Last week our workshop included a remarkable spokeswoman,
T. Harris-Whitfield, who revealed the “hidden side” of the
application and culture in federal employment.
T. Harris-Whitfield urged people to apply early, recognizing that
you are negotiating with a bureaucracy with many levels and
components. Proof-read everything multiple times since your
application will be going through screening from several
Describe your skills, experiences and any specialized training.
While Citizenship is often a criterion, your unique skills may
Commonly, interviewing is done by panels. Develop an ability
to introduce yourself and perform an audience analysis so you
can speak to what they need to know. Many positions will not
list details that you should know in advance, especially if there is
a security clearance.
The agency itself does the security clearance investigations in
a formal schedule. Other than knowing the importance of a
“squeaky clean” background and that all references will be checked
to some degree, there is little preparation for clearances.
Questions to ask. Since there is much that is not available in the
public domain, good questions in the interview process are also
an important element. What does the position’s daily routine
include? Ask about compressed schedules, student loan repayments,
relocation allowance, subsidies and training allowances.
It is important to network with people who work in the government.
They can provide useful information on pay, step levels and special
programs that can be trade-offs to enhance your hiring package.
There are a number of acronyms in the government. So, it is not
unusual to ask for clarification. Like e-QIP for the clearance
program, which takes some time and preparation on your part.
There are employment steps. Permanent-Career Conditional
which is usual for first time employment. You need to satisfy a
one year probationary term and a total of three years continuous
service for a career appointment. [Permanent-Career].
Government work is family oriented and family supporting.
As a person enters the workforce, showing the willingness to
learn and follow guidelines, without anyone looking, pays dividends.
There is a lot of “paperwork”, training and rules.
Each agency has a formal mission, structure (org chart), and does
their work in projects (with large teams). You will be working on
challenging activities that have a major practical impact, rather
than projects that seem like “interesting science.”
Setting up “smarter” goals with deliverables and appraisals
is the norm for individuals and teams. Remember, experience
working as an intern, fellow or trainee count in years of
service, independent of department.
On one of the slides Dr. Dwight Hunter from Intel showed last week were
some notable items:
one of the top 10 brands
mission to develop processes for the global “computing continuum”
rotational assignment program: intel.com/jobs/students
Dwight told about his experience when starting out at Intel. He
was assigned to a production line as part of his rotational
orientation. He arrived and after a couple of days met his new
supervisor. The supervisor was not overly pleased that he
arrived. He revealed this by responding to Dwight’s question
about what his goals should be and what his assignment is by
saying that he should watch what is going on and not get in the
way with their busy production schedule.
Dwight was not dismayed by this. He knew the importance of
“showing up” and putting himself in position to make a difference.
In fact, he decided to observe everyone and identify the key
people in the process. He noted one person was a key center of
knowledge and action so he asked to join him for lunch. At
lunch, he asked if he could be his assistant and learn all the
little tasks. He knew that doing well on each of the little tasks,
showing nothing was unimportant, would give confidence on
doing larger tasks. Such was the case.
Then, a fraction of the way through his rotation the key resource
was to go on vacation. The supervisor was told that Dwight could
take his place. The supervisor was stunned– but he is new.
The resource told the supervisor he has learned all the little
tasks well and has picked up many of the larger high impact
ones as well. He shows good judgment and I have confidence
he can step in.
This has led Dwight to develop mentoring relationships with
line and product managers, and key technical resources
and help him progress rapidly.
This past week a team of skilled and experienced professionals
presented a “Preparing for life” workshop and one focused on
things to do when starting out in an academic career at a research
First of all, tradition speaks of three legs to the stool of an academic
career– research, teaching and service. In reality however one leg
dominates– research. (There are exceptions, like the encouragement
at Harvey Mudd to excel in teaching.)
Success in academic research is represented in metrics by two
things, money (prestige: total grants and awards) and space.
Early on, an assistant professor needs to know where to apply
and shortcut approaches to explore for grant money.
Our expert, Prof. S. Graham (Professor, MEng. GaTech) offered
DOE, DOD Young investigator awards, NSF Career awards,
and industrial funding. Collaborate with other colleagues on
proposals. Write “white papers” and submit to grant reviewers for
their comments. Give talks outside your department and in other
universities (People will come up to you with ideas.)
Space: You need to ask for it and need to display patience.
The key element of research success is your graduate students.
Ask to be involved in recruiting graduate students. Devise your
own “recruiting plan” to inspire and motivate good students and
students who will develop into productive researchers. Develop a
motivating, nurturing and respectful culture in your research group.
Sam described how he intentionally plans to take grad students to
international meetings and share the experiences. He adds value
to belonging to his group by inviting them to outings and
traveling with them to attractive locations and meetings.
Been reading Mayer-Schonenberger and Cukier’s
book, Big Data (2013) and one of their examples is
interesting to retell. In 2007 manhole cover explosions
occurred all over the NY City, were random and at 300 pounds
present more than a nuisance to citizens. What would be
a cost effective way to reduce this public hazard. Columbia
researchers did a big data study on the 51000 units and predicted
which ones were likely to explode through the following year.
They determined 44 per cent of the ones that actually occurred.
While the authors and others have pointed out knowing now what
they know it was fairly obvious, it nonetheless pointed out the
power of correlational statistical tools on even messy data.
Searching for positions- Look for correlations.
Using similar shot-gun approach, we can look at industries’ and
companies’ recent employment records and short term
development expenditures as clues. They are revealed in
C&ENews (7-1-2013, p. 25-40) So, we can see natural
gas industries and specialty chemical firms sustaining
TURN AROUND SITUATIONS
In the global market place, there are ups and downs that
happen despite everyone’s best efforts due to various
influences. The C&ENews issue two weeks later reported
how private equity firms are negotiating favorable
purchases and developing profitable business ventures
under new management. I am somewhat familiar with
some of the buy-outs and encouraged that with new
management, by meeting customer demands and
expectations, the new units are doing reasonably well.
[Ref: M. Bomgardner, C&EN 7-15-2013, p. 16
Business conditions are also changing and could be
influencing developments like this. It could also signal
the emergence of “tour of duty” employment models.
START-UPS LEADING TO SMALL BUSINESSES OR
LONGER TERM GROWTH
In a sentence, small enterprises seek to “turn a profit”
or “grow into something big”. The industry, the plan
and financial viability dominate.
Ask about the “scaling plan”. Explore if there is a viable
market and repeatability of sales (duplicating orders or
continually expanding customer base). While a start-up
may not have all the answers, if someone is asking the
question, it is a positive sign.
Since we use rechargeable lithium batteries in so many
places, chemists, material scientists and engineers should
understand a little about the 787 lithium battery issue.
A trend that is happening right before our eyes is BYOD.
So a series of sensible questions connecting to LIMS
is shared. A case is made for case study interviews and
a limited trend in getting feedback from interviews
787 LITHIUM BATTERY FAILURE MECHANISM
SOURCE: A. Heller, Interface 22(2), 35(2013)
While the ACS is a forum for chemical science, I am troubled
when letters to the editor are not technically reviewed. (See
C&EN 6-17-13, p. 4 by A. B. Lees) A noteworthy comment that
all chemists who have interest in and concerns about the Boeing
787 lithium battery problem. A respected power systems
expert, A. Heller, has proposed a meaningful strategy and
most plausible mechanism for the lithium-ion battery with
carbon anode and LiCoO2 cathode problems being dendrite
formation at low temperatures. Keep the battery as warm as
the passengers. ECS Interface 22(2), 35 (2013), first issued
online 3-25-13. [The G. S. Yuasa-Boeing Li-Ion Battery: Test
it at a low temperature and keep it warm in flight.]
LIMS MOBILITY QUESTIONS
SOURCE: E. Winstanley, Amer. Labor.45(6), 26-7(2013)
LIMS MOBILITY: The new frontier
Mobile devices BYOD used in laboratory settings are a trend
that is happening rapidly. The author outlines key questions:
- LIMS use industry-standard software, up-to-date?
- LIMS can interface with modern browsers and on mobile
- Mobile applications work with camera, GPS and facilitate
- same code and operating system independent of user
platform– desktop, tablet, laptop, phone?
PROBLEM BASED LEARNING
SOURCE: J. Donnelly, Photonics Spectra 2013
Many resume reviewers and interviewers cannot
tell from the documents and standard questions
whether candidates can solve problems, communicate
effectively or critically think and collaboratively
solve issues. As a result, more and more situations
are finding case study questions and interviews where
this is posed. It helps to have problem based learning
as the New England Board of Higher Education
began in 2006 and has been further applied in the
FEEDBACK FROM INTERVIEWS
SOURCE: L. Weber, WSJ 6-5-13, p. B6 “Didn’t
get the job? You’ll never know why“
Although reported that things may be changing,
but it may be just recruiters who give feedback
on interview performance. More typical:
“Once you cross the line between objective and
subjective, it gets very, very challenging…. and
many firms that want to provide feedback have
their hands tied by company lawyers.”
Who has heard of Luis von Ahn?
If you have not heard of him you are likely to be one of
the “more than 1 billion people who have helped digitize
the printed word by using reCAPTCHA” that an Economist
technology quarterly article describes of this innovative
Guatamalian immigrant who has “developed” a series of
useful Internet-based systems to bring people together
to do useful work. His latest “development” results
in a company, Duolingo, that simultaneously teaches
another language while also providing a translation
Developed (and development) shows up a couple times
in the last paragraph and we get different levels of
understanding what it means depending upon the
context and our background.
The same is true when we used “develop” in resumes
and CVs. In this contributions we offer a host of
more precise synonyms that should be used in
place of develop...
accelerated achieved assessed
assigned authored awarded
built characterized codified
combined completed conceived
converted created decreased
defined delivered designed
differentiated directed documented
drove enhanced established
expanded fabricated generated
identified improved increased
launched led mapped
modeled negotiated partnered
performed planned predicted
prepared produced recruited
reduced removed reorganized
replaced restored scaled
synthesized trained upgraded
It is valuable to express your ideas using precise
and if possible keywords that are used in specific fields.
I am sure there are others that are more precise than
develop. Please send them in. Thanks.
Let me share something. Last weekend, from 12,000 feet
I took my first skydive. It was stunning, remarkable and simply
awesome with my tandem buddy, Leo.
Introducing yourself on a youtube video is little like that.
I was invited to do that recently. Even though I have some experience
with virtual telecons and virtual interviews, let me share some things
that I want to improve on it.
LIGHTING: I want to have good lighting so that my side is visible,
my image for the other end of the computer line is clear and
there are no reflections off my glass lenses.
BACKGROUND: I want to think through what I want people to
see behind me. Think of TV sets as models. Probably less clutter
and solid color that sets up my image better.
I was aware of tips like the Mergis Group 7 suggestions for
video interviews– formal wear, be ready in advance, know
the software and test it out in advance, look at the camera,
prepare your environment, be prepared to have pauses and
turn things off at the end.
IMPORTANT: Coordinate things with the other end. Plan to sit
back enough so your torso appears. If it is a timed recording
session, consider using “Three, two, one, Hello, I am…..”
Especially relevant for people with disabilities is that it
is acceptable to conduct virtual video interviews. In fact,
I spoke with a member today that he can overcome some
of his perceived limitations by showing that he is an
expert in doing virtual video interviewing. Turn this trend
in practices into a strength for him. People will never even
consider shortcomings if you present a competent, positive,
resourceful and likeable image.
The virtual presence and our competence in it continues to
grow in importance.
At first, like skydiving, it can be a little unnerving.
Remember it is a growing trend that you can gain an advantage
by becoming very good at.
It is very common for scientists and engineers to be
asked to deliver a presentation as part of her (or his)
interview. We have mentioned overcoming nervousness,
audience analysis and dealing with unexpected situations.
This post offers some suggestions and rules of
thumb to “improve your game”–
1. how much time will be allotted, who will attend?
2. can you set up your files, projector in advance with
3. ask to visit the rest room to comfort yourself and
check yourself out in the mirror.
4. have some water to drink to ease “dry mouth”
5. Practice your material with simulated situation
Know what you will say
introduce yourself clearly and confidently, thank
the host for the invitation, describe your background
and importance/relevance of your topic
Consider telling a story.
Rules of Thumb
- Focus on one medium of visuals. A second, static
one can be helpful for take home messages or questions.
- Readability of visuals. Think about this in advance.
Size and legibility. Use the 1-7-7-rule
1 topic per slide
7 words per line, max
7 lines per page, max
- Animations can be powerful, if done well.
English speakers use Left to right, top to bottom.
Other directions lead to confusion and possible miss-
reading. Avoid making the audience search a busy slide.
- Focus on the audience, first. Engage the audience as
informed professionals with different perspectives that
want to hear you and you wish to have capture what you
offer. Much of this is done nonverbally. Confidence,
respect and reciprocity are expected.
- Invite questions
- Thank the audience for their attention.
- Acknowledge funding sources, co-contributors.
At the end of the Professional Development class an
interested person asked for some additional relevant
reading references. This is the second listing of outstanding
books that I recommend: (First)
Tara Bennett-Goleman, Mindwhsipering: A new map
to freedom from self-defeating emotional habits
Harper Collins, NY 2013
Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct: How self-control
works, why it matters and what you can do to get more of it
Avery Penguin NY, 2012
Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, The New Digital Age:
Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business,
Alfred A Knopf NY 2013
Douglas Rushkoff, Present Shock When everything happens
Current Penguin Group NY, 2013
Guy Kawasaki, Reality Check: The irreverent guide to
outsmarting, outmanaging and out-marketing your
competition, Portfolio Penguin Group 2008
Samuel Arbesman, The Half Life of Facts: Why
everything we know has an expiration date
Current of the Penguin Group, 2012
Liz Wiseman Multipliers: How the best leaders
make everyone smarter, Harper Business, NY 2010
Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What
Riverhead Books, Penguin NY 2009
Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Switch: How to change things
when change is hard, Cengage Learning, Detroit
Sarah Horowitz, Freelandcers Bible, 2012
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Fooled by Randomness: the Hidden
role of chance in life and in the markets, Second Ed.,
Ray Kurzweil, How to Create a mind: A secret of Human
thought revealed, Viking, 2012
Frank Partnoy, Wait: The art and science of delay,
Perseus Book Public Affairs, NY 2012
Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone: And other Secrets to
Success, One relationship at a Time,
Currency Doubleday, NY, 2005
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why we do
what we do in life and business,
Random House, NY 2012
Martin Lindstrom, Brandwashed: Tricks companies
use to manipulate our minds and persuade us to buy
Crown Business NY, 2011
Dan Ariely, The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: How
we lie to everyone—especially ourselves
Christopher Hayes, Twilight of the Elites,
David McRaney, You are not so smart: why you can have
too many friends on Facebook, why your money is
mostly fiction and 46 other ways you are deluding yourself,
Gary Marcus, Guitar Zero: The new Musician and the
Science of Learning,
Penguin Press New York ,