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

December 2008
« Nov   Jan »
Watch-outs 4. ESOPS, E-verify and Employment contracts
Filed under: First Year on Job, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 9:45 am

This entry gives three suggestions.
1.  Understand your current employer’s
motivation, the employer’s benefits and the
employees ‘real exposures’ of Employee
Stock Ownership Plans ESOPs.

2.  Considerations if your employer or
future employer conducts an E-verify

3.  Take this opportunity to read and
delve into your employment contract.
Places to learn about questions to ask.

1.  ESOPs
Source:  WSJ  121-10,2008, p. B6;  “Tribune
Filing exposes risks of ESOPs
,” E. E. Schultz

Employees are locked into narrowly
focused vehicles for companies to gain
access to cash and reduced taxes.

In the past, two of my previous employers
formed ESOPs.  In one, small gains in company
stock that appreciated resulted.  In the other,
the account which replaced the retirement
plans fell to a net $1/ share after all is said
and done.

Schultz’s article describes why companies
reduce employees’ salaries, increase employees’
exposure to loss and restrict employees’
investment options.

Know your exposure.  

2.  E-Verify
Employers can verify citizenship information
with DHS through a system in cooperation
with social security.
The E-Verify website gives insight into the
requirements, your rights, and protections.

3.  Employment contracts
Can’t say I read every employment contract
in my career.  The one time I did after a
change of ownership, and I refused
to sign it because of clauses, my boss got into
a heap of trouble.  We had a discussion and
clarified my concerns.  I signed it.

Many sources provide benefits for employers,
Sklover’s blog reveals story after story involving
problems where an employee’s contract is
the linchpin.  At a certain point in one’s
career it is imperative to have a lawyer
review the contract. 

Learning what your contract says or does
not say, and the issues others have experienced
can be informative.

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Practice Telephone Interview
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Mentoring, Technicians
Posted by: site admin @ 8:58 am

This blog entry could be about “keeping in
touch with your network” or “decision-making
at the end of graduate studies”.  However,
let’s talk about a third item that “B” and I
did– practice telephone interview.

We have been communicating about beginning
his career for nearly a year.  He invited me to be
a mentor and part of his network.  He has
created his own good fortune by exploring
several post-graduate school options while
finishing up.  One is a highly regarded post-
doc and the second is a position at a large
firm.  The large firm invited B to a telephone
interview this afternoon.

We began our discussion by me asking him
if he has addresses, locations and numbers
for the interviewee.  He does. 

Our initial part of the conversation confirmed that
his connection was good and he sounded
confident and professional.  Next we moved
into information that may be sought in the interview,
verifying his work in ADME and matching the
needs of the position.  His response was just
the right length and level of content.

After exploring his involvement in other projects
(working on more than one project at time and
collaboration), we explored what he plans to
ask if given the chance to ask questions.  He
proposed where would the project work
be located, training for the position and possibilities
for advancement.

HE was encouraged not to ask about training…
of course, the company will provide all the
training that will be needed to help him do the
job well. 
Also, it is NOT appropriate to ask about

advancement at this point in the process. 
As we know, advancement depends on being
recognized for making contributions for the
benefit of the company.  It is achievement based.

Appropriate questions include:  when does the
position start, who will he work with and for,
and is there anything more that they needed to
learn for them to decide that he is the best candidate
to be brought in for an on-site interview.
Learn also about some of the details of the

Plan to send thank you notes and end courteously
and professionally.

1 comment
Interview Question. Appearance of a professional
Filed under: Interviewing, Mentoring, Mature professionals, Post-docs, Technicians
Posted by: site admin @ 8:45 am

There are no dumb questions, we have heard
before.  It goes both ways, in the sense that a
person is respected when he, or she, asks a
question.  An honest helpful anwer is offered
by the mentor is also a requisite.

[It is true, in certain cases, the question could have
been answered before.  That can be courteously
stated and if there are nuances, please plan an
alternate tactic.]

A recent question came from a colleague:

“…(A) If you get to an interview early, what is it
appropriate to do?  My friend
said that she
read a science-related magazine and that the
interviewer asked her
to tell him about the
most interesting article.  I know that this
would be the
most “impressive” thing to
do but I think that I will be to nervous to
anything that I am reading right before
an interview.  (B.) I was thinking of
bringing my
needlepoint because that would keep my hands
busy and prevent my
from biting my nails
but I don’t know if that is acceptable, so I
appreciate feedback from you. 

My impressions are fairly defined on this.
I responded to the colleague.  Before composing
this blog, however, I did a ’sanity check.’  I
contacted a trusted colleague who might
have a different view, Lisa Balbes, to learn
what she would advise.  She provided the
exact same advice as I offered.  So here it is:

A.  Arrival for an interview
1.  When traveling to an interview, have a
rehearsed plan to arrive about 15 minutes
before the agreed upon time.  Please have
a telephone number to call in case there is
a delay.
2.  When you arrive at the location use the
restroom to freshen up your appearance,
check yourself in the mirror and arrange
your interview notes, papers and items.
3.  Then, when you are ready, announce
yourself to the receptionist and your host.
4.  If you arrive and are asked to wait, bring
along with you interview notes, questions to
ask, agenda and resume in a folio that
you can pull out and review.  Also, get
recent literature on the company, annual
reports and documents to review.
5.  Take brief opportunities to notice bulletin
boards, how people interact, the small
talk and energy level of the people you
6.  Display courtesy and approachable
friendliness.  This will be noticed.

Have the main focus of business being
the company, how you fit in and begin
assessing is this the company for you.

B.  Needlepoint
1.  Needlepoint is a fine art that is relaxing
and a topic of conversation.  My feeling is
that it is not appropriate to bring this along
to an interview.  It is a distraction for your
2.  Lisa has an interest in needlepoint.  She
agrees.  Let it be said, needlepoint would fit
nicely to bring on the plane.

Please have the professional appearance of
business focus, ready to work, good attention
to detail, displaying confidence in eye to eye
contact, smile, strong handshake and firm voice
in a thoughtful introduction.

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Outliers. What companies might value
Filed under: Interviewing, Mentoring, Mature professionals, Post-docs, Technicians
Posted by: site admin @ 2:20 pm

Since reading Blink and Tipping Point,
Malcolm Gladwell has a fan in me!  It is
not surprising then that “Outliers“, his 2008
book, is a topic here.

Rebecca Smith WSJ authored a front
page article
on an advanced battery consortium.
While I applaud the effort and the story for a future
area of work, it is not novel.  We see ExxonMobil
advertisements about battery separators that
may have had its origins in a grand battery project
that lasted nearly a decade in the 1970s.  It was
clear then that materials with very unique
requirements were needed for long-lived service.

People, companies and industries might be
the same.  It is hard to excel unless long-term strong
commitment is involved.  The exception of course is
where a very large firm or entity can buy up the
best and the brightest.  It is much harder to do, now.

I wish to share three “in your face” observations
Gladwell points out that relate to this and to
what companies might be looking for in candidates.

 - “10,000 hour rule” it takes ten thousand hours
of practice in anything to achieve mastery.

Hard work honing your skills to solve problems.

 - there are certain fields where doggedness
and persistence  and the willingness to try
out many approaches and NOT GIVE UP.
He mentioned the innate abilities as being
somewhat unreal, trying hard until one “gets
it” is what matters.

People aren’t just ‘born winners,’ but grow
in a culture that supports hard work on
worthwhile goals and prove themselves.

 - “practical intelligence” - knowing what to
say, when, to whom and how to say it with
maximum effect.

inspired communication skills .

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Networking. Holidays and job searching
Filed under: Position Searching, Networking, Recruiters, Post-docs, Technicians
Posted by: site admin @ 8:24 pm

Dear Dan,

I thought of a question for you.  Two
summers ago there was a symposium held
at the university inconjunction with “W”
{company name withheld}.  I introduced
myself to a contact and sent my resume
in the spring.  He said he would send it to
hiring managers.  It did not lead anywhere.
Is it appropriate for me to send him an
e-mail wishing him happy holidays and
updating him on my status and checking
if any positions have become available?

Should I attach a resume to the letter to
the contact at “W”.

Yours truly,


Rules of thumb for LinkedIn (From answers to
questions on LinkedIn)
1) Connect with all of your old friends
and associates.  Be careful to invite
people that you have relationships with.
2) Join your college alumni, work, and
special interest groups.
3) Answer people’s questions in the
forums and make meaningful
discussion posts.
4) Include links to your work online
or blogs.
5) Wait until relationships are

confirmed or develop before asking

for a job.  Contribute first before asking.
6) Use your email folder to scan

discussion digests quickly.  Search for

“group members” to group the emails


Suggest you contact the “W” person

via LinkedIn and invite him to join

your network.  Wish him happy holidays

mentioning the significance of your

previous meeting and his presentation.

Hope this helps.


1 comment
Communication 1. Negotiation ideas
Filed under: Job Offer (Situations), First Year on Job, Leadership, Mature professionals, Post-docs, Technicians, Legal matters
Posted by: site admin @ 1:49 pm

Many of us have read articles or heard
reports of negotiations.  Until we are confronted
with a situation where we want something or
something is done unfairly, we may not do
a lot of negotiation.  In fact, many are encouraged
from a young age not to have conflict that
has to be negotiated.

Many find that the world of work, professions
and employment involves competition and thus
requires conflict in many different forms and

Many are not prepared for this reality.  So
let’s bring up this subject of resolving conflict
first by touching on negotiation.

In many interviews for example one typical
question is:  ‘have you ever had a conflict with
your boss, what happened and how was it
resolved.’  A common answer is:  “I never have
a conflict ….”  In the competitive workplace
conflict commonly happens.  Knowing how
to resolve conflict by negotiation is a critical

Babcock and Laschever authored a
thoughtful treatise addressing negotiation
from the point of view of women exerting
more influence in the workplace.

They point out that to be successful one needs to
recognize subconscious biases.  These biases
influence behaviors and decisions even without
people realizing.  To simplify their ideas I will
list eight topics/questions related to the negotiation
scenario.  They have constructed PFQs (prep
steps, fairness assessment & questions to ask)
and offer them
in their blog .

1. Define the negotiation environment (circumstances
and relationships; who, each party’s expectations)

2. What are the issues, are there more than one?

3. How formal of an agreement will be needed?

4. In the negotiation, what is the nature of
the relationships?– on-going, one time…

4. How important is timing;  what are the
consequences of a delay?

5. What is important to the other side in
the negotiation?

6. Will the result be made public?

7. Will the result set a precedent?

8. Are there norms for the negotiation

The authors work through three concepts
commonly used in negotiations–
best alternative to a negotiated agreement
BATNA, reservation value (minimum or
maxiumum negotiation position)
and logrolling (listing all the issues to
be negotiated;  include all issues
in the negotiation)


Recruiters. 5. Lines of communication and protocols
Filed under: Position Searching, Public Relations docs, Recruiters, Post-docs
Posted by: site admin @ 10:23 am

Sarah Needleman’s recent ‘working with recruiters’
article and communications with a respected
recruiter, Megan Driscoll offer valuable insight
to respond to a members questions.

Situation:  Recent Ph.D. grad in Analytical chemistry
and electrochemistry desires a position right out
of school and asks:

“Dear Dan,
I have some job-search related questions for
you.  I am a little confused as to what the
pharmaceutical recruiting company is
supposed to do.  I talked to the head of the
analytical recruiting division … at the
beginning of November.  He has not given
me any job leads.

Last week, I sent him [some] job-posting[s]
[of interest to me.]  He replied back to me
to not apply on-line anywhere and to do
all of my searching through him.
Is this the correct procedure?

In your opinion, is it okay for me to
send him the postings for all positions
that I find appealing?

Also, in your opinion, woud it be okay
for me to submit my resume to [other]
scientific staffing companies
such as Ke…
Scien… and OnAs…La…  [reader can fill

I feel like I am floundering in my job search.
I could just apply on-line to a ton of places,
but none of my on-line applications have had
any success so far.

Yours truly,

The Needleman article offers “cast a wide
net…  Recruiters can be valuable even if they
do not have have clients that match your skill
set and experience level.”

They know what is happening in the market.

First question:
They know that there is a rank order for
resume submissions that an applicant
consider.  Lowest chances to get
an interview
are those that are web-submitted. 
If you do
anything, develop, as LK’s note
other ways than online to the
website to submit
your resume. 

Use the website for some information on
positions and other valuable and essential
information, for sure.

Use and expand your network to make
contacts to employers and recruiters.

Second question:
It helps the recruiter to know the kinds of
positions that you are interested in when
you send them in.  The recruiter has his
self interest in mind and will need to meet
his search assignments.  Some firms will
use recruiters, ask the recruiter for whom
he works.  If nothing materializes in about
2 weeks use your network to submit your
public relations documents.

Third question:
Make sure each recruiter is working with
the hiring managers and not just HR.

Seriously consider submitting to other

staffing firms.  However, know when,
and by whom the resume is being

submitted.  When you are
working with

multiple recruiters, it is important not to be
submitted to a company by more than one

Some tips previously mentioned for working

with recruiters are referred
1  2  3 

1 comment
Inventory your skills.
Filed under: Mentoring, First Year on Job, Mature professionals, Post-docs, Technicians
Posted by: site admin @ 11:24 am

Our world is fast-paced, moving in several
directions from moment to moment.  One thing
that is certain in what we do is change, is a
common mantra.

If you are not caught in a lay-off, it is still
good to maintain a file where you inventory
your skills.  With each item, identify
accomplishments and STAR (situation, task,
action, result) or CARI (cause, action,
result, implications) stories.

Identify especially non-obvious ones and ones
you have done recently.

Identify new skills or habits that you want to add to
your repertoire.

crossing into new disciplines.  Read
up on them and speak to people who have
done it or who might be able to help.

Consider learning something deeper about your
business, products, services, roles, product
development cycle.  This can be in casual
conversation or attending a different functional
meeting.  Don’t look for immediate benefits.

Clear the decks with an adversary.  This is
a prime time to find ways to resolve issues
looking forward to working together on
common issues rather than in a “zero sum

Explore your passions looking for ways
you can be more efficient, streamline your
habits, and find a way to meet an unaddressed
need.  Give away successes to others so
they share the credit.

Stretch your technological portfolio.

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Watch-outs 3. Job-loss health benefits, roll-overs, end of year considerations
Filed under: Mature professionals, Technicians, Legal matters
Posted by: site admin @ 7:42 pm

This entry gives three suggestions.
1.  Items to consider in your health care insurance
if you will be or have lost your job.

2.  Considerations for keeping funds in 401K
or rolling over into IRA, upon separation

3.  Investment considerations in a market

1.  Cobra or other insurer
Source:  WSJ  11-20,2008, p. D1;  “Healthy consumer”
Prices for cobra have increased.
Individual plans can be alternative, but…

Cobra requires you to keep the same plan as
when you are employed at 102% of the cost.
Individual policies have coverage limits and
exclusions not always clearly spelled out.

Possible solutions:
 - seek coverage from a family member’s
policy;  be aware of time limits for joining

 - if you are a likely candidate, choose a lower
cost coverage

 - look into fine print of alternate plans

2.  401K or Rollover IRA
Source:  WSJ  12-2-08, p. R5
“IRA offers more flexibility…401(k) can be
easier to tap in an emergency.”

Be aware of stock and tax situations described
in the article in FAMILY MONEY column,
Suzanne Barlyn.

3.  Investment ideas in a down market
Source: WSJ 12-2-8, 2008, p. R7
“Making the best of a bad year,” by Tom Herman
Consider taking losses in your taxable
account, deducting as much as $3000
against wages and other ordinary income.
Plug your data into Turbotax or equivalent
to determine your actual benefit.
Article points out ‘don’t sell solely for tax
reasons.’  Know what your “going forward
plan” is before hand, including the
30 day wash rule.  Items like this are
common, but this PERSONAL PROPERTY
note is clearly written.

1 comment
Federal employment resource
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Mature professionals, Technicians
Posted by: site admin @ 12:31 pm

Lily Whiteman authored an authoritative
book How to land a top-paying federal
job [A.M.A, 2007] that offers traditional
and non-traditional tips about finding
positions, interviewing and negotiating
within the government system.  I found it
offered sanguine insight into a valuable
career area for chemical scientists. 

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