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

May 2012
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Watch-outs. 36. Intuitive automated resume reviews, Start-up companies, Change, and Extremes
Filed under: Position Searching, Public Relations docs, Observ. Trends, Undergraduate majors, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 10:47 am

Summer 2012 is here.  Do you sense a faster
pace with more complexity and uncertainty?
In a recent conversation, a colleague and I were
chatting about preparing members for their future
careers.  He thought it good to have leading experts
give presentations and publish them in books.  Nice,
yet too slow.  As soon as the book is published the
information is out of date.  How about a blog?

As Vonnegut said, ‘and so it goes.’

Science and engineering establish laws and boundaries
and we find with ‘open architecture’ questioning, the
newer kind of investigation, that there are conditions
outside these boundaries.  [Extreme-ophiles]  Change
confounding change makes the unpredictable happen.
[Wired - Venter]  One approach leads to
entrepreneur-ism and start up companies. [Lean Start
ups]  How can a resume get noticed in such
environments?  How can job seekers find
opportunities? [Monster contextual keyword searches]

SOURCE:  Fast Company, April 2012, p. 7-8 and
It is not enough to have a listing of keywords in
today’s resumes.  Software tools ‘resume screening
software’ looks for the “context” of the words.  The
Fast Company published an ad by Monster about
the new tools that Monster uses.  If Monster uses them,
other firms will have the equivalent.
Other links point to other helpful videos about searching.

SOURCE:  Ted Greenwald, “The Upstart,” Wired, June,

Really liked the short-cut of lean start up lingo and
would recommend some ideas listed here.  Four critical
terms are Iterate, Minimum viable product, Pivot,
and Vanity metrics/Actionable metrics.  It leads to a
nifty business learning model, called the build-
measure-learn loop for industries in knowledge
worker realms.

SOURCE:  The Economist, May 12, 2012
B. Appleyard, Creatures that survive in extremes
in p. 11-14
in the pull-out section.
The earth is teeming with hyper-resilient
microbes that survive at extremes of heat,
pressure, radiation and salt/acid concentrations.
Extremeophile researchers encounter it’s
impossible frequently.  Applications of their
findings have been eventful. 
“In 2010 bacteria from cliffs in the village
of Beer in Devon were found to have lasted
553 days on the exterior of the international
space station.”  implications for extraterrestrial
“An enzyme in Thermus aquatics TaqDNA polymerase
has become one of the most important in
microbiology.  It makes possible the PCR technique
for amplifying DNA samples.”
are among several cited examples.

SOURCE:  T. Goetz, Life Hacker:  Craig Venter
Wired June 2012, P. 108
An aha:  “I think the new anti-intellectualism
that’s showing up in politics is a symptom of our
not discussing these issues enough.  We don’t
discuss how our society is now 100 per cent
dependent on science for its future.  We need new
scientific breakthroughs– sometime to overcome
the scientific breakthroughs of the past.  a hundred
years ago oil sounded like a great discovery.  You
could burn it and run engines off it.  I don’t think
anybody anticipated that it would actually change
the atmosphere of our planet.  …”

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Case Study Interviews. Management Consulting firms
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Position Searching, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 7:41 am

Recently, a member asked me about helping him
prepare for management consulting firm interviews.
Not knowing much about these, I reached out to our
business school who were very much interested in
offering assistance.

In addition to pointing out that there are specific
technical roles Ph.D.s can assume in these firms,
the kinds of firms that seek out Ph.D.s and how
one networks through alumni who work in the
field, Meg Warren also pointed out that case
study interviews are commonly done to evaluate

Case study interviews can be done individually
or in groups of candidates where you work to
solve problems.  The evaluation of candidates
seeks how applicants think, approach problems
and communicate.  Also, what business skills
does the candidate possess.

Some examples:
Biotech, healthcare
Environmental, waste management
Energy industry
Electronics, Semiconductors
Aerospace, Defense

An MBA primer and a summary for typical case interview
cases can be found.

1 comment
Storytelling. Kahneman presentation
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Position Searching, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 3:18 pm

Had the opportunity to meet with ten recent
Ph.D. graduates and near-defense students who are
preparing for their next career steps yesterday.

Several of the people were class members and an
equal number met with me for their first time.

Most cases had me review written public relations
documents and help them prepare for interviews.
A couple involved actual interviews where I
accompanied them for introductions.  In all cases,
we held conversations in which I listened carefully
for fluency and enthusiasm.  In several cases, I
pointed out nonverbal behaviors and suggested
how I perceived them in our interaction.

Every person I pressed for the need to develop
stories as part of their message.  While this
blog has offered the importance of story telling
in interviews and presentations
, Dan Kahneman’s
AAAS presentation
should be seen by everyone
who has a need to communicate. 

Kahneman, a Nobel Prize economist and best
selling author, wonderfully dissected human
thinking processes into two modes:  #1[instinctive-
associative] and #2[deliberative-rational-sequential].

Scientists process experiments and data in mode
#2.  However, most of our thinking is in mode #1.
Kahneman pointed out that coherent stories of
concrete events by trusted people are most
believed and memorable.  Mode#1 processing
also favors
   words being repeated more than once,
   items that are easily processed (clear fonts,
simplified calculations [like 2×2 rather than
29×271]) and
   if it rhymes.

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Job Loss or Searching for that First Position
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching
Posted by: site admin @ 6:04 pm

Framing.  It is not easy to figure out what
to do when the decision is all in our laps
about what we want to do with the skills
we have, the ambitions we aspire and the
experiences that have formed our memories.

In early days, decisions were made for us
on our behalf.  Then, at a certain point each
of us have to dig deeply to figure out our
core beliefs and and personal values to
make decisions.

When our lives are upset by job loss, we
face a different reality.  For some, identity
is lost.  For others, self confidence is
diminished.  For a few, either they are relieved
or they feel fortunate that they did not have
to make the decision.

In job search mode, frustration can set in
as time moves forward and it seems that
options are few and doors close quickly.

Four encouragements for each of us
1.  stay with your job search and either
maintain your focus or develop a prioritized
2.  shrug off negative comments or feelings,
yet learn from the truth.  Apply the new
or refreshed learning.
3.  touch people’s lives with care, love,
and respect.  Ask for forgiveness.
4.  network with consequential strangers.
Develop a communication model that
increases your data and information in-
flow and presents your contacts and
mentors with transparency and updates.

What helps is a personal assessment of
not only your personal values, but also your
beliefs.  Listening to Detlof von Winterfeldt who
describes a model of good decision-making
      beliefs  x  values  = decisions
Beliefs are molded into us throughout
our life and re-molded through positive
reinforcement.  Beliefs result from our
actions or decisions, when we judge a
certain situation.

Values are revealed when you feel life
is good and you are satisfied and content.
That means that your values will change
throughout your life.  [When I was young,
having a nice car, home, adventure and
resources seemed valuable.  In middle
age, having good health, a satisfying
family life with a caring, loving spouse
and enough resources not to want are
meaningful.]  So it is important to keep
in touch with your personal values.

1 comment
Alternate Careers. Quants on Wall Street
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 7:24 pm

Frontline offered perspectives of technical
Ph.D.s who went into mathematical modeling
of derivatives on Wall Street.
Interesting viewing for those who might be
Episode 4

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Alternate Careers. Stock and Industry Analysts
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 3:36 pm

It was striking and pertinent to note several Ph.D. in
chemistry were Top Analysts in their fields/sectors
in WSJ Best of the Street pull-out section on 5-10.

Phil Nadeau, a Harvard Ph.D. neurobiologist
translated his technical know how in diseases
with the therapies companies are developing
to look for up and coming drug companies. (p. C14)

Rachel McMinn ranked 3rd in the 2009 WSJ
best of the street analyst survey.  She earned her
BS from Cornell and PhD in chemistry from Scripps.
She is in the BOA - Merrill Lynch Biotechnology
sector. (p. C9)

Understanding the underlying science she can
connect to the business potential and underlying
value by applying the science to the market.

Not only does this article portray people who have
competed with the best in industries with formal
technical training, it also gives insight into leading
companies in many fields, including:
alternative energy
electronics and electrical equipment
medical equipment and supplies

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Culture assessment.
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 4:20 pm

We have provided some earlier entries on
organizational culture, yet I found one in HBR
recently that got me thinking again.

That article led me to find a BLOG item about
factors when to decide to leave.  The same
questions can be raised in your interviews.

Look for:
  dissatisfied people [what is the root cause?]
  Happy people doing exciting things and pleased
with supervision and leadership
   coordination of effort
   order, planning, vision [meaning and purpose
to the work in words and actions]
   people seeing how your contribution will
be meaningful

Consider asking culture questions as part of
your series of important questions.  Ask
questions about how and how often things
change?  [change is good, but constant change
can be demoralizing.]

Seek satisfactory responses to how you can
continue to acquire skills that benefit the

Although certain web-sites and annual reports
state that they provide these, I have found
different locations may often have different

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Resumes. Headline misrepresentations
Filed under: Recent Posts, Interviewing, Public Relations docs, Job Offer (Situations), Legal matters
Posted by: site admin @ 8:31 am

While we never recommend misrepresenting
yourself or your accomplishments in any public
relations documents, it does happen.  Yahoo’s
CEO, CSX’s Chief Commercial Officer,
Herbalife’s CEO and others
have been questioned
and/or fired.

You are responsible for truthful representation
of all aspects of applications, resumes, cover
letters, Internet presence and statements.  Some
information that has been found to be inaccurate
         employment dates and record (covering gaps)
         degrees and degree dates (falsifying academic
         job titles (implying higher attainment,
         achievements (fabricating inventions,
creativity or claims of individual contributions)
         criminal record
         medical testing record
         military record
         academic record

The consequences are real and if there is an
issue, it will be found.  Embarrassment, reputation,
“serial lies,” termination result. 

The employment situation tempts some to consider
“doing what others do”, but resist it.  Further
Legal position.
Recruiting advice.
HR Policies (listing of examples).


Thinking about Thinking. McRaney assesment of flaws
Filed under: Networking, Mentoring, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 3:28 pm

When I picked up the library copy, I thought
I reserved a book that was on a topic of little
interest to me.  David McRaney’s “You are not
so smart:  why you can not have too many
friends on facebook , why your money is mostly
fiction and 46 other ways you are deluding
on the other hand, offers a fascinating
assessment of thinking flaws that did not
seem to flow from one chapter to the next.
Looking back on its contents the author does
point out surprises and shine lights on several
helpful things.

McRaney poses that he has organized the
book into 46 chapters, each revealing separate
thinking problems…

Some of the chapters are are
1.  predictable patterns of thought and behavior that
lead to incorrect conclusions.
2.  cognitive biases  that lead to poor choices.
3   heuristics (short cuts) you use to solve common
problems leading to whacky decisions.
They seemed to appear randomly. 

Nonetheless, I took away 9 findings on thinking
1.  Priming - revealing a pattern of thought
You are always of two minds at any one moment,
the higher rational self and the lower emotional self.
You are unaware of how unaware you are.  Much of
what you think, feel, do and believe is and will be
nudged by what one or the other unconscious primes
of words, objects, colors, of culture.
RECOMMENDATIONS:  Create lists, smile, say
please and thank you and make your environment
conducive to the mental state you wish.

2.  Illusion of control -  a pattern of thought
You often believe you have control over outcomes
that are either random or too complex.
RECOMMENDATIONS:  Seek to control small
things, the things that matter, and let them form
a happiness sensation.  Control is an illusion.

3.  Expectation - take home message
“Your expectations are the horse and your experience
is the cart.” 
Taste is subjective.  All things being equal you refer
back to ads, packaging or conformity with your
RECOMMENDATION:  Presentation is everything.

4.  Groupthink - take home message
The desire to reach consensus and avoid confrontation
hinders progress.  Allow outsiders to offer their
opinions to keep objective ideas.  Find fault with
the plan
RECOMMENDATION:  Every group needs
provocateurs and challengers.

5.  Affect heuristic - Caution
You depend on emotions to tell if something is good or
bad.  Your rational, mathematical, reasonable, and
methodical mind is slow and plodding.  Your irrational
emotional, instinctive mind is lightning fast.  The
conscious mind is still making the choices but the
unconscious mind is providing feelings and influence.
The unconscious mind triggers suggestions from  a
shadowy place that is difficult to explain and access.
RECOMMENDATION:  First impressions are difficult
to change.

6.  Introspection heuristic - take home message
Believing you understand your motivations and desires,
your likes and dislikes is called the  introspection
illusion.  Introspection is not the act of tapping into
your innermost mental constructs, but a fabrication.

7.  Apophenia - Caution
Coincidences are a routine part of life, even miraculous
ones.  When you connect the dots in your life that tells
a story, then you interpret the story so that it has
special meaning, Then it is Apophenia.

8.  Brand loyalty - Caution
You prefer the things you own because you rationalize
your past choices to protect your self-sense.

9.  Argument from Authority - Caution
A person’s status and credentials affects your perception
of a message.  Science guards against argument from
authority by working against it, questioning every nugget
new information.  If something is controversial, there
will be experts on all sides of the argument.

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Resumes for Government Positions
Filed under: Position Searching
Posted by: site admin @ 9:40 am

Although we entered information about applying for
government positions
in January, there is increased
interest in what is helpful to include in resumes
targeting government positions.

I need to recognize the help, advice and suggestions
of Luke Robeson and Lisa Balbes that follows:

- the application portion is separate from the resume
portion of an application.  The application portion
includes references, citizenship, DOB, SSN , address
and other personal information.
References are not needed in a government resume.

- keywords listed in the job description should be
used to point out often and in different ways how
your skills, abilities, and accomplishments meet
the job description or “call.”  see also 1  .

- effort, persistence and networking to find and
make contact directly with the hiring manager is
needed to differentiate you from all the other strong
candidates for the position.

- Resume Education section can include part time,
short term and government sponsored training,
provide the dates and duration of the courses.

- chronological resumes are preferred and items
are listed in reverse chronological order consistently.

- Resume Honors and Awards section can include
brief descriptions, dates and amount of any cash awards.

- Resume Affiliations section can include professional,
advisory and consulting roles providing dates and
responsibilities, from ad hoc reviewer to editor, from
government grant proposal reviewer to thesis committee.
Committee assignments of technical and professional
nature outside of normal activities can be mentioned.

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