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

November 2012
« Oct   Dec »
Recent Statistics. Where Chemistry PhDs Find Employment
Filed under: Position Searching, Networking, Post-docs
Posted by: site admin @ 9:25 am

My colleague and collaborator, Joseph Jolson, presented
a YCC seminar ‘Issues of Importance to PhDs entering
the workforce’ in Pittsburgh. Using data he obtained from the ACS
he declared that establishing, learning and practicing
professional skills are essential
.  “Hard skills” (technical know-how)
are not enough to be offered a position.

He revealed where PhDs with 2 or less years experience are in
their careers:
Permanent positions                33%
Temporary positions                  5

Post-doctoral positions            47    31  Academic
                                                               9  Government
                                                               7  Industrial
Not employed, seeking               9
Remainder are part-time or not seeking.

As Reid Hoffman says, you are the CEO of ‘Me, Inc.’ and
responsible for the direction and accomplishments in
what you do.  It is imperative to look for ways to information
, have networking conversations, learn how to
meet people and help them reach their goals using wise

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Thank you notes.
Filed under: Interviewing, Public Relations docs, Job Offer (Situations)
Posted by: site admin @ 10:13 am

One of the most important “MUSTS” we advise members
whether looking for a job, delivering a workshop or
working with a team is sending thank you notes.

Sure it is an element of civility that we have mentioned.

A recent WSJ article reinforces its importance.

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Strategic and Tactical Thinking. Taxes-2013, Surviving Progress and Blind spots
Filed under: Position Searching, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 7:59 pm

It is possible to get caught in logical thinking
traps.  {It affects many of our careers and career
management decisions.}

Recently,  I viewed a video “Surviving Progress” that I
encourage knowledge workers in all endeavors to
study on making a difference and passing things forward.

It seems to be based on a book and a lecture series
by Ronald Wright that the pace of change of culture
and human thinking has moved at a much faster rate
compared to natural evolution of organisms and natural
systems.  It deals with controversial subject matter, like
  rationalizing what progress is,
  concentration of and perspectives on wealth, and
  possible solutions to what this problem might be,
including synthetic biology and “planetary brains”
[Internet networks]. 

No lie, these kinds of ‘future dilemmas’ have been
forecast many times in the past.  How real is this
strategic thinking? You be the judge.

This brings up the central focus of the blog item–
strategic vs. tactical thinking. 
The Haines Centre
for strategic Managemen
t outlines their

Strategic                                    Tactical
central organizing statement    day to day actions
spin put on things                      tools or things spun
road map for plan                      vehicles for the trip
doing the right things                doing things right
concept                                       execution
organizing glue                           what gets glued
focused                                       many topics
mental. intangibles                     action oriented
verb led statements                    nouns

Tactical Thinking
SOURCE:  WSJ 11-24-12, P B7
As an example of tactical thinking consider investing
in assets as pointed out in a recent article. 
Laura Saunders moves up in time the fiscal cliff before
any formal actions have been taken, supposing that the
future can be estimated.  The comments on this article
reveal the other extreme of thinking to financial
actions we can take and possible outcomes based
on estimates of future economic changes.

Interestingly much of this is reflexive and at
best short term thinking that will benefit only a
few.  The few who benefit are often those
stirring up the pot of uncertainty.


Testable facts change and knowledge as we
understand it is in flux.  The flux as Arbesman
describes is due by error, correction, newness,
new measurements and methods and flaws in
the human thinking

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Mid-Career and Refresher MOOCS. 1
Filed under: Technicians, Observ. Trends, Undergraduate majors, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 4:16 pm

Link to ONLINE Courses:



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Affiliations. Significance in Resumes, Interviews and Presentations
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Public Relations docs, Networking, Leadership
Posted by: site admin @ 12:48 pm

Did you see the CBS segment on human infants?  How
they are learning at their very earliest moments and
often make decisions based on what they have observed
and been taught?  Striking.

What does this have to do with Resumes, Interviewing
and seeking jobs, Dan?  you may ask.

A lot!

Short story.  A member recalled applying for a position using and obtained an on-site interview.  In the
interview in which he demonstrated his communications
skills and story telling ability he learned through several
mock interview experiences, he mentioned who he worked
for at UCONN
.  The long and the short of it, the hiring
manager also worked for the same professor
decades earlier.
It helped form a connection, a common-ground, and ultimately
a difference with all the other candidates.  He was offered the

The video segment reported that newborns listen, like faces,
like common aged people, like languages and music they
are used to hearing.  The also form preferences from positive

This early preference learning extends to adult years and making
decisions.  David McClelland offers that affiliations is one
of the three leading motivations for human behavior.  The need
is associated with desires to be linked to groups, organizations
and places.

Lucy Kelleway posed that today there are fewer “big
names” that signal the achievement of one person.  Achievements
are more commonly a group effort.

When people effect things it can be signaled on a webpage
or twitter or social media.  While individual achievement
does stand out, most do not do it alone.  Flashy
affiliations with big names and associations stand out.

You can gain trust in customers by being in partnership or
affiliation with a known business.  Affiliation is a fast way
for businesses to gain trust and credibility in the eyes of

As a professional scientist you show you care about
what is happening in your areas of science when you are
a member of the ACS.  You care enough to
-  subscribe to a code of ethics, society journals and magazines,
-  attend conferences where you share and learn and
-  take some initiative in actively being involved for the greater

When you include ACS [and other pertinent organizations]
in your resume AFFILIATIONS section, it reveals a lot
when you include participation in groups, organizing
conferences, task forces and committees) since they are
voluntary and tell of your commitment to the other members
and the whole chemical enterprise.

We tell interviewees and presenters, being able to provide a
story of involvement during interviews and when delivering
presentations also reveals your professionalism in meaningful
ways in these contexts.  In a very human way it finds its traces
to our early human preferences.

1 comment
Alternate Careers. Medical science liaison
Filed under: Position Searching, First Year on Job, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 11:06 am

YG and I met at a workshop several years ago, where I reviewed
her resume.  Soon after, we were partnered up as audience
members, formed a connection and kept in

She has moved from her Ph.D. in bioanalytical
neurochemistry into a role that broadened her exposure
to the medical field so that she was quickly noticed and
mentored.  She understood the importance of building on
her strong interpersonal and rapport-establishing abilities
to scientifically assess observations first at a university
teaching hospital environment, then for a growing
pharmaceutical company applying analytics to therapies
and treatments for human diseases.

The importance of networking and mentoring building
on strong technical and communication skills in
biopharmacy fields was key in landing a position as a
medical science liaison.

Andrea Santiago contributed a nice summary of the
emerging medical science liaison field.  See also:

Medical Science Liaison Society
Guidebook on MSL field

As it becomes more important to report both therapy
successes and failures
this role is expected to grow.

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Entrepreneurs. 2. Valuable Insights for going out on your own with Venture Capitalists
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 9:00 am

Recently I attended an informative entrepreneur symposium in
fields where venture capital plays the key role.  While I note ACS
is urging members to recognize this path to employment, some
features of what is common knowledge in other high tech fields
will help the chemical enterprise adapt and reform in an evolving

A.  Your elevator pitch (as different from your elevator speech for
networking interviews) needs to be “top notch” and professional.

B.  Venture capital has a distinct regional dimension:  East coast vs
west coast VCs
East:  in finance, terms to protect against downside
           non compete agreements provide a hang-up to future innovation
           elegance counts:  how smart you are, your pedigree

West:  in finance, terms to adequately participate in upside
            non compete agreements not enforceable
            black cat, white cat:  no matter, cats eat mice

C.  Finance and Economics.  Looking at the big picture, VCs are being
squeezed (going out of business) in the low interest rate environment.
See also:
             Amazon services levels the playing field
             pros and cons
             Serious suggestions

     age-ism is active;  but likeability factor is stronger
     look for project managers who have failed and learned from failure
     Know there are trends in entrep terms:  investor friendly—
entrepreneur friendly
     solving hard problems with technology and have customers willing
to pay now and in future
     scaling is a dominant factor
     think about an exit strategy:  acquisition, IPO
     top 15% of deals pays for everything

Executive recruiting in Technical Fields
Filed under: Position Searching, Mentoring, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 7:04 pm

While the best talent knows that they have to do more
than “hang out a shingle” listing their talents or posting
their accomplishments on Linkedin to find a desirable
position.  They are likely to find success in their
job hunt by hiring an executive agent. 

Also different at the executive level are the attributes
that are highly prized.  Jean Cummins listed many
of the attributes of successful executive candidates. 
They include:
1.  ethical behavior and expectations communicated in
thoughts, actions, and words
2.  demonstrated business savvy (win wars not skirmishes)
3.  intelligent bearing in many audiences
4.  likeable and consistently persuasive and memorable
5.  consistently accepts leadership responsibility and succeeds
6.  energetic and proactive

Jean calls them by slightly different terms.  The points
to note are that they are distinguished from just listing
.  They are appreciated as refinements
that make the accomplishments possible

They are more than individual soft skills and wise skills and are
attributes to build toward.  Those seeking executive positions
consider reviewing our shortened list and Jean’s longer list
of adjectives and incorporate them in their personal
descriptions and assessments.

1 comment
Interview Introductions. Panel Interview
Filed under: Interviewing
Posted by: site admin @ 2:30 pm

There are several variations of configuring a panel interview.
This is what came to mind when a promising candidate asked
for advice on how to introduce herself at a panel interview.

Several initial thoughts before thinking through the
1.  Smile, show both that you enjoy being there and that you
are confident that you will like them and they will like you.
2.  Check your appearance
It is felt that many people’s initial impressions dominate.
So, plan to ask to visit the rest room before you speak and
check yourself out in the mirror.  Think about using the
Amy Cuddy raise your arms in victory pose. 
3.  Follow the lead of your host in either meeting the attendees,
being seated or speaking or listening.  If you are offered a
hand to shake, the restroom visit will help making your
hand suitable for a firm business handshake demonstrating
confidence.  Run warm water over them and dry.
4.  Standing and Volume
When you feel you have been given the floor or been asked
to begin or respond, consider the appropriateness of standing
and speaking.
  Establish eye to eye contact, offer a warm
genuine greeting and start by speaking a little louder than
your speaking voice for the room and then settle into your
speaking voice volume.
5.  Consider saying your name again, especially if it is not
a usual name, and offer an interesting piece of personal/
professional information that ties into the company, the
position, or the people present.

Most people will know your name, have your resume
and have some questions to ask.

There is a benefit if you know the number of attendees,
the general seating arrangement and if sound and visual
equipment will be used and if there is writing boards
and pens/chalk

Some business panel interviews involve a horseshoe arrangement
 and some a long table.  Many academic research proposal
discussions and teaching presentations have people in random
arrangements.  Larger forums will use visual and sound aids.
So it is good to size them up in advance.  One advantage is to ask to
see the room or have it be described.
Test the sound system and make sure your presentation file is
cued and you have introductions to wireless controls
and laser pointers.

If there are different audience segments, consider asking your host
if people can briefly introduce themselves and their affiliations.

Finally, consider asking for water to allow yourself a
refreshing moment from dry mouth or if you wish to
get time to think about a question.

It might be worth jotting down things that are important
for you to successfully panel interview and practicing
your introduction

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Self-assessment. Emotional Understanding_ underappreciated characteristic
Filed under: Interviewing, Mentoring, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 10:24 am

When we open ourselves up for examination to find
what makes ourselves tick, motivated and happy,
your skills, interests [often called values and drivers]
, and work style are common facets.  Company culture
revealing how things get done and communicated and
its match to our perceptions comes to fore usually
after a while, too.  A fifth feature that is not often
highlighted, but is essential in working with teams or
customers is your Emotional Understanding.

Daniel Goleman is one of the leaders in describing
the importance of this aspect.  Goleman describes
his academic portrait in his book, The Emotionally
Intelligent Workplace.
  Interviewers consciously
or unconsciously probe for this in often subtle ways.

Are you aware if you are patient with others?
Are you comfortable with a constantly changing
Are you cool under pressure?  Do you know the
  difference between pressure and stress– in yourself
  and others?

How do you respond?

I like Goleman’s view of emotional intelligence as having
at least four components:
  self awareness- what are your feelings in different
      situations;  how do you respond or react/your
  self-management- what tactics do you use to engage
      the behaviors you desire as fitting
  social awareness- how well do you observe and
       perceive the behaviors of others and know how to
       respond to the emotions of others
  relationship management- honing your emotional
       skills to effectively manage your interactions with
       others; including listening,encouraging diplomacy
       and debate, orchestrating win-win outcomes, reaching
       symbiotic understanding in negotiations.
Developing stories to evoke these is important in
interviewing, giving presentations and mentoring.


Undergraduate class. Future of chemistry careers
Filed under: Observ. Trends, Undergraduate majors, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 11:21 am

Yesterday, I was invited to offer a class to freshman chemistry
majors.  Instead of lecturing what I thought they should know,
we did something different.  We asked:  what are your
questions and concerns?

The whole class involved fielding their questions.  This
entry includes several of their questions and a short
summary of our discussion.

Q:  Which fields in chemistry are relatively new
and unexplored in terms of research?

-  energy sources:  biofuels, new processes from non-food
sources;  nuclear ; ’smart roofs’
-  food:  nutrition, nutriceuticals;  safety, toxicology
-  future cities: nanotechnology for sustainability ; 
choices for a reduced ‘carbon foot-print’
 -  human health:  genomics and disease prevention;
public health ; fast, accurate tests
-  water and air:  desalination and electrified nano
filters  ; reducing disease sources  ;  complex
photochemistries of NOx and aerosols
-  raw materials:  biodegradable plastics ; conservation
and recycling of scarce resources  ; sustainable designs
decomposing unsustainable chemicals

Q:  What opportunities are available for chemists
outside of a research lab?

-  Referred the class to a page in Nov., 2012, The

Q:  Will jobs in chemistry be sent overseas?
-  This is not a problem;  this is an opportunity.
Let em explain why.   We live in a globalized,
mostly open, free market economy.
-  General conditions were set up by a series of
negotiated “free trade agreements.”  [eg, NAFTA]
Jobs move to where they make the most economic
sense.  Lower wage jobs move to locations where
it makes economic sense, to lower wage locations.
-  Globalized economies result, affecting nearly
all business areas.
-  Build on strengths of the US:  available
capital, markets, free enterprise, rule of law,
entrepreneurial spirit, educational system.
foreign languages, work in multicultural
environments and programs, apply for and seek
internships, learn to become adaptable
  committed networking
  wise skills

Q:  What kind of start up company would be
the best to start if you are a chemist?

-  Today’s WSJ had a great example —
company Kurion
entrepreneur  Mark Denton

Mauboussin: Skill and Luck and What reveals Good Companies
Filed under: Position Searching, Job Offer (Situations), Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 3:23 pm

When we consider at what companies we should
look for a position
in a competitive industry, what
factors should we consider?

Rumor?  Ask someone older or more experienced
than us?  Data?  There are so many measures–What
really counts?

Consider looking into a couple of things:
1.  Earnings per share
2.  Management team’s long term performance.

For we need to realize that when we go to work for
a company we are making a significant investment
in that company,
and the industry it is in.
The WSJ reported one measure to consider
is “diluted earnings per share,” that separates out
performance from complicated financial dealings.

The company’s Management team’s long term
is a second factor.  On  the same
page of the paper told the story of Michael
Mauboussin who has written about the “paradox of
skill.”  Over the short run, luck and skill play
significant roles.  Luck tends to even out in the
longer term and is less of a factor.  Skill in
decision-making revealed in financial decisions and
directions companies’ management teams lead their
companies, the challenges they have faced and
weathered is a noteworthy measure.(Look at
investment firm reports, like Fidelity Investments.)

In addition, Mauboussin assesses “streaks in almost
any endeavor” to be a “combination of above-average
skill and above-average luck.” While all the positive
streaks are held by skillful, but not all skilled have
streaks (for not having luck fall their way).

Thus, when a very skillful person says she was just
lucky, there is an element of truth about it.

1 comment
Commending the spirit of helping others, expecting nothing in return
Filed under: Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 2:24 pm

While we could never predict, whether the most gifted
or most skillful, or smartest, whether the challenges
of nature’s fury strike us.  It appears to be the general
term, “luck of the draw” or circumstance.

What does distinguish ‘positive and even heroic behaviors’
is lending a helping hand to those in need who face
challenges either during or after such an event.

We salute the innate goodness of people in many
who will never receive acclaim,
recognition or even thanks.  It reveals and kindles the
faith in our citizenry to look after each other

Let’s continue to make a difference there and then in the ballot
box, tomorrow.  Vote like you believe it makes a difference.

In both realms, it may influence future jobs and careers.

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Finding jobs. Importance of networking and referrals
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Networking
Posted by: site admin @ 1:33 pm

So, I noticed that a fellow I worked with in a mock
interview had landed a nice position in a
weekly update.

As a result, I sent him a nice congratulations note and
asked what worked for him…

-  Networking with consequential strangers
-  interview preparation and practice
-  mock interviewing
-  persistence and patience

“Thanks!  It was tough out there.  6 months and 100+
applications … with zero on-site interviews. and I was
… frustrated.  that’s when I got an email from a friend in the
physics department asking if I would be interested in
applying for a job at [Fortune 100].  He had received an
email from a friend asking if he knew any organic chemists
that might be interested in a business role…

They received over 2000 applications, and had a traditional
selection process– telephone screen, on site interview.

That is when the real preparation work started.  I worked on
things we talked about in the mock interview we had at the
ACS(Thanks!)  I spent roughly a week ‘googling’ and thinking of
answers to every situational interview question that I could find.
When I received my interview schedule I researched and read
all that was published by my hiring committee.  I learned as much
as I could about the company [from all sources]…

I nailed the day-long interview….I left there knowing I was going to
get hired.

Sadly, a few weeks later, however, they called to say they hired a
candidate internally.  I was crushed.  The hiring manager did say
to keep in touch and that they really thought I was a strong candidate…
…I thought this was just fluff but I sent an email to the hiring manager
with updated contact info and asked for some feedback on my performance
but never really heard back.

A couple of months later, I got a call from the [company] hiring manager
asking me how my progress in grad school was coming/  I felt he
was just really nice and felt for me.

About a week later I got a call from the hiring manager’s boss (Global
manager) saying he just wanted to talk me a bit and let me know this
is ‘[the] real [deal].’ 
He said I really impressed a lot of people out there and he was going to
open up a new position for me that I’d be receiving an offer if I wanted

So many ups and downs throughout the job search, but the preparation
and hard work finally paid off.  I can’t thank you enough for helping me
get through those first interview jitters.  I most likely would not
have been as confident …. without your help.  This wound up being the
perfect job opportunity for me!

Thank you again…”

1 comment
Conflicts at Work. Apparent Cultural barriers discussion
Filed under: Mentoring, First Year on Job, Leadership, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 8:35 am

At a recent conference on Communications Skills, a
member working in a multi-cultural, interdisciplinary
group asked for help.
It was an interesting problem, that had underlying causes
and a “change of direction” outcome.

Several perspectives were sought in order to weigh in
on how to assess, improve the situation and move in
a positive direction.  [I have to complement Bill Suits,
an ACS career consultant, for detective work on this and
filling in some missing gaps.]

A workshop participant described her(is) situation that
co-workers do not engage in small talk, do not have
common interests with her (going with one gender)or
if they do they do not share, and they exclude her because
of her cultural differences. 

In fact, many of the co-workers are from one non-English
background and  revert to conversing in a different language
often, only speak about work pressures and abruptly leave
when she tries to bring up other things.  Ouch!

I brought this up with Roy Simmons, Rich Bretz, Joel
Shulman and Bill Suits for their impressions and ideas.

This is not an uncommon situation, on the face of it.

One faculty member, it was reported “has a very
international group of graduate students, including
several from China and several from India.  This faculty
member forbids her students from conversing in any
language other than English when they are in the lab.
That fosters better communication among the students.”

Another mentioned:  “I have seen reputations destroyed
when a simple misunderstanding was blown out of
because the hurt party went to a supervisor
before speaking to the other person.  We coach that
when we have an interpersonal conflict with a coworker
we should sit down with the person and work out a
win/win solution

Roy continued:  “One of the best intercultural
experiences I’ve ever had was the time I spent sharing
a room at an ACS meeting in Toronto with a Chinese
co-worker when we were grad students.  We had a blast in
Chinatown, my friend was happy to share his Chinese
culture with me, and I learned the proper use of chopsticks.”

“Consider approaching the individual that she thinks
would be most receptive to her concerns.  If the
exclusion is intentional and deliberate, it should be
addressed but the potential friendship that [name
withheld] forms will be much stronger if she reaches

Gossip and hushed whispers do more harm than good
in many settings.  While the rumor mill will persist in
organizations, T. Snyder offers:
  - if you don’t know the problem or cause, how will
you ever figure out improvements?  Investigate it.
  - gather information and withhold judgment until
all sides are in.  Keep it confidential, avoid pinning blame.
  - In rumor mills, the people spreading the rumor acquire
power and influence over others that don’t.  Acknowledge the
rumor publicly and seek information on people’s own terms.

Bill Suits was instrumental in ferreting out that the nub
of the problem is “frustration, because she is behind
schedule in her work and so are all the others and the
   help the supervisor communicate his goals
   participate in helping to set realistic goals in the
understaffed environment”

Reiterating Roy, Bill offered “find common interests with
her co-workers, … starting with one person.”

Surprisingly, there was a reorganization with a change of
supervisor during the week of the conference
and the
supervisor was changed.  The company is at the crest of a
growing movement toward globalization… with over half
being non-Americans.

Bill’s easy conversational manner in the workshop, talking
about football, brought out this growing cross-cultural wave
.  As the member nicely pointed out that “he helped
develop some new ideas aiming to create work environments
that integrate individuals from diverse background into a
productive work place that delivers job satisfaction,… “



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