Several times I was struck by nice impressions and
surprises recently. What all of them seem to reveal
is that we should not take things for granted. We
should regularly check in on commitments.
LITTLE THINGS COUNT A LOT
A colleague sent me her revised business card. It had a
nice design but I do not recall it containing a Internet
presence link. What struck me most was that the font
color seemed to blend into the background. Have
NETWORK NEEDS TO BE READY WHEN YOU NEED IT
Another colleague happily shared that she received an
offer for a full time government position. She had a
number of concerns that she wanted to talk about and
a short timeline (3 days). This STRONGLY points to her
efforts at COMMITTED NETWORKING. She could
send the happy note and ask to speak. We spoke at
the recent ACS meeting and were up to date. I had
time or would make time to speak with her.
Not only did I offer ideas and directed helpful instructions–
request to speak with the hiring manager/supervisor and
have a offer letter in hand,– but also connected her with
a colleague in my network who knows about the concerns
she may have.
PLANNING IS ITERATIVE PROCESS
In the next few months, there will be a number of
engagements for me. Planning for one in three months,
I had offered and felt received verbal confirmation
for two topics. I wrote abstracts and sent them in.
Contact was made to make travel and hotel arrangements.
Then for some reason I thought, let me see what is
advertised for what I will present. Surprise!
Only one of the two presentations and the second
topic that was an add-on. That turned my head.
Before travel begins, I have a check list that also
includes all contact information and a plan to
share my travel details and a way to contact me.
Trust but verify early and often. It can be done in
subtle, yet friendly ways.
TEAMS: ADAPT AND CONTRIBUTE
Finally, over the last half year I have been working
with a strong team on a critical task. The leader
of the effort, takes special effort to ask me to
personally participate. So, not only do I listen
and try to remain in step with the group in offering
comments (disruptive or “me- too” quips hold back
progress), I make directed effort to meet and
exceed requests to follow through on
commitments, realizing of course that it is
the team effort and not what just I say that has
This blog post concerns time management in a three
An email came from a colleague that was friendly and
also brought up some human frailties. Different people
have different tactics and styles when dealing with dilemmas.
SETTING PRIORITIES: 80/20 RULE
Her note said: “…I am analyzing the data for two [projects]’
[An]other post-doc … is cooperating with me, but whenever
we meet with some issues about [our] joint study, he always
asks me where to find a “quick solution” instead of solving
it together. It is obvious to me that there is no quick solution.”
This is part of human nature to test a self deception (Short-cuts)
by testing if others would do it the same way. As we know
sometimes shortcuts have value, yet each situation has to be
evaluated on its own merits. This brings to mind a rule of
thumb that is often used called the 80/20 rule or Pareto
Principle. You can get 80% of a list of things done in 20%
of the time, but to complete the other 20% of the things done
it will require 80% of the time. So prioritize, evaluate and
organize the order of things.
Others have their approaches. My strategy attempts to define
critical efforts and goals frequently, determining tasks that
are urgent and important. Spend the time and effort on tasks
that are important. Avoid or dispose of distractions and
interruptions by using shortcuts. Don’t take short-cuts on
critical or on important tasks.
2-MINUTE RULE - TASK MANAGEMENT
David Allen takes on task management in a thoughtful rule
that frames tasks that can be done in a short time (say 2
minutes), you should do it right as they are identified. It
will require more time to organize each task over again,
and review them than it would be to complete it the first
instant you assessed its need.
These are either “not critical” or “urgent and easy to
5-SECOND RULE - PRESENTATION GRAPHICS & WEB
Any time you present visual information be aware that the
eyes of your audience reflexively moves to process the
image. Information-denser images take longer. Confusing
images trouble and turn off audiences. They stop listening
and focus to process the image. If key information or
organization is not clear, the audience turns off.
Apply this to the design of your documents and web pages.
Our workshop’s second day was led off by two outstanding
presenters. We mentioned Stan Wong’s presentation on
the Academic Interview Process. The second was delivered
by Dr. Kimberley Elcess on Technology Commercialization
Dr. Elcess provided a nice change of pace for the audience
incorporating a delightful series of stories about how she
got to where she is– PhD, post doc, strategic management
consultant, MBA, registered Patent Agent, and involved at
BNL’s office for technology commercialization.
While there are many things to like about the presentation,
let me highlight information that the audience benefited
in seeing. It was on patents and trade secrets, in light
of the new patents law and patent office regulations.
While it is too detailed to compose in a career management
blog, please see the PTO website for a comprehensive
For knowledge workers (scientists and engineers) and
technical managers and leaders, it is imperative to use
the Internet. The Internet is a tool for job seekers.
1. But should you be on many or few social networking
2. Should you use many or few job boards?
on question 1:
My thoughts are consider employing
no more than three social networking sites, one of
which is Linkedin. Consider one in your major
field area and this can change, as mine has.
Last week BNL Diktys Stratakis gave an outstanding
introduction to working in government labs.
Government post-docs are roles where potential
scientists are interviewed over a longer period
in what he referred to as a “feeder system”.
There are a few grad students who work at national
labs but mostly permanent staff and post-docs
work on significant scientific and technical
problems like space launches, diseases and
Since there are fewer students, it is challenging
to be in a position for many papers. Performance
is observed and evaluated on weekly group
meetings. It was quite interesting to learn of
the promotion ladder system at BNL:
research associate, 2-3 years
assistant scientist, 2-3 years
scientist these two– max 5 years.
TENURE DECISION POINT
One of three results, namely tenured Senior
Scientist, Continuing appointment (without tenure)
and moving on.
To achieve tenure it is imperative
1. be a leader in a project important to the department
2. be known and respected outside your department
3. author publications and be invited to present
He concluded that a person starting out in a position
seek to work on important problems
seek funding, be involved in discussions and writing
of proposals [to enable obtaining Continuing
appointments leading to Senior Scientist level]
Earlier we have indicated what is involved in
applying for a post-doc position 1 .
eBooks, eJournals, eMagazines, presentations
in electronic format is changing the world view
of technical information and personal data.
It is incumbent on professional knowledge workers
to keep abreast, follow with some diligence and
Not long ago, commercial sites wanted to control
the flow of eyes to those leading to income, now
they encourage sharing broadly. Several observations
like this fill a recent Economist article on
copyright rules, including
- new Canadian rules expanding “fair-dealing”
(fair use in US) and non-commercial use
- copyright exemptions for data-mining
- new ideas about format shifting accessing data
on different instruments is being looked at.
ORGANIZING DATA, FORMATS LONG TERM
Kelley Greene wrote a piece about legal concerns
around digital assets we will acquire, compose or
be responsible for through our lives. Included is a
link to online services list and commercial vendors
We depend on google to help us explore and recover
just based on adding search terms. However, what
happens when items are no longer available on servers?
A recent article listed several items that may help
but this is a long term problem that technical
knowledge workers should follow. I remember
a colleague reminding me not to throw out key
reference books that derive fundamental equations
in electrical engineering and physics. Only popular
or commonly used versions with often unstated
assumptions and boundary conditions are in current
literature. It would be well to confirm that archives
store essential material. 2
eBOOKS AND WRITING CHEMISTRY EQUATIONS
There are many pros and cons with putting chemistry
into electronic media.
You can take it anywhere, but you can run out of
It is portable but that does not mean into water or
It is possible take take notes in eMedia. Have you
ever tried to enter in a page of chemical formulae?
Please share your pros and cons of working with
Stan Wong and I met for the first time this week
when he co-presented a very nice tutorial on
the academic interview process. His organized
and fact-based style resonated nicely with the
While he spoke from a chemistry background,
the dozens of topics applied to mostly all areas of the
research university teaching interviews for
The committee, one of many that each department
forms to accomplish their goals, assembles and agrees
through discussion on the kind of new faculty member
who would be desirable to invite into the department.
Collectively, they screen many applicants’ packages
from ad responses, from recommended and referral
sources and even unsolicited sources. They reduce the
number they wish to invite in to 5-10% of the initial
number and host them for interview trips over a short
period of time with the same interviewers.
The interviewers include: dean or provost, chair,
committee members, graduate students and even
At least two or three presentations are expected–
research seminar, ‘chalk talk’ (as Stan called the
research proposal), and delivering classes.
Meetings and tours will involve directly affected
people and facilities and indirectly affected ones,
in an intensive process for a couple of days.
research areas and areas of possible cooperation
teaching style and courses that you can teach
fit and involvement in department operations
formal position title and expectations
teaching load and committee involvement
mission, style and approach of department
research expectations and facilities availability..
The committee collects the input and approves the
“match to the department needs” and fit of the candidate.
It was very nice to see this all laid out!
R1 institutions seek scientists who wish to do
compelling science and make a connection of
your proposed work to the facilities available and
philosophy of the department.
Recognizing the challenging job market where we may not
know exactly what skills or experiences might be helpful
in a potential employer, and that many positions are not
formally advertized, ‘elevator speeches’ offer each candidate
a face-to-face way of providing key information.
Reading through many descriptions about these verbal
messages common in marketing elevator pitches provide
unique aspects of what you can provide in between a half
and two minutes, there are a couple of elements to highlight:
- choosing with whom and when to offer your speech
is often overlooked. It is helpful that you give it to a
decision-maker or hub who you develop a trusting
relationship with. Be conscious of timing, limiting outside
interferences (noise and other interferences) and
establishing a professional connection.
- three situations present themselves when you can present
elevator speeches– invited, spontaneous and incidental.
While an invited one is clear to perceive, spontaneous and
incidental situations build on trust and should clearly state
a mutual interest in helping each other, confidently.
- nonverbal signals of trust and confidence can often
help in delivering a message that will be listened to.
- while using keywords means something, asking to
build relationships with other contacts and following
through with thank you notes and deliverables will
This is an element in the interviewing continuum–
More than 40% of each one of our daily routines
involves habits. Institutions either inculcate, take
advantage of or create new habits. Charles Duhigg
wrote a fascinating treatise on “The Power of Habit“
where he dissects their nature and influences and derived
the concept of habits that change other habits and
allow us to achieve other desired outcomes. He
called these “keystone habits.”
We reviewed in our seminar: networking conversations,
networking interviews and elevator speeches and wove
them into elements of a habit to develop in ourselves
the positive habit of a proactive form of networking with
members of our networks who are STARs
Alert partners with whom you work well
Reviewers and mentors
and consequential strangers. Then we practiced
conversation introductions, listening skills, exchanging
key information, nonverbal communications and
what to do next to make committed networking.
Two guest presenters revealed how they put these
“habits” into practice getting results, ie, interviews.
Then we talked about asynchronous, remote
networking and the importance of putting your
best foot forward in leading online platforms,
The substance being that committed networking needs
to be developed before you need it and therefore is
best regarded as a keystone habit.