aggregation of public
domain and Creative Commons sources. The approach
takes advantage of funding sources requiring grant
recipients making their work available to wider
audiences. There are certain pros and cons for
faculty, but the advantages for the students might
pave the way to broad adoption at least as an alternative.
More than thirty Chemistry field majors attended a workshop
Effective job Searching last Saturday. The topics included:
Matching your skills and interests to the job market, Job
search strategies, Resumes and cover letters, Giving presentations,
Interviewing in larger organizations, Mock interviewing and
1. More organizations are using recruiting firms to perform
screening resumes, screening interviews, and reference
checking. They are adept at the process and are generally
not responsible for the final decision. It is not ununsual for
the position to be temporary, but there are legal limits on the
length of temporary employment.
2. ITAR review to enter certain industrial sites. Organizations
who design, manufacture and work with a number of government
agencies are required to comply with International Traffic in
Arms Regulations ITAR. Thus, if you are invited on site for
interviews you will need to bring along a birth certificate,
form of ID with your photo and may be expected to leave
your cell phone at the door (no photos)..
3. Problem solving interview questions are popular again.
These may require out of the box thinking. They may require
how you might work with other applicants to solve a problem.
They may be time limited, may have no set answer and may
just demonstrate how you deal with unexpected situations.
We observed a mock interview asking: how would you design
an emergency evacuation system for this building.
4. It is hard to justify the one-page page length rule
of thumb for resumes for all kinds of positions and applicants.
Each resume, however, does need to be targeted for each
situation using keywords. It is an advertizing document for
you with a readable form and both computer and person
designed content. It needs to be brief, concise and specific
with no errors.
5. MBTI assessments were brought up several times as
helpful for preparation for your job search, for informal
meal interviews and for audience analysis for presentations.
It is the beginning of the 2015 Fourth Quarter and the
stock market has not been universally good this year.
Not going into any of those details, but will point you
to an article about some opportunities that certain
technical professional investors might calculate for
themselves using Turbotax of similar software.
ROTH IRA RECHARACTERIZATION CALCULATION
SOURCE: L. Saunders, WSJ 10-3-15, “Why it’s prime
time for Roth IRA”
Roth IRAs are the “gold standard” of tax sheltered
retirement plans from which withdrawals are presently
tax-free on untaxed gains and after tax contributions.
The issue is in the short term past many investments
lost value. This article suggests Roth investors might
undo Roth conversions last year or this year and
avoid paying the taxon value that has “vanished”.
Deadline is Oct. 15. Comments might be helpful
DIGITAL LIBRARY AND OPEN ACCESS
SOURCE: ECS Open Access
Alternative Article Impact
Got my first email from ECS Weekly Digests from two technical
areas that I signed up for. They inform me of recent publications
that this society reviewed and accepted. Beyond my expectations
was outstanding other services that will allow me to communicate
better, learn new areas and deepen my understanding of the
practical outcomes of scientific investigations.
Sometimes cartoons in “digital libraries” can be outstanding
in effectively communicating results, impacts and directions.
BONUS: SCIENCE OUT OF THE BOX
We do not see it but we expect remote control and
digital data access connected through wireless devices.
This provides challenges, opportunities and a need for
perceptive awareness for each of us.
One of the journals that I receive is Interface which
contains startling in-depth technical reading for a
general technical audience. Several top-tier articles
on energy conversion and electrochemical production
of essential feedstocks. There are several catching
articles worth perusing, from which I highlight one
on ammonia. It is far more than just headlining
A continuing debate among scientists and engineers,
innovators and inventors is the role of patents in
progress. While not part of most graduate and post-
graduate training and more importantly reading, a
deeper awareness of the patent realm is highlighted.
HETNETS, 5G CONNECTIVITY IN YOUR FUTURE
SOURCE: Fortune Ad Section August, 2015, p-51-3
PCIA informed us of amazing transformations happening
in our lives as we carry and use portable remote control
and communications devices with us. A ten-fold increase
in global “traffic” is expected in four years.and we will
all be affected. So it is “join us or get out of the way.”
Software is replacing custom hardware in creating
HETNETS heterogeneous networks and robust remote
applications, like surgery, is being conceived.
View PCIA webpage for more.
OPEN ACCESS PUBLICATION: AMMONIA
SOURCE: Interface Summer 2015, 53ff
J. Renner, L. Greenlee, A. Herring K. Ayers,
“Electrochemical Synthesis of Ammonia: A Low
Among the many things we see emerging are open
access publications of high technical merit like
the ECS journal, Interface. One stalwart article
in this quarter’s issue is on the “mastery of nitrogen”.
The article brings together President Millard Fillmore
state of the union address, BASF’s Bosch Haber
process and selective catalysts to point out where
chemistry can make a difference in reducing where 1%
of all energy is used and 3% of all greenhouse gases
See, for up coming article sourced above.
SOURCE: The Economist 8-8-15, p. 11
“Time to fix patents“
After defining what patents are and are not, hearing
many sides of the controversial issues of patent
protection and legal rights might be a good place
for people not versed in this important technical
topic to read and study.
The Economist offered a slanted journalist article
to shine light on an everlasting topic. The comments
to the article reveal a much more complicated, many
sided landscape, even including some interesting
innovations in the European patent system.
Isn’t it interesting: Some sources try to make, or offer advice
on, your decision process for your major very simple as
1-2-3-4. While you and I can not disagree with specific
steps in their “quick-fix, instant” proposal, we can ask
is that all there is?
The basic frailty of simple ideas is that the world is non-linear,
unpredictable and constantly changing and we need to be
constantly learning and adapting. The “roadmap” will not be
so simplistically non-changing, but there will be changing
endpoints and detours.
In a recent example, Nathan Gebhard nicely points out (a)
set your goals, (b) following your passion is less important
than developing keen interests and refreshing them, (c) have
reality checks, and (d) whatever you pursue, be good at it.
Sure, all make sense, but there are practical measures that
might help things along–
1 pursue internships,
2 develop mentors,
3 don’t be afraid to fail as long as you learn from failing,
4 get broad exposure to many things,
5 develop an inquisitive curious mind, how to play on
a team and how to be likeable.
Adding these five practical measures does make it harder.
See Brian Tracy for nice descriptions.
Nearly 80% of the members of our graduate course in
Professional Development rank security or certainty as
a leading desire. Thus, a high percentage sense a higher
level of un-certainty.
I led a seminar recently on ‘Dealing with Uncertainty’ where
the attendees were asked what were they uncertain about.
Was it how to make good decisions, or
What should be their next career step, or
Should they stop with a MS, or
How to do a good job search, or
How long should they expect to stay at a job, when should
they move, how do you look for a position while working,
What do you do if your boss disagrees with you or
does not like you, or…
You might get the point. Then, I asked them to share
their uncertainty with others before asking them to
discuss what feelings do the uncertainty evoke?
Did they feel confused, or anxious, or frustrated, or
stuck (and not able to change or move), or making false
starts? The top three feelings they expressed were:
anxious, confused and frustrated.
We talked that many of their situations were created by
the circumstances that they were in influenced by outside
forces. They have relatively little control over these.
What they each have control over is how they individually
respond to the feelings that the circumstances evoke.
Those who felt confused might lack VISION. What are
their career objectives?
Have they done a S-W-O-T, strengths-weaknesses,
opportunities and threats analysis?
Do they participate in setting goals, performing a “gap
analysis” and design a personal development plan?
Do they have a Z Plan, a personal desired outcome
when everything comes out “jelly-side up”?
Those who felt anxious might lack the NECESSARY
SKILLS. Have they performed a personal self assessment?
Do they know soft and wise skills that they are expected
to display and will provide advantages? Do they know
how to manage and build personal self esteem?
Ref. Brian Tracy
Those who felt frustrated might not have developed and
used available RESOURCES. Have they mentors that
seem committed to them? Are they aware of legal
counsel of Al Sklover for employment issues? Are
they aware of the WRAP method (Widen options,
Reality check solutions, Attain distance/perspective
and Prepare to be wrong)
Working through these brought some clarity to dealing
with each person’s sense of uncertainty.
Thanks to Hari Narayanan for bringing the uncertainty
matrix to my attention.
What are the “good” companies to work for? How do you
learn who they are when doing your job search? Word of
mouth, crowd-sourcing, business news? A link to Barron’s
weekly business publication can provide some insight.
Investments are often a challenge in the beginning of
our careers, and for long time investors, things change a
lot over time. I am learning that in the current climate
I should move to ETFs of dividend paying stocks in my
tax deferred investments. Bond rates a low and the
Fed is expected to enter the whole picture with interest
rates. A link to essential information about ETF evaluations
might be useful.
Finally, we all do searching and archiving. Did you
know about “deep web” resources being developed by
MOST RESPECTED COMPANIES
SOURCES: Barrons June 29, 2015, p. 29
World’s Most Respected Companies and
P. Moutoukoutas, Fortune, “the worlds most respected
When looking for where we want to work, it might be
wise to know the best companies based on cloud
sourcing tools. Many technology and scientific firms
are included on the list. Discussion of the insertion of
Chinese firms from Fortune offers a different insight.
SOURCE: B. Leggett, “Essential and misunderstood
I am new to ETFs which are investment vehicles that
are a form of index funds with lower fees for investors.
How to evaluate them to invest in is not clear. Leggett
is offering a tutorial that could be useful for your long
term financial health.
DEEP WEB SEARCHING
SOURCE: American Laboratory June/July 2015
“Scientists Use the Deep Web to Find information not
Accessible to Search Engines”
This might be the next generation of information
technology that will be used in research and forecasting.
What do you know about the documents you sign
when you are employed by an organization? Al
Sklover provides deep insight into what they protect,
require and imply in one “watch out” link.
When studying organizations to determine pros and
cons for their mission and strategy we are faced with
some unfamiliar terms. The Economist reviews some
current popular styles that can provide help in your
WSJ projected where manufacturing jobs of the future
will be. It provides “down to earth” reading that society
publications might not be as forthcoming with.
RESTRICTIVE COVENANT DOCUMENTS
SOURCE: A. Sklover, “Non-Solicitation agreements
from A to Z” April 2015
An authoritative description of restrictive covenants is
agreements to limit your future work-related effort, Al Sklover
offers. They include: non-competes, non-solicitation and
nondisclosure. The site renders thoughts and opinions about
what wording to look for and seek an understanding of, if you
are faced with such agreements. Clear language and integrity
stand out in the “working wisdom blog.”
BUSINESS STRATEGY DEFINITIONS
SOURCE: The Economist, Schumpeter, “A palette of plans“
5-30-15. p. 66
Business life cycles, mergers and acquisitions, patent litigation
and joint ventures, product recalls and new updates dominate
the marketplace. When you evaluate firms to consider working
at, it might be helpful to have a clue on the business strategy
since working there is truly investing your time and very likely
your resources. Schumpeter summarizes a Boston Consulting
Group book on business strategies. It describes:
niche-dominating, adaptive-evolving (4E model), blue ocean
(whole new market), broad-partnering, and being-nimble-
striving for-efficiency strategies.
FORECAST: FUTURE MANUFACTURING JOBS
SOURCE, WSJ, 6-3-15, p. R6,”Where the manufacturing jobs
of the future will be“
This article is a litmus test for job forecasting of technical
professionals. Realize that things will change, like the fracking
revolution for jobs in the oil patch and flexible innovation
when oil prices suddenly declined in the last year.
The article does not relate directly to PhDs and post-docs,
but it does indicate the health of certain industries and
the top locations of chemical plants and plant systems
BONUS Sklover Working Wisdom: Topic OVERTIME PAY