“Head-turning” surprises happened in the
Washington workshops, some one-on-ones
and subsequent emails. The surprises
related to mentoring. It was as if it were
a new term, or something hard to do, or
something not common in chemically
related careers. Some questions came up,
- Who should I choose for a mentor?
- How do I ask a person to be a mentor?
- What do mentors and proteges say to
- What qualities should a good mentor have?
Some rules of thumb for mentoring:
- everyone needs mentors
- a mentor is anyone from whom you can learn
- effective mentors can be quite different from their
proteges (note the shift from mentee, a term that I
am shifting from) and can be chosen by their
Characteristics of mentors include:
1. have time, interest and energy to commit
2. have a learning attitude, effective perspective and
strong communication skills
3. want to commit
4. can synchronize with your time frame and schedule
5. offer harmonious two way communication with fun
so that you look forward to working together
Mentoring is a joint experience that does not require
line management involvement or even knowledge.
It can be from outside perspectives. Both successes
and failures contribute to mentoring discussion and
Some quotes related to mentoring are in the comments.
Time is on my side.
Rather than throwing out mail that comes
in the mailbox, I can look at it for real
relevance. Dice sent a career related
envelope offering freebies, but I was more
interested in John Vlastelica’s tips for
You should be too.
1. Not only are they looking for keywords,
but also for related accomplishments. So,
if you can learn specifically about the job
description it could be beneficial to relate
some detail in a research summary
or achievement statement or business outcome.
2. What is the nature of an applicant’s
In a tight job market, some just need a job.
Others really desire to work for your company,
serve your customers and work in your field.
So, understand that interviewers, at all phases,
will be exploring:
why should we hire you?
why do you want to work for this
a good fit of styles.
3. John relates about companies’ need to
protect their brand. We, as candidates, have
the same need and should choose to accept an
off based on how we were courteously and
respectfully treated. We are interviewing
them as much as they are interviewing us.
RANDOM LASERS - FUTURE TOOL
Source: Yale Stone Group
An old radiation tool (laser) with unique
properties has been demonstrated recently.
The “random laser” one with single-
wavelength, multiply-scattered emission
await technical experiments and
applications (biomedical and micro-
USING BLOGS FOR BROADER REVIEW
Source: C&EN 8-17-09, Communication
dot com 1 2
“Blogs haven’t replaced peer review. But
they are a supplement that is growing
“Becoming part of the process of science…”
WOLFRAM ALPHA BLOG
Calculation tool for chemical phenomena.
Human Interactions with scientific personnel
is beyond the general scope of science course
work, but not the business of science. Most
miss out on this, one of the most important
parts of productive careers. The learning comes
harder and sometimes more slowly, as a
Academia prides itself in getting credit for
doing things first.
Teamwork-focused companies force conflict
that can be under the surface and avoid
dealing with it. Carl Cohen ushers in good
discussion in his book.
Several insights about science trained
Solid data and supporting evidence before
making a claim (preference),
Get as much information as possible before
making decisions (preference),
But these are not always possible….
Listen to concerns, reason and persuade
rather than being authoritative
Models to motivate based on performance
outcomes are common but do not always
apply to such “knowledge workers.”
Wow! The Washington ACS meeting
showed me some things about how
outplacement firms “help” people
who are let go in the 21st century.
While these comments might not be
general for the whole industry and
they may be individual case observations,
they lead me to suggest: know
what you want and ask for it with
outplacement firms to get any value
from the service.
P. Dvorak and J Lubin authored a front
page WSJ article whose title expresses the
Outplacement firms’ perspective. (WSJ, 8-20-09
This activity, now standard for mid-sized
and large firms to protect firms’ reputation
and limit the impact of employee lawsuits
and unemployment costs, is strong these
days. Previously this blog has mentioned
that we can tell an outplacement firm’s “stamp”
on resumes, a mile away. In addition, the
“stamp”, while a suitable representation for
some, more business-focused candidates
does not provide the key “match-ables”
in the middle third of the first page that
technical professionals need.
Down-sized workers have non-standard
needs and desires, yet the outplacement
firms have been challenged to provide
a competitive, cost effective set of services.
This translates to output that I observed
in resumes, cover letters and interview
preparation that doesn’t put all members
in the best possible light for fewer, ever
more competitive position s.
Know what you want and need from an
-Is it interview practice?
-secretarial service and assistance in public
-professional coaching for presentations,
phone interviews, or networking connections?
1. very common resume format that may be
2. documents not containing key terms in your
field (need field specific background)
[specific, recommended recruiters can be
3. resume files missing significant parts (
some fields want to see research summaries
or technical digests)
4. leading firms appreciate tech savvy
scientists who can provide information
in relevant formats not involving paper
5. just providing job-posting sites, group
overview workshops, Internet based
material may not meet your needs.
Know your needs. Check with mentors.
Talk to people who have been satisfied
with their outplacement experience.
Don’t let your documents be sent without
your specific approval on each item.
Ask a lot of specific questions.
Talk with recruiters in your specific fields.
Contact the career consultants program
of the ACS.
The sense of several colleagues is that
meeting attendance and vitality in
Washington increased over the spring meeting.
As I walked out of the convention center, I
encountered a colleague who chaired
synthetic organic pharma sessions
and we both perceived a nice uptick.
Another colleague who attended med
chem sessions found them engaging and
It was nice to have between one-half and
two-thirds of the seats filled in Wed.
workshops on First Year on the Job in
Academe and Industry. Many of the
attendees were energized by an engaging
format, but also found useful:
- incredible awareness of body language
in listening and how valuable a tool it is
- importance of not only telling about
valuable principles, giving examples, but
also practicing them. Teaching moments
occur when audience attendees don’t quite
meet the minimum expected. Point it out
and move on.
It was strongly noted when people
exhibited professional behavior they were
credited with it and the audience
sensed how and why.
- reading facial expressions while
- off topic comments that avoid getting
to the point.
- need to prioritize and lead with your
- how to work with your boss, so that
- appropriate cell phone usage in
- goal setting and reviews
People interested in the academic careers
or changing into academic careers, valued
having a “research notebook”
and back-up plans when things don’t work
Industrial career attendees highlighted
working in teams, having time limits, being
able to practice giving summary responses
and feeling like their ideas were being heard.
The communication felt two-way to them.
It was a terrific professional experience.
Monday, it was delightful meeting 16
members in the mock interviewing area
in Washington. While consultants look
carefully at body language, verbal
skills and listening skills for areas of
improvement in personal presentation,
five other pointers can be shared.
Small talk: It is common for interviewers
to “get to know you” right at the
beginning of an interview. To do this, it
is common to engage in “small talk,”
discussion not directly pertaining to the
interview yet very important in human
interactions (in the US). 1
weaknesses and strengths and story
telling: An often heard interview question
seeks a person’s self-awareness or areas
for improvement. When one provides a
response for such a question in an interview,
a useful point and one we seek to learn
is what are you doing to improve yourself
(in a story format– STAR concept is
Strengths are also explored in interviews.
One offer that my boss has mentioned to
me that….referring to a strength you wish
to convey. Then, please give an example
via a short story.
questions: Please do have a list of
important, significant questions you need to
have answered in the interview. It is not
bad to ask similar questions of different
interviewers. How did you get to your
position? What do you like about working here?
See also 2 .
overcoming nervousness: How do you move
from the “uncomfortable anxiety” at the start
of an interview to the “alert and exciting
performing” level? It does not happen by
reading books for most people. It happens
through preparation, confidence and practice.
So, look for opportunities to have mock and
real interviews and presentations.
using resources: Look for ways to use
available boards, papers and media
to convey your information. If you are
savvy at tools or board-talk show it off.
boards, papers, the visual dimension
Yesterday it was a pleasure meeting with 14 members
in resume review at the Washington meeting. Some
- several experienced workers reported working with
outplacement firms set up by their previous employer.
They have not received any call backs and wondered
- experienced workers have sent out the same resume
from the outplacement firms to many sites, agencies,
Each person needs to customize their resume, list
documents, and cover letter for each position.
Most outplacement firms do a nice job offering a
SUMMARY as the item below the setting. Many in
the technical and chemical community prefer,
however, to see, below the heading, either
OBJECTIVE targeted to the specific position
HIGHLIGHTS pointing out specific skill sets that
match the job description, or
QUALIFICATIONS statement (for job fair
submission, for example).
- several members kept EDUCATION ahead of
EXPERIENCE despite many years of postgraduate
Consider after five years of post education experience
inverting the position of EXPERIENCE and
- several members created a long resume for
submission to all openings.
Consider using the “long” resume as a “master
resume” using it as a starting point for selecting items
for “targeted resumes” for each application.
A highly qualified member currently engaged
in a post-doc in neuroscience and sensor
development asked two questions in relation
to a phone screening interview. He indicated
that the interviewer was seeking a physical
chemist with good background in chemical
kinetics for a medical sensor development project.
First question: How should a question be
responded to if a person does not have
experience in photo physics, “we need a
person who can teach us that” how can one
deal with not having direct experience in a
particular aspect of a job description?
Second question: Last Friday I called to
inquire about the position. They responded
that they were interviewing a candidate with
the exact background for the position and if
she interviews well they will extend an offer.
Should I call them later?
These are judgment questions so I posed
them to several colleagues for their
DIRECT EXPERIENCE QUESTION: When
interviewing the hiring manager will have
preconceived notions of specific background
she seeks in a preferred candidate. It is very
(1) you can have her tell you those things.
Then, it is your task to
(2) show how your background prepares
you to meet the tasks. One might ask
questions to show how when you are faced
with an uncertain project or question you learn
quickly and “connect the dots” and propose
experiments or methods. One can perhaps
(3) ask what is known already and what is
I question whether responding that you can
learn this is a sufficient response.
I believe you want to
(4) show how quickly you can learn and
apply new information and
(5) display enthusiasm that shows you are
interested in the problem. You will be
presented with “roadblocks” all the time in
projects, one might want to show that you
are up to the challenges.
(2) “SHOULD I CALL THEM LATER”
There are many occasions when you
can speak with people or make contacts
informally or formally. If you sound anxious
and desperate, in a phone call, it is a
So, if you do have a reason to call, whether
if it is an expense form, or you wanted to
personally thank someone for meeting,
don’t sound desperate.
Other perspectives are contained in the
Some of the best things that happened
to me at meetings happened as a result
of having an open mind to things.
- Having a lunch and conversation
together with someone I did not know.
- Looking for and finding a person I
wanted to meet and having a conversation
standing on line
- Volunteering to co-chair a session,
meeting and helping speakers
Washington is a week away. There are a number
of things that one can do to get the most out of
a gathering like this. [See also 1 ]
Before the meeting:
1. Contact others, ask will they attend the ACS
Plan to meet them
2. Offer something to others
3. Commit time to do things
Have some things to bring up in conversation:
- travel situations
- interesting talks, posters, and exhibits
- twitter and share what you learned
At the meeting:
1. seek out opportunities to converse
-people who are not already engaged
-people in line, say hello
-ask for help
2. developing a mindset that you want to
create and build professional relationships
After the meeting:
1. follow up on commitments made at
2. continue new friendships with social
What better location for a meeting to be
in Washington, of one seeks a position
in the government service?
While it has been my observation the
LLNL (Livermore) has interviewed people,
a more visible venue for agencies and labs
is the Exhibition Hall. Listed below are
agencies and booth numbers one can find in
C&EN 7-27-09, pp. 78-96
- FBI, booth1927
- Federal Lab Consortium - mid-Atlantic,
- IAEA- UN, booth 706 (atomic energy
- NIST, booth 1613
- USDA, booth 1601.
Several chemical and recruiting companies
will also be exhibiting and would be worth
bringing your resume, business card, and
other PR documents on a visit.
A growing trend for finding jobs and really
having a presence on the Internet is Twitter.
Not an expert on it myself, but convinced of
its potential, just like blogging (to enhance one’s
resume), I have begun experimenting with it.
Careersolvers did a nice article on managing
your twitter account for job searching.