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

May 2011
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What are employers seeking? Technical abilities, “soft skills” and “wise skills”
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, First Year on Job, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 8:12 am

One of the leading questions job seekers want to
know is:  what do potential employers look for
when they are trying to fill positions?

Well, for sure they will want to confirm and
see evidence of technical abilities (matching their
needs] by the accomplishments made and the
problems overcome.  So, that is how well educated
and advanced trained people “get their tickets
punched.”   These can lead to invitations for
interviews.  But then, how do they distinguish
equally talented people and select who gets job
offers?  It is the soft skills that are exhibited.

These are behaviors and courtesies we have
talked about (civility) that are not displayed
on tv or in movies and not part of our curricula in
grad school.  They, however, do distinguish
otherwise qualified candidates and often result
in job offers.  Besides Pier Forni  1 , please consider
looking at Peggy Klaus for helpful insights.

Peggy has written and spoken about these
skills as her blog items reveal.  Digging deeper
into the “long tail” on her, uncovered gems of
wisdom on suggestion of how to deal with the
plight of information overload– “wise skills.
[my words for her ‘practical wisdom’]”
In tight job markets, where people
who get hired into positions of responsibility
they will also be expected to give extra of
themselves– time away from home, bringing
work home, business meeting at inconvenient 
times (weekends, evenings, early mornings).

She discusses timely concepts to deal with
the 7/24 frenetic pace and also the ways different
generations can be of value to each other.
Brief highlights:
 - disconnect and recharge, develop schedules
 - be allies for each other
 - understand the high value and importance of
face-to-face communication

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Watch-outs. 26. Good ideas, Questioning ideas
Filed under: Legal matters, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 7:38 am

When we encounter good ideas, what do we do?
Do we note them, learn from them, act on them
explore them?  Where do good ideas come from?
Three cool discussions are brought to your

Source:  Spirit Magazine May 2011, p. 42.  Where
do ideas come from?  Citing Peter Sims book
Little Bets…,” this airline seat magazine article
offers one of five sources of big ideas– be an
experimentalist (D. Galenson, experimental
innnovators), be willing to risk taking a new course
(F. Gehry, architecture), expand the use of a good
idea (Page and Brin, Google), discover what is
out in the world (S. Blank, Stanford), and
‘Little bets.’

Little bets are practical approaches to discover
incompletely formed good ideas and nurture them
to grow.

Source:  W. Koch, USA Today, May 12, 2011,
Alcoa unveils smog-eating aluminum
Latest innovation in building products with
pollution fighting ability related in this article.
Is it a good idea?  As with many environmental
devices that are surface-reaction based, how do
you keep the surface active, clean and available. 
What is the maintenance involved?

Source:  C. Bialik, WSJ 5-21-2011, p. A2,
“When the mean doesn’t mean what it seems.”
While there are several cross-references
that seem to confuse the discussion,
interpretation of life-and-death disease
early onset information is complicated.  We
learned in our statistics training that three
things are key in interpreting statistics–
center, spread and shape.
Too often one measure dominates all others
in discussion– the central tendency,
and an imperfect or incorrect interpretation
can result, even from experts.

Wouldn’t it be nice to learn about all three
key statistical measures?  Even MBAs learn
the interdependent nature of them, see 1  .

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Position searching. What comes first? A Plan
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 7:39 am

Early in our careers, whether it is close to graduation
(our first entry) or re-emergence (due to circumstances
or changes), strong advice for seeking positions is:
develop a search plan.

Several individuals have contacted me asking for
comments on their resumes.  We have met but either
are not well acquainted or I have not been able to
perceive a clear statement of their position target.

To be able to craft a cogent public relations document,
it is helpful to know the “key words and tricky phrases”
employers would be screening for.  One individual
wanted to work in a government lab, one wanted
to work in the golf industry, one individual had sites
set on a legal career but situations are dictating
accepting less selective, realistic positions to meet
family responsibilities.  In each case, in a patient,
‘peel back the onion’ kind of process, we are
hopefully striving for the goal at the same time
teaching the process.  Employment trends suggest,
more than likely, each will need to do it again.

N. Corcodilos offers a kernal of wisdom valuable
for all search and provides four key activities
 - seek businesses, products and people involved
 - be involved in your chemical, engineering
and technical profession [know people, have
people know you]
 - find who is a decision maker, find a way to
interact directly with her
 - develop a cogent argument for the value you
offer meeting their needs.

Whether we seek academic, government or industrial
positions, informal contacts and detailed research
pave the way.  1 
I found most compelling Tulane’s three phase job
search strategy
using SMART goals.  I can’t say
enough about how it fills in the blanks about
references, interview prep and follow-up.

So it “shows to go yah” the sooner one starts, the
higher the probability of success.

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Interactive Teaching. For workshops and chemistry and engineering disciplines
Filed under: Interviewing, Mentoring, First Year on Job, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 12:54 pm

Can’t tell you how pleased I was and how much I
learned attending the MIT-150 open house a couple
of weeks ago.  In one of the memorable sessions,
Janet Rankin led a discussion - demonstration of
guiding principles for interactive teaching methods
that are particularly appropriate for workshops and
educating in science and engineering disciplines.

Highlights that stuck with me:

- best learning time are the first few minutes of a class
or after a break - people are fresh [limit the long,
straight lecture segments.  Include more frequent,
short breaks]

- “mud cards” - use as a device to assess what students
did not understand or need more follow-up or want
more follow up from a class
   = device:  “your ticket to leave the room” - must
submit a mud card or you can’t leave the classroom

- interaction with class mates
    = increases the number of effective instructors in
the room and
    = decreases the amount of student down-time/
passive role/day dream time during the class

- when you seek student feedback, think about the
words you use and the processing time
   = “what questions do you have?” and wait 30
seconds, a full 30 seconds.  Give students a chance
to process the question and formulate.

She also
- gave practical examples of effective use of
clickers [can’t briefly put actions, process and
intuition into words.]
-  shared great references for interactive teaching
web-sites for classes and workshops
Trinity college reference page
MIT TLL program
Tewksbury and Macdonald Teaching Strategies
Rich Felder Interactive learning, video
Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning

Several of these links are suggested for those
wishing to adopt the latest educational methods
for their classes [HINT:  teaching philosophies].

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Mid-career professional. Most helpful advice
Filed under: Position Searching, Public Relations docs, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 11:44 am

We’ve known each other casually for a few years. 
He came to me with concern in his eyes as he
received vibes a few months ago that he was
going to lose his job.  He is an accomplished
mechanical engineer, five years at his company
[name not important] and with more than 30
years of strong contributions in design, problem
solving, innovation and engineering analysis.

He did not seek a senior manager role, at this
point in his career, but rather a challenging
engineering position.  If he has the choice he
told me he preferred not having to travel a lot
and move from his current residence in eastern

We discussed several things and offered
suggestions to his public relations documents–
shortening his extensive resume, creating a
project list (with short summaries) and cover letter.

We had not brought up the subject the last few
times we had been together.  Last night, however,
he came to me and told me he had good news
to share.  He had been in a new position for
nearly a month and seemed to be quite pleased,
all things considered.  Sure, there are challenges. 
Aren’t there always [and he described them].

For our purposes here:  what were the two most
helpful things?  He pointed out that the position
was offered him via in which
he provided a nice profile.  This is how the
recruiter discovered his skill level and experience. 
He has a unique skill set in a particularly
important critical technology area– nuclear reactor
piping, valving and anti-corrosion design.  He
worked in this area more than 20 years ago
and there are very few people familiar with
the intricate details.  Most people will have
studied and worked in more recent designs and
materials.  He, on the other hand, is well
acquainted and perfectly suited.

The second suggestion after
listing was decide what he wished to do that
will make him happy.  And, be able to articulate
it clearly and specifically.
Which he was able to do.

Nothing could make me prouder than his nice

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Watch-outs. 25. Temporary employment, globalization, sustainability, cloud computing tips
Filed under: Position Searching, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 8:09 am

Finds include:  ideas for temp employment
in tight labor markets, different view of
globalization effects, sustainability vis-a-vis
water, and care with cloud computing.

Source:  J. Bennett, WSJ 4-25-2011, p. B8 No link
available.  “Temping can offer a lucrative career path
to the right professional.”
She writes– significant number of organizations plan
to increase their use of contingent workers over the
next 3 years.  Medium to large firms will also add
permanent staff more slowly and strategically.  Tips
for applicants: 
Have 5 references lined up– previous
employers, managers, supervisors, colleagues, direct
reports, professors, mentors.
Be flexible– no stigma is attached to taking a temp
assignment below your skill and salary level.
Communicate with recruiter– if you like the company
and situation, let them know.
Stand out– Do the best you can.  Ask the manager, if
there is anything you can do to improve your fit
into the company cultures.

Source:  P. Ghemawat, and
comments.  Economist, 4-23-2011, p. 72.
Examining a commonly held belief using logical
extensions revealed in indicators statistics to
support a counter argument to globalization
Considered:  increased, rather than decreased
concentration of many vital industries, greater
choice rather than homogenization. 
Results: overestimation of trends yields wrong
decisions, example, Nokia.
Generalization are either premature or wrong.

Source:  J. Mullich, WSJ April 22, 2011,
Water is the next generation carbon.  You can see
it in CA– lower water use, zero liquid discharge,
recover wastewater for industrial applications.  Terms:
Green water:  stored rainwater farms
Blue water:  river. lake aquifer water industry
Grey water:  fresh water containing pollutants
Top industries for implementation:  autos, commodities,
utilities, chemicals.

Source:  Economist, 4-30-2011, p. 14  Break-ins and

Risks:  be aware of being reliant on a single supplier
Individuals:  avoid using same PW on multiple on line
systems;  Spot phishing emails that trick revealing
key personal information.

Interesting:  Peoples’ responses to speed of computer

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