While it is true one can not guarantee security
in the workplace solely by your own behaviors,
you can do several good things. Marshall Loeb
wrote a nice piece citing a book by Richard Busse
Book: “Fired , laid off or forced out”
The article offers 12. Here, my top 5 are summarized.
- bosses: know their expectations, communicate well with them
and develop a trusting relationship
- co-workers: socialize and communicate within the
- thank people who help you, offer to help people
- remember to thank the person who hired you into the
- when you are given proprietary or personal information
confidentially, keep it confidential
It is interesting to observe experienced people
waiting for someone to ask them to assume more
responsibility or expand their roles. They are so
conditioned by their cultures that they carry over
their behaviors to new situations.
A fine fellow I know, professor at a major university
is a respected volunteer career consultant. He likes
and accepts the roles he has been asked to perform,
but he could do more.
It is the role of mentors to look beyond themselves
and look out for the organization and people development.
It is generally true that few mid-career people are
afforded career development for satisfaction. One
usually is expected to pursue it themselves. Leaders
need to act as mentors to do this.
So, at the Chicago meeting, seeing a need and a desire/
skill set I approached an individual and helped him craft
a plan to expand his role. He liked the professional attention.
During the past week, I attended the Chicago ACS
meeting meeting at least 30 people for either resume
reviews or interviews. One common shortcoming
whether determining what kind of position a person
wished to interview for or what was the objective
of a resume was incomplete personal self assessment.
This is essential and it will clearly reveal itself in either
the resume or the screening interview.
Experienced professionals consider also using this site.
Another important site to have on your radar screen is
While things change in a person’s career there are some
persistent values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. It is
important to know these as they form essentials for formulating
what one will advertise yourself as.
What are your skills, values (autonomy, security, challenge,
business acumen, prestige, customer interations, teams, salary),
interests (passions), roles, and realities?
Often, I find people do not know whether they are
better suited for a large, medium or small sized organization.
Do you wish to be focusing on being active in a lab, work
in a factory with specialized equipment, or an office environment
working with clients, data, or co-workers.
What occupational roles and industries should you explore?
It could be helpful to conduct informational interviews, explore
fields via reading, colloquia, career fairs, recruiters, and your
One should then consider narrowing down possibilities.
This can be done at ACS national meetings or at some
large university placement services.
This leads to a goal setting exercise that will be the core of
your job search strategy. One commonly composes a listing
of your accomplishments which can be translated into STAR
stories and resume entries. Indsustries are broken down
and evaluated incorporating business information.
Several people wished to pursue a post-doctoral position.
For them, they should be thinking 3 to 5 years out in time.
The post-doc, being a temporary position, is a step in the
path to an ultimate position. This should be rationally considered,
How we deal with adversity says an awful lot
about a person. In fact, it is one of the separating
behaviors between being successful in some
positions and less than successful.
Life is full of rejections, if we think about it.
In the job interviewing scenario, consider three
kinds of rejections–
- after the screening interview, not invited on-site
- after the on-site interview, not extended an offer
- after the on-site interview, rejecting an offer.
One of the things applicants should consider after
an interview is doing a post interview evaluation of
the interview. This objective snapshot asks
what seemed to go well,
what was a surprise,
what could have been done better?
Is this a place I can work at?
Does this place meet my expectations?
Will I be happy doing the assignment?
Will I like living and working in this area?
Based on this self examination, one can then
develop the decisions one will need to make
and actions associated with them. (One of the
immediate follow-ups are thank you letters to
interviewers for the chance to apply and meet
This note focuses on how to deal with a rejection
letter from a company after interviewing. We
mentally beat ourselves down, don’t we? Our
spirits, energy and self-esteem sink.
1. Think about the process we are in. Interrupt it.
2. Remember what our goals are and focus on
what is needed.
3. Review your objective snapshot of the interview.
4. Follow up on the interview by finding out,
if the organization will share, how you came up
5. Learn from it. Combine your snapshot with
the feedback to develop an improvement plan.
An appropriate thank you note can then follow.
Rather than closing the door, this can be
a chance of building a bridge for the future.
Clearly state your positive impressions of the
Explore the interest in learning what the
successful candidate had over you.
Indicate that you will call to personally pursue this. (It
is likely not to happen via anything written.) If
this is a company that is a goal to work for,
politely indicate that you wish to be considered
for other positions and would reapply in the future.
Keep the company and its people on your
“radar screen” for inviting opportunities.
Question of several colleagues:
How would you respond to the question:
Why did you leave your last employer?
What I tell potential employers:
I had brought what I was working on to a
reasonable transition point, and I am looking
for new challenges. The only thing I added
was that we got new senior management
and that I had done all I could to advance
the project management discipline.
The message is that I didn’t agree with the
new regime. It usually stops there with nods
of understanding, and I haven’t said anything
disparaging about my former employer. If
I’m pressed, I say that there wasn’t a
consistent idea throughout the new
leadership team about what the project
management approach should be.
Hope that helps. See you in Chicago.
The signals I get when I “hear” this response is
an experienced person has a formal way of completing
projects. He had moved the project to a satisfactory
level of completion. New management came in and
felt the need to either change direction, stop the project
or bring a specific person in for the next phase of the
This person has a formal style he describes as
his project management approach that might have
been different than what new senior management
felt was how to move projects to completion.
Dana Matioli, in a recent post on how to respond to this question
offers six good factors to keep in mind, many of
which R. displayed nicely.
- Be brief.
- Be up front and honest.
- Don’t display non-professional behavior or offer negative comments.
- Don’t use overused cliches that does
not show the true reality of job change in US
- Assume responsibility for things that did not
work and indicate how you have learned from
- Be prepared for follow-up questions, like
If you stayed with the company, what would your next move be? or
If you had things be different, what would they be? or
What would you like to see different in your next position
In some cases, “R.’s” remarks above might
reflect a degree of inflexibility. That translates
into motivation, tactics and working with people
(customers, clients, or upper management more
than project team members).
Matioli’s article offered strong comments that
money and shorter commute might not be
arguments to offer.
The article offered some nice considerations
relating to wanting to work for a firm where
you could use newly acquired skills or skills
you love to use. In other words, express the
desire to move on to their position which
fulfills your needs.
Any other thoughts to mention?
Leadership is one of the things many companies evaluate
people in their organization for providing and it is something
that can be learned, modeled and emulated.
Ram Charron authored an insightful article on one of the
practices good leaders originate– purposeful, authentic
It is valuable to examine his points. He indicates there is a
practiced know-how to thinking through the goals you set to reach
to meet specific objectives. This can involve mid-course changes
based on research and development results, competition, market
feedback and insights for other cross currents.
Goal setting involves
- specifically how objectives are going to be met
and the implications of working on the goals
(options creation factor, also options modification
- consideration of other goals being worked on
by other members of your team;
can you maximize each others’ by co-developing
is there a priority of goals;
is there a overriding constraint that needs to be factored
in to goals–staffing, cash-flow, technology…(within budget factor)
- think backward (kniht) from achieving the goal to
the steps involved. this is commonly helpful in
constructing timelines for work (on-time factor)
- involve others, as you are more likely to elicit
cooperation if people co-develop goals, as they
have a say in their formation, than if they are directed
to accomplish things. (accountability factor)
What other thoughts do you have about good practices in
goal-setting that can be passed on to allow people to
learn and practice this essential leadership skill?
An interesting web-site was linked to my reading this
weekend. It contained among other things, an
introduction to career planning step-by-step, by Dawn
The article suggests a four step process for making
progress on career choices. With current realities of
career shifts, this can happen several times for an
individual in his or her career.
It is hard to criticize the outline other than to say that
it could be considered an iterative process, rather than
a linear process, of self-assessment, developing options,
finding matches, and focusing targeted actions. One
could mention the need for Resources in Career Planning
These resources might be
- professional associations, like the ACS,
- and recruitment firms.
Each of the items listed in the article has links in the blogroll
that could be helpful–
- self-assessment- mid-career assessment, leadership, motivation
- developing options- great websites, networking
- finding matches- mid-career, job search glossary, internet use
- targeted actions- public relations docs, recruiters
James Kelly and Scott Nadler authored a terrific article
“Why leadership below the top is needed for fostering
This article resulted from a study of how businesses succeed
through solid leadership behaviors. The behaviors focus on two
- commitment to assume leadership and
- fostering leadership thinking.
In addition to those is a third–
- distilling clear values of what is appreciated and has
merit (added the third item).
Commitment to assume leadership
In the commitment element, Kelly and Nadler recognized
the need to move from the ‘in-charge’ posture to the forward
looking position. In so doing, forming a gap in what needs to
be accomplished on the day-to-day level and find other ways to
meet the needs.
I especially liked the idea of looking for signals from outside
their organization, including “customers, competitors,
A good leader thinks that he works with his subordinates,
shares the information he receives, keeps things clear and simple
and looks for a mental organizational chart where leaders connect
with everyone, rather than having layers of separation.
Effective leaders commit to leadership by developing
‘trusted adviser’ skills. They understand how to turn conversations
into meaningful discussions, listen more than they
speak, and ask questions that broaden perspectives.
Leaders who go far don’t try to “time things” as much as
‘recognize good times to infuse, refresh, adjust, and question.’
This can be done by creating the need for a solution rather
than imposing a specific solutions. Leadership is broadened
to others by
- opening up “what if” questions and thinking through to logical endpoints.
- discussing what the core beliefs mean to them and listen to the
translation to others
- refreshing the radar screen of risks and impacts ;
requirements, expectations and demands so that others
can see and pick up on the changes.
Distilling what is valued into values.
This is transformational thinking not mentioned in the article.
It is like Southwest Airlines “being the lowest cost airlines”
by translating how every team member can contribute to
the success of the enterprise.
Attached is a cover letter I wrote for a job that
was referred to me. Of course each cover letter
will have its own feel related to the specific
job and company. I just want to see if it is an
improvement and that I am headed in the
right direction. Thank you
Bill Smith March 5, 2007
B.K. Smith and Associates
Dear Mr. Smith,
This letter is in response to a Senior Research
Electrochemist (NES 1011) position that was
referred to me recently by a recruiter. I
understand that you seek an individual to
examine corrosion effects upon metal
surfaces to determine inhibitor actions. I hope
you agree that my experience and qualifications
meet your needs.
While performing my doctoral research I
examined mostly polymer surfaces/interfaces.
My experience lies in surface and thin film
characterization, and elemental and molecular
identification. In addition, I have worked
with corrosion inhibitors used as additives
in solutions to slow oxidation of surfaces.
This background in surface/interface
science would allow me to closely
examine and offer an in-depth
understanding of processes occurring
at the deposit/metal surface interface in
conjunction with electrochemical data.
Also my proven track record of experimental
design and method development would be
a great asset to the work in the area of
developing new electrochemical techniques.
My PhD from the University of M
refined my ability to think critically and
to approach problems from an intellectual
and strategic framework. At the same time
my work with scientists and engineers
at EFG and SCC allowed me to solve
problems related to surfaces/interfaces
in industry. These experiences have taught
me the importance of teamwork and good
communication. I have learned to collaborate
effectively with researchers who have many
different personalities and work styles.
To give you a better sense of my
qualifications I have attached my resume.
I would greatly appreciate any opportunities
to discuss this opportunity with you further
and appreciate your kind and thoughtful
review of my credentials.
Thank you for your consideration.
This is an out of the ordinary post.
Normally, we post interactions with members who wish
specific information, while keeping their identity anonymous.
The logic and perspective of their question and the
information shared and sometimes used are what
have been noted by readers as being valuable.
Also, we comment on specific online websites and articles
that may be of value to members. Some of the references
are then linked.
This post relates to ’small talk.’ It is an essential part
of networking, getting to know people and interviewing
in the US. As we develop a new workshop being offered
for the first time in Chicago on the General concept of
Communication skills for chemical professionals, it
appears that it needs to be covered. So, I am gathering
relevant information for it.
The first notion I wish to share is about an NPR interview
with Deborah Fine author of a book on small talk.
She defined it as the “picture frame around the focus
of a business conversation”. It is ’surface level
conversation’ that makes people more comfortable,
explores common ground and conveys interest in
In the interview, Fine points out things that could be taboo
in ’small talk.’ Don’t say
- “Can I be honest with you now about….” what have
been saying in the whole conversation
- “I will try to get back to you…” either you will or you
- weak phrases that don’t say things are not helpful.
A second article is by Sinara Stull O’Donnell, “Interview small
talk makes a big impression.” http://www.careerjournal.com/columnists/perspective/20010820-fmp.html
She suggests in her article to show interest, display courtesy and
But the article that struck home to me was Diane E.
Lewis’s “The art of the interview– US Style.” http://bostonworks.boston.com/globe/articles/051505_interview.html
in US interviews that reveals some cultural differences
between our culture and those of people
from other backgrounds. For those people it
is crucial to understand this and then do it well.
She talks about understanding that the
interviewer will normally offer the start of small
talk and the interviewee is expected to comply
with control, knowing that it will be short. How
does one learn this skill? Speaking with mentors and
engaging in mock interviews.
Hope this offers some help about small talk.