It is the holiday season. It can be a time of family gatherings,
social gatherings with friends and co-workers, even some
momentous concerts and holiday events. This can be a
stressful time for people, too. The fragile economic recovery
can also have setbacks that can affect some of us.
Those who are employed can take a moment and keep in
touch with their networks. Let them know how you are doing
and if you may need some help in 2012. If you are in a growing
company that is hiring, or know of one, share the information.
This past week, a few [dozen] people sent short holiday greetings.
Each was nice. A couple reported nice progress. In my responses
I asked for a quick status. While it might seem burdensome, it is
not. In fact it is an opportunity…use it.
A couple of folks reported successful campaigns and
promotions and international travel. The stories that go with
them are quite nice and insightful. Share them.
Those looking for employment, report on what has worked in
getting interviews and how the interviews have gone with your
networks, and especially with your references. Holiday seasons
are great times for communications.
Re-state your updated goals with your network. Who knows
something may click.
There are two very important other classes of people. One
is a group who have received less glowing reviews at work
recently. Whether it is in a growing company or one challenged
by the economy or competition. Don’t wait for the second
shoe to fall. Start looking for a new position now! Start
proactively learning new skills, exploring where you might be
able to move to next, and networking. Ask people if you
can information interview, share insights, get together over
the holidays, even review your resume.
Over the years, I have personally involved in experiences
where people keep their nose to the grindstone and don’t
look up and notice all the people leaving. Notice if the
holiday party is cut back or eliminated. It is saying funds
are limited and belt tightening is serious. Jobs are likely
in jeopardy, too.
The second group is those who have been or will be
recently laid off. Try to understand the common law
practices about signing up for unemployment. Learn
what laws may apply for you (green card, immigration,
part time work, consulting and others). Read your
employment handbooks, speak to people who have left
and trusted mentors. Have a game plan about what
you will do if you are severed. SKLOVER RESOURCE
CENTER 5, 6
Increase your Internet presence, sign up with linkedin.com
attend events, have business cards ready to hand out.
Follow up on introductions. Contact your mentors.
Use the holiday season to communicate.
I read enough stories about unexpected lay-offs…They
are sad. People need to learn to have their antennas
raised up, have situations on their radar screens and
action plans formulated on what they will do next.
In a cogent conversation yesterday discussing a
future workshop it got me to thinking about the
audience’s attention. A common phrase, “WIIIFM”
what is in it for me,” came to mind and the need
to think about and do an audience analysis.
We are planning to work together, the organizers
and I, to seek their career aspirations (government,
academic, and industrial) and what would help them
the most in the program (resume review, cover letter,
mock interview, and career discussion including
personal unique situations which cannot be usually
covered in a general audience).
AUDIENCE ANALYSIS FOR COVER LETTERS
AND OBJECTIVE STATEMENTS
That got me to thinking about the situations we all
face in writing our cover letters and an objective
statement in our resumes. [We note at this point that
CVs do not usually contain an objective.] Very commonly
the prescription for “business resumes” is also to
de-select an objective statement. The logic being three
fold– (1) they are hard to write, (2) it can preclude an
applicant from positions not specified and also under
consideration, and (3) it does not pinpoint to how an
applicant can make their case to be a good hire given
the different set of skills business positions require.
CASE FOR INCLUDING OBJECTIVE
The Objective can be helpful in pointing out specifically
the position that is desired, showing a match to a
job description. The objective is suggested to be
a short phrase. We find ourselves, especially early
in our careers, to be “qualified” for entry level positions
in a number of fields using our technical expertise
to solve problems, invent, innovate and make a
profit. So, it can be helpful to state that we seek the
opening and include in our HIGHLIGHTS a
prioritized list supporting the objective.
The Objective needs to be tailored for each position.
However, including an objective for a process position
in a resume for a analytical laboratory position would
quickly dismiss consideration.
On the other hand, an Objective might be optional
in cases such as a career fair, where a number
of companies and positions are under
consideration. Also, the HIGHLIGHTS section might
be renamed QUALIFICATIONS in this case.
This then requires more work on the part of the
resume reviewer to extract keywords for a match.
This lessens the chance for consideration.
TAILORED COVER LETTERS ARE NEEDED
It is true that a cover letter will also state your
desire for a position yet it provides an indication
of your motivation, your knowledge about the
business and supports your skills in language
and ability to communicate.
There are three forms for industrial and
government targeted cover letters, generally–
- invited by an ad or announcement,
- based on a referral or suggestion through
- asking for consideration based on third parties,
information interviews and other leads.
Critical contents of a cover letter are
- close attention to addresses, spelling and date
- being specific about the desired position and
the reasons why you are an exceptional candidate
- asking for an interview, the next step in the process.
K. Hansen does a creditable job in FAQs for
ACADEMIC COVER LETTERS
A fraction of cover letters will be for applications
for academic positions. The process can be
more involved since academic positions in
chemistry will also include a teaching philosophy,
research proposals, teaching and educational
experiences pertinent to the educational institution.
Cover letters for academic positions less
frequently contain bullets, should provide
evidence of scholarship and offer to send
copies of other documents that the search
committee would benefit from in their evaluation,
like teaching evaluations, transcripts and letters of
recommendation. [The CV will list your
references, yet academics frequently like a
full package before considering an application.]
‘RARE EARTH METALS’ INVESTMENT
SOURCE: Bloomberg Business 10-31-11, p. 80-5.
D. Grushkin, “The Billion dollar mountain.”
Those who remember undergraduate inorganic
chemistry realize that rare earth elements occur
in a number of locations in the earth. So they
are not “rare”. Market forces changed the nature
of the supply in the late-20th century, but did not
influence their application in various electronic,
electrochromic and magnetic inventions and
innovations. Bloomberg Business carried a
story of the Bakan Mountain investment in PEI,
Canada that stirred my interest due to the
stranglehold China had achieved. It reveals the
long term capital investment that many technical
DUPONT WV ‘ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION’
SOURCE: C&ENews, Letters11-4-11, p. 2
D. H. Borhani
History does not repeat itself, historians repeat
each other. Meanwhile. the lessons of previous
accidents, while meaningfully studied, tragically
fall on “deaf ears.” The Letter author underscores
the importance of HAZOPS in all of our chemical
operations. I would have expected much better
from a DuPont facility in handling phosgene and
MIC methyl isocyanate.
Should HAZOPS be required work in our graduate
research laboratories? Should we need to push for
formal university training in this important area?
‘SURVIVING SPOUSE’ INVESTMENT
SOURCE: K. Greene, WSJ 11-12-11, p. B8.
“Survivors’ Biggest Mistakes“
When a person’s spouse dies and the survivor
has to pick up the pieces, it is getting trickier
and trickier even when things are well planned.
What applies for those younger than 59 is different
from those 62 - 70, and those older than 71.
In addition, there are differences in investors’
risk tolerance and legal preferences. The article
lays the topics out nicely so that one can
assess important questions for each reader’s
It seems like it is common sense. Several valid
tips were offered at a Career and Job Search
workshop last weekend by co-presenters who
have seen a lot in over 100 years of practical
employment and management.
Cell phones, smart phones and similar devices
seem like they are attached to each person. ‘For
Pete’s sake,’ disconnect them during a meeting
and interview…It is rude at a meeting to be
texting while others are presenting a subject,
Treese Campbell pointed out.
[Strangely, I make it a habit now to walk through
younger audiences and business audiences to see
how many are disengaged from the presentation,
via their connected devices. It is rude!]
Don’t expect the format seen on a smart phone
to be preserved when sending to an email. In
fact, Susan Sobolov suggested sending it to
your own email to see what it looks like.
Make sure it looks like you would like it to appear.
How many people really read cover letters? How
truly important are they? The standard view is that
about one-third think they are essential components
of your application. Another one-third do not even
read them. So, I agree with Nick Meanwell who
indicated include it as part of the resume file.
Avoid having too many separate documents.
He also pointed out several valuable things about
- avoid mentioning salary requirements and
- reviewers will not pay attention to a letter headed
by “To whom it may concern,”
- it is a “turn off” to provide negative comments
about previous employers, the reason why you are
looking for a position and why you might not be
- don’t lie, and also don’t talk about your future plans
Networking and referrals before application were
The class of structured, behavioral-based interviews
is a general style that many organizations describe they
use to choose future employees from qualified candidates.
These are most common in situations for industrial and
Last weekend during a panel discussion on interviewing,
Dr. Susan Sobolov indicated that her current firm uses
“competency based interviewing” that seeks to both define
a candidates’ behaviors and their agility in applying
knowledge, learning and thought-processes to new situations.
There is a considerable literature on competency-based
interviews, for example “Interviewing right” Lominger
Corp. 1 To give insight to readers, questions will generally
be behavioral-based, giving each candidate the same
questions and using numeric rating scales for responses.
Competencies in four extensions of behaviors are
- strategic - what might be unintended consequences and
- political - sensitivity to other positions and perspectives
yet can manage making progress
- negotiating - respects others intentions and creates
dialog promoting openness and trust while “winning
- teams - seeks outcomes as win-win, and promotes
excellence as the result of a well functioning team.
To prepare for competency based interviews one site
suggests asking yourself the 3-5 most meaningful
or significant events in your career, what you learned
in those events and how you have applied the insight
to other situations.
I liked the set of competency based interview questions
offered in 3 , where competency is defined as the
application of specific skills and abilities to perform
a unique job or function of a position.
Our responses remain like behavioral questions in
providing a concise story of an actual event or
situation in the STAR (situation, task, action, result)
or SARI (situation, action, result, implications)
Looking eight to fifteen years from now is a
big leap and things are hard to predict.
A colleague asked me to visit a class of freshmen
chemistry majors and share ideas that can help them
determine what they might do now to prepare for
The bottom line: careers in the future
are shifting in longenvity and fields of formal training.
Yet, it is VERY GOOD for skilled and educated
individuals who are involved in “interactional”
class of work.
McKinsey Global Institute Classification of Jobs 1
The “interactional” class of work involves knowledge
workers and those with unique, skills calling for the
collaboration with others.
This class differs from “transformation” and “transactional”
which can be moved, or transformed by a machine, or
computerized, or automated.
Several features distinguish the interactional from
the transactional as pointed out by Davenport. Briefly,
reliant on : deep expertise across functions
dependent on: fluid deployment of functional teams
continually updated and refreshed participants
reliant on: formal processes and standards for
dependent on: integration between boundaries by
low discretionary workforce made of replaceable
The fastest and greatest magnitude trends in
- temporary workers now exceed 20% of workforce
- shorter term of employment for individual workers
with specific employers
- benefits plans of employers are less; each individual
needs to look out more from themselves.
PILLARS (for successful careers)
-Language and communication skills
-Undergraduate research, internships, and co-op
programs for “outside the box” challenges
-Field studies: to network and develop mentors
-Extra-curricular involvement: to develop
and demonstrate leadership, people skills and project
ACS : http://undergrad.acs.org/
See comments for “soft skills” and “wise skills” that
successful careers demand.
It goes without saying we need to present ourselves as
confident professionals who represent our employer well.
So, when we are invited to interview this is an essential
element of our preparation– grooming, cleanliness, and
Meeting with a student yesterday he asked what my opinion
was of wearing cologne or aftershave or use of breath
freshener when interviewing.
We need to feel upbeat and confident. We will feel a little
excited. People respond differently to pressure/stress.
My personal habit is to wear clean, freshly pressed clothes
and somehow I usually do not use aftershave, after I trim
my beard and facial hairs. It is common, that while not
seeming to be significant, some interviewers feel strongly
that a strong aftershave, cologne, or perfume is a turn-off.
[If you do wear- 2 .]
Breath freshener is not a bad notion. It does bring up
the point of careful choices of meals before and during
interviews, especially containing garlic. Ingesting a
mint or eucalyptus drop can be allowed. However,
please refrain from the use of gum.
Interestingly, a female student was in the room as we
spoke about fragrances. Although I am not an expert
in this I suggested similar cautions. However, females
have other concerns that should be mentioned– make-up,
shampoo and hair style. Let me suggest two web-sites
that offer appropriate ideas for female readers. 3 4
This personal preparation seems to be common sense
until you look into it, just like the importance of
bringing your cell phone or portable communication
device and turning it off before the interview.
I remember the horror of delivering a presentation with
another presenter and hearing her phone ringtone. The
second surprise was that she picked it up and answered
it. This is inappropriate behavior.
The process for getting a job does not end with
the on-site interview. The interview continuum
that we have talked about is important. What
happens and how a candidate approaches the
negotiations that follow are critical, too.
Over a series of phone calls recently, a member
has learned about an open position (from her
network), interviewed successfully (including
a well received technical presentation), and
recently a phone call offering a position and
What can happen next?
A. In our conversation we reviewed several items
including determining an appropriate salary
[ACS Salary Comparator and other useful sites],
doing homework on the company via your network,
and determining what are the key things you wish
for your family (living arrangements, benefits,
special situations, starting date among the leading
items). [See a factor outline.]
B. Legal issues may also play a role. [Sklover offers
a terrific perspective on a number of factors and
is worth viewing, including letter of resignation.]
Make it official. Ask for a formal offer letter
and detailed information about the benefits package.
We talked about defining when she could leave
her current firm.
C. After receiving the offer letter, the “ball is in
her court” and a fairly rapid response is in order.
Knowing what your family needs in the new position
and location is critical– insurances, relocation,
job help for spouse, trip for finding a residence,
and even vacations or time off.
D. Identify key items that the new firm desires–
starting date, application of key know-how and
other critical items to be a successful enterprise.
E. Have a chance to practice the negotiating
conversation. You want to make every interaction
with both your current position supervisor and
prospective, offering company enthusiastic and
positive. Know what positive things you wish
to communicate about both.
The Negotiation Continuum is a matching
framework for after you receive an offer to the
interviewing continuum. It starts with factors and
data for each position/company and comes down
to how you prioritize the factors. Consider gathering
information for this process before you interview.
Have a priority order of topics in mind when you
speak with the prospective company. We practiced
a presentation order based on what was determined
highest priority. We determined negotiation
give-ups and what makes the most sense– know
what is the key need that the company desires and
meet and exceed it.
The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act was signed into
law. This impacts most of us in science and technology
in one way or another. Earlier, this blog commented on
Andy Gilicinski’s preview of the legislation listing,
however, I have not seen comments and scientific
focused reports of the signed legislation.
Without a legal filter, the following is what I have
in the law–
1. first to file- pressure to file a patent as soon as
conceived and follow with reduction to practical
2. one-year grace period protected activities
3. review and following examination provisions
4. fees for normal and expedited process review
1. seems to favor larger firms with large legal
budgets and staff
2. seems to have not addressed patent troll organizations
impacts on innovation and legal actions. 1