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

June 2010
« May   Jul »
Managing your career. Patience and textured communication in Long term networking
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Networking, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 10:18 am

A truism that stands out in the current economy
is that technical skills alone will not land a person
their desired offer.  In a tight market, it behooves
job seekers to do the little things that show that
you recognize the hiring manager’s needs and the
company’s interests.

Longstanding issues for all chemists and technical
professionals are, whether you are in search of
better opportunities or in a satisfying situation:
-     learning what to do in an emergency or
problem while you are not in the situation
-     developing a mindset that recognizes the
early onset of downward spirals (in business growth,
technology development, industry trends) and
looks for solutions and new directions [what are
ways to end “losing streaks?”]  I recommend these
be entered into your personal workplace notebook.
 -    patience, presence and preparation.

This post focuses on the last item of three Ps.

Many people fall into their comfort zones too
easily or get impatient with slower developing
results.  Networking is a good example. 
People should expect a time and participation
commitment so that you “earn” the right to
have people want to work with you.
People, as Colleen DiBaise writes, “will be
impressed when they see you joining
committees, making decisions and getting
things done” for the greater good.  1

Presence– oh, wow!  Don’t be taken
by “slick” or fast talkers who may too
readily offer responses and answers without
the necessary audience analysis and
introspection.  This is an example of a
good communicator without presence
[They can brilliantly communicate things
they shouldn’t.]

People demonstrate presence by sizing up
their audience and determining what level
of detail and elements of needs are for these
stakeholders.  Then, there is the impact of
unintended audiences.
Presence is shown by knowing what to
communicate and how.  There is a texture
to good communication.  2 

Preparation here refers to clarity and
brevity leading to short well phrased
expression of messages to
carefully chosen audiences.  Quick,
impressive follow-ups seal the deal with a
strategic trail of updates, links and
conversations.  [This does not happen
by accident, it is planned and executed.]


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Job Searching. In Continuing, Tight Economic times
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Mentoring, Mature professionals, Post-docs
Posted by: site admin @ 4:51 pm

On a recent visit to my alma mater I spoke with a
‘rising star’ faculty member about the future of people
in the chemistry profession.  He has very good support,
financially and via mentoring, a large and productive
group and a perspective well beyond his years.

He is concerned and has taken action by reducing
the number of students and fellows he accepts into
his group and proactively interacting, advising and placing
them on their career pathways.

Search with Google:  “too many scientists (chemists)
not enough jobs” and you will uncover dozens of forums
contributed by “educated” “elites” that expect people
to want to pay them for doing whatever they want
to do without economic realities. 
The reality is: At every stage in nearly every
age, it is a struggle for everyone to identify who
they are, what they value and seek and their
career path that will satisfy them.

Peter Fiske writes about it that scientists need to
actively engage and communicate actively to
inform not only editors and reviewers but also
the public on what we do and its importance.
The communication must be effective and
planned, practiced and persuasive.
[Please read and take Fiske’s message to

Are we training too many (chemists) scientists for
present and future economic conditions?  This is
an inappropriate question.  It seems realistic that
not all sub-fields will increase or decrease together,
despite what the economy seems to reflect.  So, the
job market and market conditions at one point in
time and at a later point both cannot be predicted
and may not have a cause-effect relationship, a
priori.  There may be global trends and larger
events and some decreases in demand.  That
being the case everyone needs to have “their head
in the game and not wait to react.”

1.  Our ACS society needs to be closely monitoring
and informing both society in general and our
on what seems to be occurring.

We need to continuously ask for this.

2.  Members and other professionals are totally
personally responsible for figuring out what it is
they want  (They can get help doing this!).

3.  Members need to assume personal responsibility
for exploring careers, defining what they are proficient
at, and performing “gap analyses” for themselves.

4.  Members need to set personal goals, develop
and grow needed skills abilities and interests.  They
need to learn that this is not easily done in a vacuum
or depending upon one or few teachers.  It needs to
be “informed”, “updated” and “verified”.  (Trust,
but verify!)

5.  It is never too late to start being proactive, but
the earlier one starts the more prepared one can be
to jump at opportunities or develop alternate plans.

6.  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  Be afraid
of not learning as much as you can from them.

7.  Stay alert to new communication methods,
skills and media that work for you.

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Negotiating and Deciding. Another offer
Filed under: Public Relations docs, Job Offer (Situations)
Posted by: site admin @ 6:02 pm

It is rewarding to receive messages like the following:

“FROM:  [left out)
TO:       me
SUBJ:  Employment offer

Dear Dan,

Good news!  I got [an] email from Es. in the last hour.
They agreed to raise their starting salary to 68K…
[$5K increase over initial offer.]

They also agreed to assist me in getting permanent
residency.  And I got this in writing in the email. 
Please see the following revised offer.  I would
be happy to know your comments and suggestions
for next steps.”

“Dear Mark [not real name],

Thank you for the email.  Isn’t this encouraging
news from. Es… This is an offer that is more realistic,
especially considering the bonus plan,

 1  although still does not cover your medical and
dental expenses for the first three months.
  That is
nearly $4-5K. 

  2  The vacation package is also shorter than many. 

   3  Finally it is important that they offer you a
househunting trip after you agree to work with them.

     4  Nonetheless you have unfinished business
with M.M.[not real initials]  Please consider calling
the hiring manager to make your case.  You have a
very attractive offer in hand and you would like to ask
for his help.  Can he tell you that he would like you to
be in M.M’s future plans?  {He interviewed here and
likes the company and the opportunity it provides.]

   5  If you finish choosing your best career move,
accept the offer where you wish to go
              a. Do it first orally on the phone,
              b  then in a formal letter detailing all the
details of the offer.  Do it enthusiastically and include
a formal starting date which you have agreed with them on.

The finishing details are as important as all those in
between.  To help, look at Al Sklover’s blog on
employment law

Mid-career Career Management discussion. 2. Mock interview
Filed under: Interviewing, Mentoring, Leadership, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 6:55 am

Slowly, experienced scientists and engineers are being
invited for employment interviews.  Although it is true,
some employers prefer to interview and  make offers
to people who are still employed (called “guerilla
recruiting“) .  It is motivated by employers wanting to
signal to highly qualified people that they are hiring
and wanting to only hire the top people in the field
(they think). 1 

There is an incalculable risk about hiring someone who
has been let go.  This can be offset by preparation (letters
of reference from senior managers stating business
conditions or mergers caused job loss) and/or
an indication that you are eligible for rehire or

Recently I met with individuals who have been
seeking new job opportunities, after leaving relatively
large firms.  They desire suggestions and counsel in
interview skills for senior level positions in smaller
(biotech) firms.  One of the first introspective questions
to ask is will this be short-lived employment?  Less
than a couple of years.  If you seek a stable position,
similar to previous, it may not be possible in the current
conditions.  Certainly, asking questions about funding,
business plans and turnover are relevant.  It may be
a time to take on the excitement of the uncertain.  2 

When joining small firms one is expected to
wear many hats” rather than be specialists.
What other skills or interests of value do you
bring?  Can you help facilitate patenting? 
Are insightful analytical methods an area of
interest?  Are project management and integration
things you have a natural ability for?

As we know, hard data is harder to retain than
a story structured to provide behaviors and
accomplishments.  Add management depth
by pointing out metrics.  Add other thought-hooks
to aid connections.

While interviews involve dynamic two way
communication of questions and responses,
sometimes there is agenda-co-creation.  Be
willing to demonstrate this kind of flexibility.
Often the questions posed in interviews are
the vehicle for getting at key questions. 
Have in mind the questions behind the
questions when devising your responses.
Further, recognize the importance of
body language, voice and enthusiasm
in both sides of the interview.

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Objectives. For yourself, for your team and project and for your resume
Filed under: Public Relations docs, Mentoring, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 5:39 pm

It is not easy to author your objective(s).  To
things worse, it is even harder to read
someone else’s
objective when it is formed
with someone else’s
thought process and words.

No wonder advice for resumes can be to skip
writing an objective statement.  That is, unless
are relating one that is specifically using
keywords and clear message that you are
seeking to meet what a company is seeking.

It is tempting when writing objectives to
and even interchange goals and
objectives.  One
well-conceived document
Tulane Univ.) articulates goals as providing
PRINCIPLES guiding actions,
attitudes and
Objectives are specific, concrete
STEPS to meet elements of goals.  Several

objectives may be needed to reach a goal.

Goals:  broad, general intentions
           can be abstract and hard to measure
Objectives:  focused and concrete achievements
                   can be tangible and measured.
It is commonly said that we should be persistent
our goals and flexible with our objectives in
pursuit of
our goals.

Having narrowed down objectives to focus on
achievements, we need to distinguish different
audiences.  When we are defining what we want
to do to be granted a Ph.D. we recognize there
is a specific audience, your adviser and
that must be satisfied, in addition to

When we are defining our objective for seeking
a technical position with a specific employer, we
need to use the keywords and resonate with the
key skills and abilities the employer seeks.  This
done in a resume in really two sections, the

Audience analysis strongly influences each
objective for resume for each position.  It is
strongly suggested that attention is paid to
what each employer seeks.

Not long ago, we posted an entry about
constructed for yourself and for project teams.
Note the different audience here, as opposed to
a resume objective (briefer, specific) and your
thesis work (outlined to attack a problem or
explore a concept, can be subject to
Smarter objectives are an acronym for

Letter   Term             Less frequently used terms
S          Specific
M          Measurable   Meaningful

A          Achievable     Appropriate, action-oriented

R          Relevant         Results-oriented
T          Time-bound    Timely
E          Exciting           Evaluated
R          Recorded        Rewarding, reviewed

For objectives,
  - know the difference with goals,
  - understand what your audience will seek, and
  - think hard how you can create satisfying personal
or team objectives.

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Careers in Chemistry. Future Trends. Genomics, stem cells enabling better human health
Filed under: Recent Posts, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 9:02 am

Just finished reading a benchmark book that
every scientist in health care fields should look
at, Francis Collins’ “The Language of Life,”
HarperCollins, NY, 2010  1 

A scientific revolution is underway.   Just as
we have witnessed with the application of
lasers to many areas, better personalized
treatments for many chronic and life-
limiting diseases and conditions through the
thoughtful, rigorous testing of our genes.

Several things struck me:

  5 % (over 20 million) of Americans are
stricken by “orphan diseases” that are
affected by misspelled genes

 diabetes, heart and circulatory ailments,
a subset of cancers and even mental
conditions have significant genomic
components, Collins teaches us

 rather than predicting outcomes, he
encourages readers to enable outcomes
by staying up with the leading edge of
our health conditions, contributing to the
personalized medical paradigm (research,
digital medical records, good policy
overview and stewardship, ethical
standards and decisions).

Chemistry represents a language role in
the biological system.  We need to be
relevant in the discussions and outcomes.

Careers in Chemistry. Future Trends. Nanomaterials, digital optics and wave management
Filed under: Recent Posts, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 7:45 am

So many things are happening.  It is like learning at
the end of a firehose in materials research, application
and development.

Interested readers can scan and peruse both
reviewed press and popular press for insights
and details.  Some of the incredible notions

1. Using UV radiation to switch antiferromagnetic
to ferromagnetic (Misra, et. al.) materials.  There
are suggestions that applications could lead to
“spin valves in electromagnetic read heads or
magnetic field detectors”.  1  2 

2. reverse Cerenkov emission reported from
“left-handed metamaterials”  3  4  for newer
particle detectors and new forms of radiation.

3. simplifying GRIN lenses for large scale
applications   5 

Yet, the item that got me was the nice summary
of the history of the first 50 years of the laser
by Melinda Rose, Phot. Spectra May 2010,

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Career Discussions.
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Networking, Mentoring, Recruiters
Posted by: site admin @ 7:17 am

Several students invited me back to speak with
yesterday.  They presented me with a range
issues, related in some respects but unique in
so that individual discussions helped them.
(My motivation is nicely captured by a Dan Pink

Dealing with uncertainty
Half of the people needed help in articulating what
like and want to do.  Some brought specific job
for which their cover letter and resume
could be geared.

Others needed to be coached on looking at the left
column (of the blog) for where to look for
positions and
web pages.  Since there is such a
imbalance of seekers
and positions, recruiters for
certain industries will be

Having a plan, even just some personal organization
can be helpful.  1 

Confidence building activities
Several people wanted to report on what they are
to meet their goals.  One recent graduate
seemed to
benefit from personal compliments and
the opportunity
to present different format talks in
preparation for an
  interview presentation. 
  Sit down (posture and breathing, eye contact, voice
  stand up (posture, animation and movement, eye
while speaking)
  Pointing out small habits that are good (laughter,
and that could be detracting meta-language
(ah-huh, really).

When nothing seems to work, it feels so nice when
someone is willing to listen and apply a positive spin
to an event.  “I liked the way you did not give up when
I was not in the room I thought we would meet in….”
“What are you particularly good at,  what do you
like to do?”  …That is interesting…

Networking, sharing and helping each other
A couple of people asked if they could bring
friends and girlfriends with them to speak
with me.  This
is entirely appropriate.  There is so
much to be gained
by seeing others ideas and even
offering different
impressions on the same or similar

One individual had a more global learning plan and
spoke about a group of colleagues he has pulled
like Ben Franklin’s junto.

Use professional societies
One person was not aware of the benefits of
membership, like free registration and the
fair.  2 

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Networking in Job Search. Making connections.
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Networking, Mentoring, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 4:29 pm

PG and I met at a couple of meetings this year. 
She has
completed her Ph.D. and defense and
seeks a position in
environmental or green
chemistry in industry.  From our
conversations and
some correspondence, she seems to have
behaviors and personable skills that will fit in a
of organizations.

Recently she reached out to me for a connection
to one
of the firms looking for environmental
chemists at the
SF national meeting.

Although we have met, we are not closely linked
in each
other’s networks.  Some refer to people
outside your network
span as “weak links“.  Some
refer to people who you don’t
necessarily think of
first when you seek information or
contacts to a
person or a reference, yet these
” will willingly share information or
contacts in their network to work for you. 

So, I explored linkedin and identified a dozen
jobs and
twenty people.  To me, there was at least
one of each of
interest for PG.  I pointed out what
I did in an email.  She
then explored linkedin and
came up with several “hits”.

Also, I reached out to a cluster and found that,
while they would
not link and interact with me,
they would choose to interact
with PG, given the
right information.

In recent versions of networking theory weak links
up as critical elements.  They are outside
our normal every
day network.  1  2 

The lessons are:
  1.  use consequential strangers or weak links
  2.  understand some network elements prefer to
be selective
and choose to be one-way.  It is your
job to find a way to
get the information to
choose you.

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