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

July 2011
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Watch-outs 28. Unemployment, Women leaders, and ‘Cramming’
Filed under: Leadership, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 10:27 am

The list of newsy items was pared down
to three, this week.  One captured my eye
early– the source of unemployment (because
I did not sense a “source” of unemployment.).
A second item was about having our bills
be “crammed”.  In fact our household observed
and corrected an incorrect billing on our
Verizon bill and it might be wise share this
increasing practice and what to do about it.
The third item captured my eye later and
it is about a topic a student raised in our
class this year, women in the workforce,
more precisely, here, women in leadership

SOURCE:  Vivien Lou Chen, Bloomberg
Businessweek July 24, 2011, p. 12

It is striking how we evaluate our problems
and come up with solutions.  Chen’s article
reports that two roots have been identified
for the persistence of high unemployment
in the US.  The Fed acts based on the
hypothesis that unemployment is due to a
deep cyclical downturn.  A more natural
rate of unemployment is proposed to result
from stimulating demand and urging through
appropriate business conditions more hiring
than firing.

Edmund Phelps and Michael Spence suggest
that the Fed underestimates fundamental
forces triggering persistent unemployment,
namely people are out of work too long,
have not re-skilled or up-skilled to current
needs.  Chen points out that labor has had
a declining share of GDP and this is not
considered in economics models in use.

SOURCE: K. Blumenthal, WSJ 7-2-, 2011,
p.B8  ‘Have you been hit by Cramming charges‘.

We were surprised by our bill being $12 higher.
It was an easy phone call to customer services to

K. Blumenthal wrote a piece describing a more
common practice in our electronically fed
monthly utility bills– cable, satellite, telephone,
cellphone, etc.  An unauthorized charge from
an outside company appears on the monthly
statement.  With many statements set up with
automatic withdrawal and the limited time
customers have to review charges this can
often get over looked.

The article points out FCC rules that are in
the works and importantly that we should
look for these and contact customer service
at our provider to correct any billing inaccuracies.

This article is worth a quick read for what to
do if we find a problem.


SOURCE:  The Economist, July 23, 2011, P. 61.

European countries have legislated quotas for
the number of women leaders in firms.  This
article points out a status and mid-point
assessment (not too good).   There are
built in system restraints that nearly all leaders
have had sponsors and relationships can be

The cultural demands on our time still weigh
heavily on each of us and it seems that
women are tasked with an uneven burden.

1 comment
Interview. Many of the same concerns and Importance of Presentations
Filed under: Interviewing, Legal matters
Posted by: site admin @ 3:11 pm

During a discussion today with a client, three big
concerns came up.  We talked about pay and
benefits topics, as well. 

Don’t initiate the discussion over salary.  If it comes
up, like: what salary do you expect,
show you have done your homework on the topic. 
You might mention that salary is only one
component of an overall compensation package
Do a good search on the ACS Salary comparator
and other salary sites so that you have a reasonable
range in mind, for the position (field, degree),
years of experience, and region of the country.

What is the benefits package?  That is another of the
“don’t ask” topics–  Benefits will be listed on the
company web page and they will likely bring it up
during the interview day.

The three big topics were– dealing with illegal
questions confidently, having the confidence and
preparation to deal with citizenship and length
of employment and importance of one’s
technical presentation.

While it is likely that professional interviewers will
not bring these up, it is possible.  So that it does
not take away from your confidence and composure,
Have an idea what you would say if an illegal
question or topic comes up.  For ladies, for example,
are you married, when do you expect to be married,
do you plan to have children, etc.

For men and women, what is your religion, what is
your political affiliation and other similar topics.

The woman professional came from southeast
Asia and she revealed to me that she was married
and her spouse was out of the country.  None
of these details, I told her, need to be brought
up in the interview (However, it was appropriate
for her to bring it up with her career consultant,
confidentially).  They do not factor into her
qualifications for the job, at this point.

She should aim to show her unique skills and
qualifications for the position and to earn the job

Citizenship can come up in many positions, but
she had already passed the resume hurdle where
this would have been considered.

As far as how long would she work there, this
can be addressed by describing her motivation
for the position.  She looks forward to joining a
strong firm that works to solve problems or
satisfy customers or invent new treatments for
diseases.  As long as the team and challenges
are there, she should indicate that would encourage
her to stay.

Our technical workforce today is quite mobile
and many companies hire people as “at will”
employees.  So, we no longer expect lifetime
employment when we start at a firm.

This is the means for a company to assess a
person’s technical skills, communication skills
and confidence.  It is very significant for people
applying for technical positions.

It is very hard to recover from a poorly received
technical presentation.

She mentioned that the company asked her to
present a 45 minute talk on her research.  She
was concerned that she had nearly 45 slides. 
Many of the slides were detailed.  So,
we decided that she could “hide” a few of the
information rich slides and focus on those that
permit her to tell a story of her work.  Save
the detailed, information rich slides for a
summary of her work and for details in
response to questions.  Do stay within the
45 minute limit as much as possible.

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Position Searching. Some outside of the box ideas
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Networking, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 4:15 am

Investopedia listed five novel ways that could
be used to get ideas and information about
positions, whether they are advertised or not.

Three of the five offer new avenues in my mind.
They are:

1 Using twitter
     - follow organizations you rank highly
     - search and scan hashtags
     - view

2 Build on an interview rejection
     - Use initial interview as an opportunity
to courteously show your qualities after the
interview and NON-selection. 
     - Propose new roles you might help make
successful, based on what you learned in the
     - Propose new ideas and indicate who you
could successfully implement them.

3 Offer rewards for successful job leads
     - the article mentions money, but there
are plenty of other “incentives” that could be
compensated to one’s network to assist in
interviews, career coaching and position
     - the least idea might be strong intuitive
insights in reviewing resumes and including

Crowd sourcing could be added in obvious and
non-obvious ways.

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Thinking about Thinking. 3. Problem solving methods
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, First Year on Job, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 2:41 pm

Continuing on discussions of the interrelated topics
of thinking processes as it relates to
 -  finding positions we want  1  ,
 -  understanding what it is we want in positions (and
be able to put it into words– like what it is we are
passionate about) 2   ,
  - learning some of the thinking processes involved in
candidate selection  ,
  - bringing out some of the topics related to
applying scientific thinking and logic to what we
call work,  and
  - understanding and learning from (failure) and
unsuccessful application, interview and work
experiences  ,
this entry highlights concepts of thinking to solve problems

This is what we are doing when we search for
a job, show that we are the best candidate for a
position and, in fact, one of the key components of
our roles .

There are a continuing parade of interesting ideas
identifying what it takes and what we do to solve

Asking the right questions, acquiring sufficient
information and connecting the dots stands out. 
An environment supporting asking questions
needs to be encouraged and nurtured.

We also need to develop the skills to phrase our
questions so that information and ideas come forth.
Intimidating interrogation can shut off the “answer

Frequently we observe that combining computing
power with creative juices of human brain power
provides unmatched results in providing answers
to specific problems.  This is  Computational
thinking and needs to be thoughtfully applied. 
Not every computational result is valid and there
needs to be validation and rational sensemaking.

What is done to solve similar problems in some
fields can sometimes apply to problems in
unrelated fields.  Edward deBono wrote about
lateral thinking in this regard over 25 years ago.

If we try to apply the same solutions each time
we face the same problem we should expect to
get the same outcomes.  Maybe the problem is
not solved but hidden.  deBono encouraged
broadening the search for solutions and not taking
“it goes without saying…” as an answer.

Other examples of problem solving methods
are TRZ the Russian gulag concepts for looking for
similarities and differences where things seem
not to be obvious and inventing something new, and

mind mapping that can help communicate and look
for trends and clusters.

We are all scientists and engineers and seeking ways
to manage our careers more judiciously.  Perhaps,
applying some of the principles used in our fields
can help our thinking in overcoming our individual

1 comment
Watch-outs. 27. Next transformation in America, TMI
Filed under: Leadership, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 1:32 pm

Two linked articles are shared in this entry.

Terrific insights into what one leading chemical
industry firm (Dow- Andrew Liveris) is placing
its investments in and problems of and solutions
to TMI in our you-tube, virtual friend, on-line
meeting or webinar world.


SOURCE:  The Economist 7-9-2011, p. 62-3. 
Making in America.”

While more people will focus on attracting
foreign talent, having too few engineering students
and imposing too many costs on businesses
through regulations than you might expect,
Andrew Liveris’s four megatrends are what
Dow is charting on their future technologies
map– (1) clean energy generation and transmission,
(2) health, nutrition and chemicals in the food
supply chain, (3) meeting the consumer needs
of emerging markets with low trade barriers,
(4) investment in efficient transportation and
its supporting infrastructure.

These megatrends might help those seeking
areas to find future employment.

P. Klugman
adds other points with a political

SOURCE:  Schumpeter column, Economist,
7-2-2011, p. 59.

We see too much information TMI and feel
information overload in so many ways.  It
has led to a number of phrases, this editorial
writer pointed out.

Preserve some “thinking time,” this article suggests
as there is a correlation between creativity and
time to focus with little distractions. 

Three tactics are proposed — identify and implement
technologies that filter, label and store information
(Xerox and Google are cited), discipline oneself
to organize up-time and down-time, and reinforce
attitudes that support business information
management (McKinsey study).

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Self-Assessment. What should you do in your career? What are you passionate about?
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 12:05 pm

Take a moment and think about how you would
respond:  What is your passion?  What are you
passionate about?

In the 21st century world, this can be a leading
driver for what fields you want to enter as your

Many career consultants, web pages and motivational
speakers will ask you: what are your likes and interests
Why is that?  That is because a “like becomes a
passion when it repeats with regularity? 1

So, take the time, even if you are in your mid-
career, to identify what you enjoy, what motivates
you to get up early and gives you energy to not
give up when you are tired.

Go beyond the listing of likes and interests and
examine under the surface why you like that ‘like,’
what generates the ‘like’ feeling?  Explore what
are the basic parts that are good and those that
you would prefer to exclude.  Here is a client’s
example:  ‘My passion is creatively improving
business processes to fulfill clients’ needs.  It
must include a fast-paced environment, fast
feedback cycles, strong customer involvement
and computer-integrated solutions.  I would
love to have the chance to “pitch proposals
to clients”.
It should avoid long distance travel by air. ‘

Are there jobs that would allow me to do this–
technological solutions, interaction with people,
training, problem solving and computer software
design, fast-paced, high energy, relationship building
as much is done by referrals..?

How can I do as much of this without having
to do airplane flights?

In other words, how can my life be arranged so
that I can do what I am passionate about, in
its purest form, and avoid what I do not like to

Set doing your passion as your goal.
Don’t be afraid of moving toward your goals,
even when it involves change.  Take
unfortunate events as learning steps on your
way to achieving what you want, your goal.

Be serious about making your passion a goal and
seeking it.

Two great links about motivation and coaching
for positive outcomes are S. Jobs’ Stanford
commencement address and D. Pink’s blog
about the importance of a person’s state of
mind.  [Brief notes on each are in the

Unemployed. What to do in a democracy?
Filed under: Position Searching, Mature professionals, Legal matters, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 8:40 am

Some recent articles have re-surfaced the plight of
our neighbors, friends and relatives who are out of
work.  C. Rampel wrote about the struggles of
the forgotten long-term unemployed.  I would add
those who are temporarily employed and under-employed
to this class who we need to find ways of serving.

Voting in elections and participating in our election process is
something that I urge colleagues to consider.  Some
thoughtful motivating presentations are linked to
the piece.  1  2  3  4  5  6  

What thoughts do members have that the ACS should
proactively pursue to encourage careers and employment?

Is it more than job fairs, career consultants and a few
‘courses without certification’? 
Are the ACS webinars honestly helpful?  Several other
societies do them– is it just “me-too” PR?

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Post doctoral positions.
Filed under: Position Searching, Networking, Mentoring, Post-docs
Posted by: site admin @ 8:01 pm

Did you know that most people like to be told
answers to their questions that they specifically
ask?  [i. e. if you present concepts at a workshop
or in a document people find it hard to ‘connect
the dots to themselves.’]

I am learning this, over and over and over again.

Recently, a colleague used to invite
me into his/her network and ask me:

“….I am sending my application package to all
the professor(s) whose research excites me. 
some of them are responding, but most …are
negative.  Most of them … may not even see my
email …”  Is it good if I email them again or call

To this hardworking, yet not well coached or guided
recent Ph.D., a thoughtful response was sent.  ‘When
you think seriously about what the post-doc position
is, you must start early and ask yourself what is it
that you really want to do in your career?  What are
you very passionate about?’  [Just being interested in
someone’s work is not enough.]

‘You need to use your network and those of people
who know you well to identify people who you should
consider working for.’

‘Then, you need to do some very serious homework,
real research about the field you wish to work, the
principal investigator, and people who have worked
in the past with the PI.’

As a blog has noted, consider choosing a well established
PI in a field consistent with what you have done
recently.  Or else “your expertise clock” resets to
zero in work experience time.  Remember, too, that
as far as industrial experience is concerned two years
of post-doc in a field is considered as one year of
industrial experience.

A recent BU panel supported what many workshops
suggest that ‘to find a good post-doc you need to
network, network, network…’  Just sending emails to
people whose work is interesting has a low probability
of success rate.  ‘People need to attend meetings,
give papers, play active roles in meetings and be introduced
to prospective PIs.  It is the responsibility of you and your
adviser to proactively seek the post-doc stepping stone
to your desired career.’

The prospective post-doc PI will assess your personal
fit, your depth of experience in working with junior members
of her/his lab and your motivation and goals.

You should know not only publication results matter in the
end for yourself, but also building your network, showing
you can come up to speed fast and develop the soft and
wise skills

And, oh, BTW, what are you going to say differently
in your next email?  Another email to the PIs, especially if it
is a “cold email“  (Not expected or not in response to
a position announcement) is probably not going to be
successful.  A much more well thought out plan needs
to be put in place.

It may not be a bad idea to develop a viable back-up
plan as well…

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Mature workers. Reality check on salaries
Filed under: Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 3:48 pm

I got to view the most recent ACS salary survey and
interrogated it differently. 

What happens to chemists’ salaries after they are 45?
Figure 1 in the report indicates that BS and MS
degree holders remain flat after 20-24 years of
experience.  Ph.D. degree holders are faced with
only modest “cost of living adjustments,” if any,
after about 25 years after their BS– their late 40s.

This is a general trend, seen in not only chemical,
materials and pharmaceutical firms,  but also many
other sectors, including high wage earners,
specialists and managers, Schultz and Silver-Greenberg
reported.  This affects lifestyles, retirement planning
and long-term investment planning for most of us.

Action items to consider:
1.  plan your retirement savings using worst case
2.  live on a lower income scenario over the last
ten working years;   save the difference in income
bearing accounts
3.  assess your employability at age 50.  If your industry
is weak, your company will not survive or your skills are
not competitive, consider changing (careers, companies,
line of profession).
[Many people I know were caught short.  They
are paying the price as their children are in college.]
4.  develop new, advanced learning skill sets that may
borrow from your experience, technical know-how,
and business savvy.  (dividends from these investments
may not come right away and may be smaller.)
5.  devise an estate plan, investment plan and a
retirement income plan in your early 50s to deal
with the inevitable.  Delay taking your pension,
social security, dipping into your retirement savings,
 and extend medical and wellness benefits.

1 comment
Interviewing. Feedback after being hired
Filed under: Interviewing, First Year on Job, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 2:26 pm

It stunned me when I heard her tell me what her
supervisor stated at her first annual review.  She
was hired a year ago and has been applying her
skills and learning new things about herself and
her responsibilities.  It has not been easy, she said. 

The first annual review was positive– learning on
the job, applying her skills, developing confidence,
and very good customer relationships.

Her supervisor said she was most impressed by
her because she actually read and understood the
company’s mission statement and values before
the interview.  She works with them in mind, the
supervisor said, as she offered a meritorious review.

While I have read many company core values,
mission statements and mottos myself in annual
reports and web pages, it seemed like many
contain the same elements.  So, I decided
to review a few dozen mission statements and
core values.  Here is what I learned:

The tend to be grouped into three general

Business focus
  1  world leader in products, services and solutions
 that enable and transform gathering, managing
 distributing and communicating information
  2   world’s largest manufacturer of semiconductor
  3   to earn money for its shareholders and increase
 the value of their investment, through controlling
 assets, growing the company and properly
 structuring the balance sheet.
  4  provide branded products and services of
 superior value and quality that improves the
 lives of consumers, everywhere (yielding profits)
  5  be the most efficient and innovative global
 provider of semiconductor solutions
  6  grow a diversified business, deliver more
 products of value and simplify the operating model

Employee concern and respect communities
  1  global family with a proud heritage passionately
 committed to providing personal mobility
  2  live up to our responsibilities to serve and
 enhance the communities in which we live and
 work and the society on which we depend
  3  people, compliance & governance, public
 policy, environment, suppliers, human rights,
 products and services, customers and communities
Customer and innovation
   1  to discover, develop and deliver innovative
 medicines that help patients prevail over serious
   2  improving human health, ethics and integrity,
 innovation, access for all, diversity and teamwork

Some, like Boeing and DuPont, were a combination
of all three, emphasizing one or a number of their
leadership’s core issues.

So, knowing all this, what are your take-aways?

About a third of companies will interview candidates
and ask what they know about the company and
what it stands for….and will expect you to know.
[a third will not ask nor care too much about it;
a third would like it of you know, but not make their
hiring decision to based on you knowing.]

You generally will not know what the interviewer
will ask and expects.  So, it behooves you to make
the effort to know and understand the mission and
core values for your interview.

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Future of Scientific Job Market. You are responsible for your career management
Filed under: Position Searching, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 10:05 am

R. Stevenson authored a white-hot  editorial about
what we should all be factoring into our career
management planning. 

Let’s draw closer to what this means to each of
our career management.

The trends are moving faster, too. 
Business conditions in our multi-disciplinary,
globalized fields dictate radical restructuring to
bring shorter term focus
    Company cultures change [management changes,
new business realities set in, global changes in all
aspect of business relationships]
    core technologies morph, and
    leadership’s extrapolation of what is needed for
survival against unknown rivals creates gaps, time
lapses and missed opportunities.

Stevenson cites that the true value of some of our
specific technical skills has a realistic half-life of
a decade.  (I suggest he is optimistic.  You need
to be a continuous learner.)

Four ‘echos’ affect our technical skills and abilities:
 - abilities degenerate with non-use and become
 - many are unprepared for the next technology
 - older skills can be uncompetitive and too narrowly
 - demographic realities bias promotion decisions

Stevenson extrapolates the future while permitting
longer healthy lives will also require employment
extending another decade [Social security full
retirement  =  75, in the future].

What can we do?
1. Faster start-up ramps to learn new skills  1 
2. Maintain digital notebook of areas of mastery and
  latest developments  2  [as noted in comments
  include networking, mentors and professional
3. Recognize the urgent need to ‘move on’ to gain new
  experiences and grow professionall3  [it is not
  radical to change jobs or careers mid-stream, any
4. We need to factor “system’s thinking” into our
  personal career management planning.  4 

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