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

December 2011
« Nov   Jan »
Job Offer. Low salary yet desired opportunity
Filed under: Job Offer (Situations), Legal matters
Posted by: site admin @ 1:50 pm

Six months ago when we talked about preparing for a
screening interview, he had hoped to be able to be offered
a position.  Now he has the offer in hand, literally, has
taken another promising screening interview with another
top-flight firm and interviewed with a third firm.

What should I do, Dan, he asked since the first firm desires
a reply in less than a week?

So, he provided the substance of the offer letter and benefits
package and we spoke about it.  The offer describes the title,
yet does not indicate the responsibilities, assignments and
project work in a job description.  It is coded in a cryptic
job description, like Structural Engineer 4.

Find out specifically what the job entails and who you report to.

The offer letter also points out that the job is for “at will”
employment.  All that means is that the end date is not formally
established, according to employment law expert Al Sklover.
Mr. Sklover also provides in his information loaded webpage
key insight into the terms to look out for in an offer letter.

The offer letter indicates a salary and
“Documentation of acceptable work authorization and identity
document(s) to complete the I-9 process as required by the
Immigration Reform and Control Act.”

In order for him to sign the intention to commit to working
with this firm, he needs to know whether the firm will assist
him in getting appropriate working permits to work full time
in the US; salary aside for the moment.  This commitment is
time consuming and will cost the firm legal and administrative
expense.  A call to the hiring representative before signing is
In the conversation (before the deadline date), he needs to
consider asking for immigration permit support and that it
be incorporated into the offer letter.
It is also beneficial to state that he has high interest in
accepting the offer.

Now the salary.  The salary offer represents the initial
negotiating position for the company.  It is at best at the
40th percentile of the range of positions and is low.  So,
we practiced how to artfully ask if there is anything that
could be done to bring the salary up past the 50th
percentile.  The company after all is one of the leaders
in its field.

So, (1) understand what the position entails and who he will
report to.  (2) Seek a commitment in writing to obtain a
permit work in the US.  (2a) One approach is the OPT/CPT
route through the university which requires tuition payment. 
(2b) Ask if the company will pay for this.  (2c) Ask it to
be put in the offer letter, as well.
(3) Then a fair compensation needs to be negotiated.

Report to the company that you have read the details of the
benefits package and find many components to be quite
generous.  But a few questions remain regarding
requesting (4) relocation reimbursement, (5) househunting
(6) 401K match, and (7) vacation.  (These are not
mentioned in the benefits package document.)

So, it is quite important to seek the help of a mentor who
understands what is involved and what you can specifically
ask for.

In terms of competing offers, understand that even after you
have submitted a signed offer letter with the terms that are
acceptable for you and your family, other offers or situations
can intervene.  This might bring about a request to end the
agreement which is something either party can do as an at will
employment contract. 

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Sincere appreciation. NESACS, Readers
Filed under: Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 8:41 am

It is always a good time to express thanks for the opportunity
NESACS has provided both with the web association and
freedom of expression in this blog.

There could be no better board of pubs or leadership in a
technical professional association.

Readers, commenters and linkers:  Without you, this blog
is just a string of electrons into a ‘black hole.’  Thank you for
your meaningful use of the blog for yourself and your networks.

Especially, now, the blog’s subject examples.  What differentiates
this blog from many in the technical career management field is
the examples of your situations and follow-up discussions.
Thank you for sharing your stories, asking for my help and allowing
me to reveal tidbits of our learning to the blog readership.

As always, I hope this blog meets and exceeds your expectations
every time you look at it.

We are in this struggle together.  Let 2012 come with much
anticipation, bring success and significance to you.  Help
someone else, too.

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More Sources of Company Information
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Technicians, Observ. Trends, Undergraduate majors
Posted by: site admin @ 8:30 am

Lauren Weber reported in the Careers Trends sidebar
(WSJ 12-27-11, p.B5) that items [company culture,
management practices and compensation shortcomings.]
that appear in social media and such places as and can negatively
influence the best candidates. and seem to offer sanitized
reviews and some insight into employee attitudes.  Direct
contact with your network would seem to be called for
to confirm information you find.

[We have reported the use of to
find “factual information” about firms.]

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Thinking About Thinking. Ethical and Cultural Dimension
Filed under: First Year on Job, Leadership, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 11:39 am

This seventh post on thinking about thinking takes
inspiration from Pier Forni’s book “The Thinking
Life:  How to thrive in the age of distraction

Thinking is essential to humans and our survival.
In our Internet age various devices keep us
wirelessly and asynchronously connected to
everyone and many we did not choose to be
connected to.  Forni outlines the urgency to
develop and place good thinking habits as
a priority.  Good thinking makes having thought,
having thought leads to a wider range of viable
choices;  Good choices offer the chance for good
decisions that lead to a good life that lead to
happiness. [paraphrased].

Our use of various devices and games distracts
us from focus is based on our human tendency to
enjoy the easier entertainment forms that
information               for    understanding
content                     for    skill
acquiring knowledge for    retention of knowledge
internet search           for    thinking, an activity of who we are.

Historically this is not the first time such human
behaviors were criticized when former habits
became diluted by innovations.
1-Plato and Socrates railed against writing which
replaced memorization.
2-The movable type was attacked as the printed
word of many items transformed mental into
textual forms.
3-The Internet and proliferation of visual information
in digital media.  This is because we must have
the tool ready when we need it.

Thinking is hard work and takes energy and
seems counter cultural.  In fact, a better balance
and judgement of use is called for.  Forni offers
we should think a lot, be aware of the needs of
others and care for others.  In this sense, there
is personal civility component as we give full
attention to people.

Burmeister and Tierney’s book Willpower offers
suggestions on how to make personal progress
on the exercise of thinking.  See more in the comments.

Mid-career professionals: Interviewing questions
Filed under: Interviewing, Leadership, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 12:10 pm

Geoff Smart and Randy Street published a handy
book outlining critical questions mid-career
and senior level professionals should be
prepared for.

They cite early in the book “Who:  the A method
for hiring
” Jim Collins’ line:  “the most important
decisions business people make are not WHAT
decisions, but WHO decisions.”

They define a “player” as a candidate who has
at least 90 per cent chance of achieving a set
of outcomes that only the top 10 per cent of
possible candidates could achieve.

They point out four sources of these “players”:
  - referrals from trusted networks
  - referrals from employees
  - friends of the firm
  - trusted recruiter sourcing systems.

Smart and Street cover quite a range of interviews
and tactics to select top talent–
  1.  four kinds of interviews and their questions
screening, top-grading, reference, selling
  2.  red flags to look for in interviews
  3.  behaviors Marshall Goldsmith seeks to avoid
  4.  legal traps.

Comments contain question topics.

1 comment
Correlation does not mean Cause and effect. Pharmaceutics
Filed under: Position Searching, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 11:46 am

Striking examples of learning from the failures of
a series of cause and effect correlations in treatments for
human disease and disorders are given in Wired,
January 2012, p. 102 - 109, by Jonah Lehrer.
‘Trials and Errors:  Dead end experiments, useless
drugs, unnecessary surgery.  Why science is failing us.’

Lehrer writes about unintended consequences in:
  - cholesterol lowering torcetrapib (Pfizer)
  - B vitamins reducing homocysteine-linked cardiovascular
Situations from more information from tests not producing
expected outcomes in:
  - non specific back pain caused by swelling or degenerated
discs, revealed by MRI

Lehrer offers these as breakdowns in scientific correlation. 
However, I offer that the ‘business perspective’ of correlation
and the ’science perspective’ of correlation are different. 
Harford states this more clearly in his book, ‘Adapt’.

Harford’s arguments in Adapt
that scientific experts are
continuously humbled by what they predict or believe and
the truth or outcome.  Lehrer, while a very compelling writer,
might be overstating the case made by linking a series of
correlations to the development of a business outcome. 

There are things to learn though in Lehrer’s article about the
industry and approaches to meet customers’ needs.
Lehrer provides examples where a change in R&D
approach is what job seekers should consider in
companies to work for.  The business paradigm has
limited validity in complex scientific correlations such
are used in traditional pharmaceutic development.

1 comment
Watch-outs 32. Limit investor orders, teaching politics and cyber crime alerts
Filed under: Position Searching, Legal matters, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 11:59 am

SOURCE:  J. Zweig, WSJ 12-10-11, p. B1
How small investors can get stomped
Article advises several noteworthy investment
axioms.  (1) avoid open-ended orders
That means no market orders.  Use “limit
orders with sell above a set price and buy below
a set price.”  (2) Confirm each trade and
immediately follow up and report errors promptly.

SOURCE:  J. Pfeiffer, WSJ 10-24-11, p. R6
Don’t dismiss office politics– teach it
So many times I have heard and felt the
dislike of politics.  The use of influence without
formal authority or how power gets worked out
on a day to day basis are examples.  Data,
information, goals and issues play a role.  The
article touches on a proactive perspective that
politics is universal and can be taught.  Goal
oriented effective networking and understanding
how actions and behaviors are read and

Interesting perspective.

SOURCE:  K. Blumenthal, WSJ 12-17-11, p. B8.
Think before you Click
Cybercrime and malware have cruel, unexpected
and unwanted outcomes.  With a puchline:
“All scams have an emotional hook,”
this article offers some preventions we should

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Interviewing. Do I ask–do I have the job and how much do I make?
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Job Offer (Situations)
Posted by: site admin @ 11:53 am

It helps sometimes to put yourself in someone else’s
shoes.  That happened when I was IM’ing with Nick
the other day. 

“Do you have a moment for a question?” he asked.
‘Sure.’  Even though the dinner call was coming…

He asked in another IM.  “I feel so fortunate, I will
be speaking with MOS [not the real name] representatives
this Friday in a panel telecon interview.  This as you
know is the second interview with them after my site
visit there.  How do I ask if I have the job?”

Hmm.  Usually telephone interviews are not ones
that lead to job offers.  Especially if they are with
larger companies and involving different interviewers.
Although that is the “$5″ question, ‘two things–
it doesn’t sound like the right timing and don’t
ask it that way.’  I typed in the following IM.
I suggested that near the end of the interview, consider
asking “what is the time line for your hiring decision?”
and is there anything further you need from me
that will help your decision?”  Don’t shy away
from indicating that you are “very interested in the
position and helping the company satisfy customers
and be profitable.”

Then he asked in a following IM:  “I am interviewing
for other companies.  Should I tell them?”  The
response in a following IM was:  “It is not critical
to share this information.  It is honestly up to you
to tell them, if they ask you.  It is quite possible
that they are looking at other candidates to fill the

“Do I ask:  How much do I make?”

No, no, no.  But, be prepared to know the range of
salary you would expect to make from surveys,
recognizing the differences in industries, positions,
and locations in different regions of the country.
[or internationally]”
Understand that salary is only one component of an
overall compensation package.  Several things are
more important to some people based on their
personal and family situations.  So, negotiations
will likely occur.  In most cases benefits packages
are listed on companies web-sites.  But know what
you and your family require.”

He was grateful for the conversation and better prepared
he said. 

Then I offered, you ‘may be asked to come again
for an onsite interview.’  “A third interview,” he remarked.
‘Yes.  In fact in one interviewing interaction I had 4
different occasions to interview people– screening,
two days for onsite interviews [some people were
not available on the first day] and, when my wife and
I returned for a house hunting visit, I met for dinner
with my new manager.’

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Filed under: Position Searching, Networking, Mentoring, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 9:20 am

Interestingly, one of the items taught in our Professional
Development seminars last week was “reverse mentoring.”
This is mentoring students do for their teachers or
proteges do for their mentors.  Drew sent a link to a
thoughtful article on Linkedin networking;  Naimish
clarified what Zhaoshuo told me about Linkedin offering
a tool on your personal profile page that tells you how
many times and specifically who has looked at your profile.
Pretty cool, eh?

I can’t say this enough.  The Deep Nishar article emphasizes
that each one of us is DEEPLY RESPONSIBLE, sorry for
“shouting,” for our own careers and career path.  No one
else.  On top of this, even more than ever, positions are not
formally advertized or, if they are, it is for a short time or
asynchronous on a web-page.  Networks and employee
referrals pop to the top as the method of choice to obtain
desired positions.

Face the facts, the least helpful time to start your network
is when you need it the most.  The network never sleeps.
You may not be in the loop or paying attention or
connected.  So make it a formal practice to focus your
attention on goals involving learning about, participating
in and committing to others in your network.  It is not
helpful if it is passive.  Have a “committed network.
And have it before “crunch time” when you need one.

Ilya Posin’s article about goals and working to meet them
goes hand-in-glove with Nishar’s piece.  It is too easy to
become distracted and achieve little or nothing each day.
Set goals, break them down into tasks and work on them in
prioritized order, using the best tools in a focused way
that works for you.

What do you do in your profile when you
are not sure whether to include items or not…  Run an
experiment and get feedback.  LinkedIn allows us to
change our profile and see if it impacts the number of
“hits” in people who view the site.  Look on the middle
or bottom right side for the panel:

Who’s Viewed Your Profile?

7 Your profile has been viewed by 7 people in the past 7 days.

18 You have shown up in search results 18 times in the past 7 days.

Your LinkedIn Network

326 Connections link you to 3,807,342+ professionals

5,630 New people in your Network since December 12

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Unemployed. Limited CAS access
Filed under: Position Searching, Mature professionals, Post-docs, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 9:18 am

There was an inviting item in C&ENews this
week for unemployed chemists who worked
at firms who used SciFinder and had an
enterprise wide license for SciFinder.  It is
provided as a means for unemployed workers
who have lost their positions AFTER JANUARY
1, 2011 to stay current in their disciplines.

This resource needs to be applied for via the
link above or 1  .

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Career Discussion. Dual Career couples
Filed under: Position Searching, Networking, Job Offer (Situations), Post-docs, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 5:10 pm

At a certain point many of us face a decision when
both participants in a couple have professional careers:
 > who is the leading partner,
 > who is the following partner,
 > or should we have a temporary separated existence?

It is a difficult decision.  Some couples make the decision
strictly on a monetary basis.  That is not the only way.

This past week several couples, both near to graduation and
recent grads spoke to me about where they are in
their career decision processes.
This blog entry describes case studies and tries not
to prescribe.  It will offer quick background summaries,
recent results and follow up discussions.

One couple has “partner 1″ finishing his degree in
January and “partner 2″ already finished in a nice
post-doc 500 miles away from her partner’s current
location.  Partner 1 is interviewing for full time tenure-track
positions.  Two interviews have recently been completed
and results should be announced within about a month.

They recognize the temporary nature of the 2’s post-doc
and feel, if successful, they would likely choose a
safe, secure, nearest-to-partner-2, full time position
for partner 1.
Their thinking is that partner 2 is better able to find
a strong position within the local area of 1 and 2, if
they are closely located.  They seek fewer moves.

Another tactic looks two steps ‘down the road.’
Look at the eventual offers of the full time positions
from both and evaluate the greater geographic areas
of the offers — which one provides greater long term
-Get your networks working about this.
-Get connected to people who can be a hub in the
new location.  [ACS is a terrific national resource for

Partner 1 has received a full time offer in Cincinnati.
Partner 2 has a promising post-doc in her field that will
propel her career 500 miles away.

They have decided not to split up but move to
Cincinnati.  They will inquire with the firm and
ask for help finding a position. 

In a similar tactic, involve your networks in finding
hidden positions for partner 2. 

There are differences between these first two cases
1.     one of the positions is a permanent position
in an industrial firm.
2.     offers have been made and relocation trips
have been taken, the permanent position has been
3.     Cincinnati has a regional presence of Fortune
500 companies and industries which can be
opportunities.  {More significant factor}

It is possible that the security of the academic
position might be just as long/short as the industrial
firm, in these economic times.

Partner 1 is in his second year in a TN post-doc. 
Partner 2 was offered a less than median salary in
a  two-year rotational assignment role
(1000 miles away from TN). 
Partner 2 also has a post-doc offer in a top 20 university,
less than 2 hours drive away (100 miles from TN).

She decided the location of the permanent position
was too far (1000 miles) and salary did not justify
continued separation and expected costs.  The post-doc
offers higher longer term prospects and allows the
couple to delay the more permanent location choice.

Action items:  Consider a permanent location which
has a diversity of industries that can allow better
career management.  In larger, growing metropolitan
areas a person can move from one company to another
without having to relocate.  This is where the post-doc
position is located.

Partner 1 expects to graduate very soon and has
interviewed and been offered a full-time position.
Partner 1 has applied for proper Australian visa. 
If the visa is granted within a couple of weeks of
the offer,
evaluate the trade-offs the full time position
provides in terms of experience, expanding
her network and compensation.

Recently, Partner 1 received her visa notification.

Recast the resume into a form for the Australian
job market.  Begin marketing, finding openings
and leading employers in Australia.

This topic is not given enough attention for our
foreign born graduates and post docs.  You have
to be in their shoes to understand. 

1 comment
Academic interviews. After Actions Review
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Job Offer (Situations)
Posted by: site admin @ 2:58 pm

RG interviewed at two principally undergraduate chemistry
and chemistry-biology departments within the last two weeks.
He felt good about his experiences and thought he could
interview better.

We decided to talk through a interview review session to
identify learnings he had and he could share his insights
from the experience with our readership.  [If you are
interested, this note addresses in a personalized way
the Academic interview branch After the interview of the
Interview continuum from the article:
Before, During and After Interviews.]

The first institution he visited was in the eastern US
and had eight current full time members.  His position
would replace one currently held by a person retiring
soon.  The visit was planned to start off with a airport
pick up by one of the younger faculty (host) in the first
afternoon, hotel check-in and dinner.

The second day involved hotel pick up by the host,
meetings with provost, dean, and chair, a technical
presentation, a classroom presentation on Grignard
reactions (I re-learned the involvement of magnesium
as an organometallic reaction of an alkyl or aryl
magnesium halide with a ketone or aldehyde forming
a C-C bond.), panel meetings with other faculty,
and dinner.  It seemed like a slower changing,
small-city environment a hundred miles from three
NFL football teams.

The take-aways were– don’t fly through Philadelphia
and to practice the demonstration lecture more before
giving it.

The second interview was at a PUI within driving
distance which afforded a more relaxed schedule
than the first institution.  He drove around the
university living area and had more time to take
things in.  [Close to a large urban center.] This
was a smaller faculty of three (although the
website lists 4.) and where he met with not only
the chair, but also the President of the College,
Provost, and a number of college
This institution emphasized a unique
educational philosophy
which the president
promoted and the desire to have someone who
would make good use of a 400 MHz NMR.

These were significant tips to play off from in
the overall interview.  He did.

RG sent personalized t-y letters to all interviewees.
We talked of a interview review process which
involved detailing his likes, dislikes, areas of
personal interview performance improvement,
planned follow-ups and activities.

Speak to people in his network who went to
the schools, or currently go to the schools

Search and capture all current news about
the departments and schools

Assess:  do both meet his threshold of where
he wishes to teach?  If not, why and develop
professional ways of expressing this if he is
offered and does not accept.

Compare and contrast:  What does his gut
say about preference?
what are his key decision factors in priority
order?  Rank each institution.

Research grants:  Where would he apply?

Start laying the ground work for where
ever he lands.  Make contacts with people
who have passed this hurdle.  He had done
a lot already.

Develop a downside back-up plan, if
neither provides a strong offer.

Then, there is the “two body problem
he faces and several others who I met
during the day face.  Topic for the next
blog entry.

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Resume Pointers.
Filed under: Position Searching, Networking, Job Offer (Situations), Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 10:00 am

We might read articles in the WSJ on resumes
with a ‘grain of salt.’  It is focused on “business” graduates
rather than technical, or scientific, and certainly not
academic focused resumes.

Comments to an article on Updating a resume for 2011
seem helpful.
1  - target the decision makers, rather than blanket
your PR documents on job boards [D. King]
2  - focus your skill set, rather than trying to be a
generalist [D. King]
3  - length of resume [1 or 2 pages] is less relevant
than use of keywords in a brief, specific and easy to
read document {human and algorithm friendly}[K. Dew]
4  - submit your resume in a careful, persistent and
respectful manner knowing that not everyone will
like every structure and content element. [J. Seraichyk]
5  - “cold” submissions prove to be less successful than
“warm” submissions via referrals, contacts, or network
6  -  “Job hunting [is]… a solvable marketing problem.
Not merely a resume problem or a recruiter problem or
a networking problem.” [T. Kellum]

  - be willing to test “rules of thumb”, like
only the last 10 years experience counts, I have had recent
proteges use work more 20 years ago be significant
don’t use objective, I have had numerous recent grad and
mid-career people target their resume “red zone” with
relevant Objective and significant Highlights to obtain
interviews and offers
don’t apply for a position in a growing company that you
have no background for, I have recently encouraged a
mid-career person to do just the opposite, citing clear
transferable skills that good interviewers will admire–
she starts in a month.
   -online presence is now half the game plan.

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I want to be a manager.
Filed under: Position Searching, Mentoring, Leadership, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 5:15 pm

An interesting observation is that many recent chemistry,
material science and engineering graduates speak about
wanting a management position early in their career.
“I seek a management position.  I earned it with my
Ph.D.”  [That’s were ‘the big bucks’ and security is….]

So, the next seminar I will present will be on being
a manager or a leader in a firm, some common pitfalls
and suggest some practical steps to get there.
The decision, of course, is up to them and their

As we have heard before, good managers and leaders
need good followers and benefit from some seasoning.
Good managers can be developed with nurturing.
Directing a technician or leading an undergraduate might
not be sufficient to present as “management experience.”

Technical professionals are now classed as “knowledge
workers” in many contexts since we are self-directed
and can formulate or conceive of different approaches
to invent, innovate or solve problems.  The transition
we will go through is from knowledge worker to
manager-leader.  As it is felt that the tasks of management
alone might not be sufficient in today’s organizations.
Recognizing the tasks are indeed even more challenging

No doubt mature workers and experienced managers
would be terrific mentors.

Internships and short term assignments where people
can grow in their roles are distinguishing.

Various military and voluntary roles in professional
affiliations provide background and interpersonal

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