Had the pleasure of organizing and co-facilitating a
workshop recently. One of the events of the workshop
that differentiates this program from many I have seen
is a wonderful panel discussion of truly accomplished
professionals who work in different roles in government
Some highlights and take-aways:
-don’t be afraid to quit a position and seek change
-work at the intersection of areas of expertise
-learn from failures; observe teams disintegrate and
amazingly people are resilient and good ideas transcend
-we need to find ways to impact policy makers to
assist in making wise decisions
-membership in professional societies is not only
informative, but also essential in successful careers
-be flexible; adapt
-identify and work on the problems of our times, like
drug resistant TB, using the latest technologies
-work/life balance is an elusive goal; no one has your
equation for balance, nor should they make the decision
-teaching: consider being a scholar, an educator or a
-take time to talk to policy makers
-work in “knowledge valleys”
There can be a problem of managing time in panels.
I feel every panelist build on each other’s ideas and
perspectives, were lively and passionate and made
the audience not only want to listen, but want to meet
each person to get to know them.
Eva Birnbaum LANL
Tom Tierney LANL
Basil Swanson LANL
Dave Pesiri LANL
Peter Avitabile UM-Lowell
Yesterday I learned some more tools and insights
into how we might use LinkedIn in our job searches.
I also have some questions from proteges on how
to keep job searches confidential from current employers
and also from possible employers.
Search optimization. For a fee, job seekers can
“bump” their profiles to the top of the LinkedIn
search list. A Ph.D. seemed to improve her Internet
presence by purchasing a LinkedIn service.
Another incidence that seems intelligent involves
listing more detail in your LinkedIn profile about
work you have done in the past. A senior level Mechanical
Engineering professional did it in a previous post;
yesterday I learned about a person listing undergraduate
research in lubricant chemistry leading to interview
invitations. When information contains keywords and
is smartly organized to be easy to read, it can yield
positive leads to positions.
COMPLETE YOUR PROFILE; UPDATE YOUR
I met one gentleman who had a little used LinkedIn
account and now wanted to explore changing positions.
Isn’t it true– we should have our network ready for us
when we need it. Not have to try to develop it
just when we need it, as it is usually too late.
His family recently had a child, his wife interviewed in
a different city and he wondered what he should do as
it did not seem best to have his family separated. Really
build up your profile on line, include it in his resume
heading. As things in life happen, his wife’s job despite
a verbal offer did not come through. But now is the time
to update the profile with the new information in his
His self assessment will have changed since before his
new arrival. This will influence how he might approach
a job search.
It is inescapable. No matter where you are, politics
will be part of an organization’s behavior. We
spoke about it along one of our drives during a
workshop we delivered at a national laboratory
My co-facilitator and I had many stories
about being excluded from meetings,
about being specifically included in meetings,
about writing and circulating information as a
junior person going around a senior person,
about writing things in emails that should not be
about the order of authors in a publication,
about not being sensitive to the feelings of others,
What brought this up was listening to a number of
post-docs offer comments and perspectives about
their positions. In fact, it is not restricted to just
one location, we have heard it from people in academia,
from people in large and small companies and from
How do you learn about and in circumstances overcome
1. Recognize it is part of the human condition.
2. Understand it usually comes from a multi-person interaction
3. We can learn about it by networking and having a mentor.
4. We can overcome biases by seeking out mentors who
understand the culture and who offer counsel.
My colleague, Patrick, and I were invited to offer a workshop at a
national laboratory recently. It lasted several days, so we dined
in different places to sample the area cuisine and culture. We
learned a great amount of pertinent information in the process
from our hosts and others we enjoyed dining with.
First, when you work for a government laboratory you must
know that you should not have other parties pay for your
meals. In fact, you need to create a paper trail showing that
it did not happen. We dined with a remarkable couple, J and J,
and offered to accept the full charges as we met in the workshop.
J thought about it until the bill came. When it came, she asked
to split the bill. The 100 milliseconds it took me to decide ‘ok’,
seemed like an hour. I soon realized what my classmate who
works for the FDA told me years ago that they can’t accept
free meals and are even asked to report on any possible occurrence
as part of their contract working for the government.
At another meal we dined with a couple from Brazil, Lazaro
and Alessandra. Lazaro currently works at the national lab.
Lazaro is now in Brazil interviewing for a faculty position
in the Physics department. We enjoyed many things in our
multi-cultural conversations. One amazing area was what
an academic interview is like in a major university in Brazil.
All names of each candidate is publicly known.
1) The first of several steps in the process is an exam
determining the technical competence in physics. They
must score 70% to move on to the next phase.
2) In the second on-site phase they select a topic out of a
hat and are given 24 hours to prepare a class to instruct.
The audience is members of the faculty of the physics
3) Then, after they narrow the field down the remaining
candidates are individually interviewed by faculty and
4) At the end, they all gather in the same room and like the
Heisman trophy ceremony, the successful candidate is
announced with all the candidates present. Amazing.
Back to our first couple’s dinner conversation. While we
were made aware of the fact that auto speed was closely
monitored, we counted 15 radar stations or police cars
looking out for speeders on our ride. There are many
separate Indian pueblos along the route, each looking for
new “customers.” What J and J shared was much more
alarming and revealing about the culture. One of them
recently recovered from an auto accident damaging her
car and breaking her arm. Not only that, the perp who
hit her in broad daylight got out of his car, liquor bottles
and papers falling out on the ground and ran. Never to
be chased, caught and prosecuted. The culture of the
environment was something we did not notice while
Something to learn before moving in to an area.
It is important to realize the importance of getting insight
of the big picture (especially its culture) when moving on
to a new position. Different organizations have strict
rules of confidentiality and behavior. Different employers
have interesting ways of selecting new hires, especially
Despite the plethora of broadcasts and blogs
sighing, ‘Whoa is me, there are too few jobs and
too many applicants,’ and ‘not qualified
applicants with the experience needed’, I
am regularly contacted by professionals
getting interviews, negotiating essential details
of job offers and starting to work for colleges
and universities, small and large companies and
FIRST DAY CONCERNS
When we arrive on our first day we are
confronted with all sorts of uncertainties. Starting
time, where to park, remembering names and
locations, day-to-day basics (clothing, formality,
meetings) and workplace culture. We want to get
off on the right foot and be moving in the same
direction, not holding up or slowing down others.
What can you do?
There are certain things your co-workers and
managers will want to see in you. You should
know and be on-time to start, with a positive and
alert attitude. You should be a critical listener,
confirming information from one person to the
next and assessing what it is you will be expected
to do that will contribute and make a difference.
You will be expected to complete enrollment
forms and supply personal information. Yet,
not everything will be necessarily perfect. Be
understanding if there is confusion. Be adaptable
about breaks and dinner and meetings, especially
with your boss.
SUGGESTIONS: Before, During and After
1. Confirm with your host, contact or boss, in
advance, when you should arrive, who you
should ask for and meet first and what the
clothing norms are. Get emergency telephone
2. Many of our positions require or expect safety
glasses and shoes. Bring them if you have them.
3. All organizations will have security and safety
precautions and rules. Expect to have multiple
forms of picture ID, some idea of your tax
withholding, a voided check (direct deposit),
vehicle license and registration information,
contact information for references and emergency
and even a copy of your current resume file.
4. You will be taking a tour and meeting many
people. Ask for a map and make copies and
put information down on it. Learn where security,
safety, and other key resource people are. Meet them.
5. Bring a note pad to jot down names, emails,
cell numbers, passwords, software and files,
and thought hooks to remember items.
6. Have a list of questions or concerns and
add to it based on listening and observing. Seek
out the right people to bring them up to.
7. Plan to stay later than “given” work hours
to complete forms, jot down notes, organize
your works space, place a recorded message
on your phone answering system, and read
through the company handbook that you should
ask for. (or find out where it is on the intranet.)
8. Determine if there is an orientation session you
can attend with other new hires.
9. Ask for and accept meetings with your boss
to learn about the organization chart, culture,
her goals, his priorities, and your goals to
help him be successful and company objectives.
Some observed trends:
“Some schools … make career development a
mission-critical aspect of the college experience…”
L. Weber, WSJ 5-22-12
“Eliminating midlife workers has become a tacit
business practice and a disasterous socioeconomic
trend over decades…”
M. Gullette, Brandeis Magazine, Spring, 2012
“…companies are pulling back on sponsorship
for education…Schools have hired staff to serve
students that expected to leave their current company
during or within 12 months of graduating…”
M. Korn, WSJ 6-7-12
“…working a temporary assignment can be a
way to expand one’s professional network, an aid
to future job hunting.”
J. Borchardt, ACS Career Blog, 6-11-12
“Most people think of themselves as fitting
in a job within a hierarchy, like a career ladder or
escalator. The problem is the ladder and the
escalator are broken. You need to invest in your
skills and your network. Make sure you are
connected to people outside your company.
Figure out the new rules of the game.”
The world has changed… adapt.
- Gain some experience in and during your
undergraduate years; internships, summer
- Develop communication skills and learn to
be a contributing part of professional societies
[there a many ways to attend, contribute,
volunteer, organize, and learn by doing.];
student membership, ad hoc committees
- Form mentors, learn leadership by accepting
responsibility in senior undergrad and graduate
- Organize a professional and Internet presence
for yourself. Represent yourself well and
invest continously in yourself improving your
- Become adept inside and outside your
organization in wise skills, especially committed
- Learn and participate in critical “platforms”,
like LinkedIn and applicable “aps”
- Adapt to evolving situations. [Now, not
everyone is going to like this….]
Not everyone is an extravert, partner with some
one who is. Try things that will help you grow
Prosper and help each day.
When consultants speak with people for the first time,
one-third will say that they are not exactly sure of what
they want to do. Or, using other words, I just want a job.
In today’s realities, less prepared professionals will fall
into this category and move from place to place seeking
more fulfilling careers.
These people have some applicable strengths, noteworthy
accomplishments and have worked with good teacher-leaders
in their fields at prestigious places.
Some will sign up for $1500 - $2000 workshops that
will point out a well thought model and evaluate who you are,
your key “drivers” [motivators] and priorities in your life. They
argue persuasively that this will give you the best chance to fit
jobs with your interests, passions, values and skills.
Very likely this will help.
A third path we have mentioned before that each of us is equipped with
beliefs and values that guide us in making decisions [vonWinterfeldt
All these are well and good, but it is not clear that there is a
working plan for helping everyone. So, I did some
exploring and some thinking about career self assessments.
What is something that is a quest or mission in your life?
What are the kinds of questions that keep you up at night thinking,
or that you dream about solving?
Another way of thinking is where would you be thrilled to be at
in your professional life in 10 or 15 years? Instead of keeping
it unscripted, write it down and perform an assessment of what it
would take you to achieve this. Then, compare the place and
situation where you are currently at to your goal in a “gap analysis.”
Another, more practical approach to self assessment has you
defining and managing non-negotiable constraints (in von
Winterfeldt’s model, his beliefs) and negotiable constraints (values).
These constraints seem to align the process of achieving goals.
Having defined your constraints, you can evaluate career situations
or jobs and what they hope to achieve as your goals. Then, you
can go about planning how to achieve your goals within the
framework of your non-negotiable constraints and negotiable
Having a solid picture of knowing the items of priority for you
now (and these elements will change throughout your career), the
negotiable constraints, like having a challenging project, being
autonomous, feeling secure, and being authentic will help you rate
options to pursue. A second grouping address your needs,
including money, sociability, prestige, recognition and respect.
Each one of these can be given rating factors. The list could
also include social consciousness, hours of work, goals outside
of oneself, or the excitement of building, winning (sales or
customers), inventing or collaborating with teams.
Evaluate each new offer or potential career path step and multiply
each score by the rating factor to compare options.
How often do you want to review this? Every half year given the
new circumstances, situations and constraints we face is practical..
My career had family raising responsibilities immediately
following grad school. Only after the family’s future was secure
did this non-negotiable constraint lift and other options become
Have you heard about the books, “How would you
move mount Fuji?” or “Sweaty Palms” by W.
Poundstone or H. A. Medley? Well, they are
written about interviewing topics in professional
fields that generally do not involve interviews
that include a formal technical presentation.
Poundstone’s book relates to Google creativity
interviews and Medley’s relates to legal and other
professions. In a recent post, we brought up the
topic of consulting firm interviews and case study
interviews. We mention “Case in Point” by
M. Cosentino and C. Glaser as an essential tool
to prepare for consulting firm interviews.
The book offers:
“…, the business of consulting is really the
renting of brains, packaged and delivered with
an engaging and confident personality…”
Interviewers seek “confident and mature”,
“good listener,” engaging and enthusiastic,”
strong social and presentation skills,
organizing and developing information for
analysis”, good business and common sense”
There is so much that I found insightful,
providing teachable moments. Anyone seeking
careers in this area or management positions
needs to pick this reference up for their
personal copy. [I was stunned that it is in
its 10th edition!]
Attitude and effort will distinguish you. Critical thinking
will help you and your team meet your goals. If you
supply only A&E without Critical thinking, you might be
easily misled and “spinning your wheels.”
One of the leading proponents of critical thinking is
Richard Paul, whose book we have mentioned in
a previous post. When a team first comes together
it is important to define goals, roles and the meaning
of terms. If you just pose questions without displaying
positive attitude, you could be “blacklisted” as not
part of the team effort. Distinguish yourself with
positive attitude and effort, implying that your critical
thinking is well placed.
Richard W Paul, “Critical Thinking: What every
person needs to survive in a
rapidly changing world,”
ed. By Jane Willsen and A J A Binker 1993
Foundation for Critical Thinking
CRITICAL THINKING IN ACTION
Two examples follow that offer case studies– one
from a news commentary on often misunderstood
terms, the second on a student’s critical self
Some ‘often used’ terms carry different meanings to
people. It could be due to context or experiences.
The terms “research” and “innovation” are such
terms. L. Kwoh wrote about “innovation” in WSJ
as having widely different definitions and care and
specificity are needed in its use. Kwoh clarifies
three classes as efficiency, sustaining and disruptive.
This critical thinking is helpful.
A student recently asked about what they could do
to improve her control of their emotions, her
self control. While not an easy topic, there were
two references I offered. Burmeister and Tierney’s
book, “Will-power…” suggests
“self-regulation is the major social pathology
of our time,… contributing to divorce, … crime and
“People with good self control mainly use it
not for rescue in emergencies, but rather to develop
effective habits and routines.”
Pier Forni’s excellent reference, “The Thinking Life…”
speaks of self control as not so much refraining from
seeking our own advantage. Rather he points out
refraining from doing it at another person’s expense.
Reaching your goals by helping others reach theirs
is self control at its best.
I applauded the student for asking her question
realizing the critical thinking that went into it.