An inquisitive student asked for some help. In order for some
possible mentors to help him he was advised to share a letter
of professional goals.
He asked: How is that different than a standard cover letter.
It might be as simple as what I heard Adam Cheyer describe as
one of three pillars to career success– VSG, verbally stated
goals. [the other two were (2) going and working outside of
your comfort zone, ie., try things, and (3) be open for the
unpredictable turn of lucky events, so try many different things
and see what happens.]
It is probably not as simple as a “cover letter” or letter of
intent which can be viewed in a similar vein.
It seems more likely to be one of the wise skills, known as
goal-setting. Often the career coaching and management
literature speaks about SMART goals. Tulane University does
a creditable job pulling thoughts together where one might
“inform” your job search with professional goals.
More than a few students have mentioned to me how
valuable the exercise of writing down their goals has
been in pursuing their career.
What might help defining the goals is doing a personal self
assessment which can be called the zeroth level of the process.
Five years ago this blog reminded readers of services
that outplacement firms provided clients who had been
severed from an employer. My experiences with them
had been stunningly meaningful personally in gaining an
better understanding of the differences in different people’s
emotional impact of job loss and emotional resilience.
I recall my wife and I speaking with a psychologist about
the different ways people react to job loss. Back in the day,
DBM, the firm hired by my former employer, provided
valuable tools to re-start my career. Fast-forward to today,
our transcription of Outplacement services that are expected
- understand, reflect and deal with emotional impact to
individual and family
- series of personality instruments. with guidance and
- job lead resources, now enhanced by the Internet and
niche job boards and search tools (tracking system, too)
- building resumes, cover letters, critiquing them and
printing hard copy (plus secretarial and posting services)
- Online presence development such as Linkedin profile
and appropriate webpage web presence.
- up to date tools for do relevant company research, all
within an office with privacy and facilities.
L Weber and R. Feintzig authored an interesting piece
about the “shrinking outplacement services” people are
finding in the current market.
To me this only emphasizes the importance of Career
Services offered at Universities and leading technical
professional societies, like the ACS.
Weber and Feintzig report that tighter budgets and
competition from web only packages is minimizing the
individual “facetime” with experienced consultants
(from a worload of one to 30-40 to one to 150),
providing restricted phone access in its place, providing
sterile one directional on-line webinars and courses
online for training , and online self-service help to white
papers for resume and cover letter building for generic
It is a given that Push-Pull marketing strategies need to
bring in a number of Internet assets to successful job
Opportunity (job description)
Company webpage (news, products.competitors)
Network (who in your network is connected to this firm)
Google the firm (glassdoor.com yahoo.com/finance, etc.)
Investment review (when you work for a firm you are investing your
life’s energies in the firm and its people)
Interviewers profiles/ affiliations
Your personal self assessment
Match between your strengths and the job requirements
References (keep them informed)
Benefits should not be the reason to agree to work
at a location or company or sector, but it does factor
into ranking opportunities. It is better to establish
and confirm these on going into an interview, than
finding out after you are on the job 3 months. [It is
true things can change a lot between an offer and
working in place.]
There are several perspectives on overall compensation
packages. I talked today with one high level technical
manager who thought.when an offer, a good offer, is made,
to a highly qualified and desired candidate, it is either
accepted or rejected. No room should be made for
Another hiring manager thought that an offer should be made
quickly but that there should be some consideration for
negotiating, like hiring bonus at start up or a 5% higher
amount, since many candidates who receive attractive
offers will want to negotiate. Round numbers: Offer
$100K, but be willing to go up to $105, or offer a
sign-on bonus that also pays the taxes on the bonus.
Each candidate needs to examine the whole suite of
benefits and establish what is best for their family situations.
It is often not easy to determine a dollar value for
insurances and vacations and motivational awards.
One company, for example, offers a strong package including
health, life and injury, disability insurances, retirement income
and business travel insurances. A flexible spending
account, domestic partner coverages, children till 26,
401(k) plans with matching, and a personal investment
planning seminar series.
A number of sites have on-site medical, on-site car,
immunizations, fitness, gyms and credit unions.
Competitors present 4 weeks of vacations per year (+ week
between Christmas and New Years) [vs. 2 weeks], and
recognize the importance of work life balance supported by
health and financial wellness programs. They also
emphasize learning and development (’lunch and learn,’ tuition
reimbursement and mentoring programs) and state of the
art research facilities.
Louise Garver also points out several benefits that could
be included in a negotiation discussion, including
expedited review, and
”informed value” of stock options.
The outcome of the importance of each of these factors
could be different for different people and at different
times in each person’s career lifespan. These kinds
of determinations should be estimated before an on-site
interview. Think about asking questions of the HR
manager developed to confirm importance.
Preparation is key on these.
Last week, I met an interesting person who was the “managing
director’ of a research center. We spoke several times over
a few days and I came to learn she was only in the role for
a couple of months.
She spoke of having explored various roles following her PhD
as a post-doc and as a technical expert consultant for a consulting
firm. Now, and in this role, she was getting experience as a
More than one PhD graduate has described their goal to be a
manager. So there might be something to learn from this case.
Over our time, I devoted my attention to listening rather
than “advising.” As we know, the strongest attribute of a manager is
to be a great listener and motivator. So, at times where I did probe,
it was to find out fundamental motivations. It appeared to be freedom
to choose where to work, move when she wanted and build
a productive “empire.” That is what she felt her position offered.
She also seemed to like to believe managers could ‘direct’
rather than ‘enable’ research. Not everyone has the skills and
attributes to be a good manager. Scientists and engineers see
this as a possible track for career growth. It may on the other
hand lead to anxiety and unanticipated pressure.
If I had more time to discuss management with her I would
offer thoughts like Al Sklover offered. In addition to my
top three from Al’s list, I would add one.
Let me highlight top three tips for technical management for me:
(1) Provide equal opportunities to prosper and grow, and
equal accountability when mistakes or malfeasance occur.
(2) Co-create with each group member achievable goals establishing
direction and priority. Create feedback loops so that there are
(3) Continue to develop increasing competences and
professional skills to assume responsibility so that people feel
there is something in it for them.
In addition, it is important to
(4) scrutinize information and be cautious about making
pronouncements without due diligence and checking the
So often I have seen middle managers take
orders to do something that was wrong, even scandalous,
yet they did it. The people instigating it may have personal
advantage as their sole intent.
These are the kinds of points that might be part of a management
Attended a presentation that offered several sites
that were reported to involve more academic research
audiences. The list J. Kamens offered included:
Belonging to several networks can take a bit of time.
She recommended the use of a social media dashboard
At a recent event I attended a representative spoke
to an attendee starting off with, “I don’t know if you
know, but….” Then launched in to a polite attack
that was probably uncomfortable, unless she knew
what was coming and how to deal with it deftly.
Tee-ups are a term used to describe these.
In many circumstances now, positions are taken
where we BYOD (bring your own device) and it
can have unanticipated consequences.
An interesting global view of jobs and STEM job
locations, as if October 2013, has recently been
TEE-UPS AND WATCH-OUT
SOURCE. E. Bernstein, WSJ 1-21-2014, p. D3
“What verbal tics may be saying about us“
‘But don’t take this the wrong way…’ ;‘Can I be
(insert: ‘frank’, ‘direct’, ‘honest’)?’, and
many others. These phrases may seem harmless,
formal, even polite. Coming before another statement
they are intended to harm, be dishonest or lie.
James Pennebaker has studied these qualifiers,
performatives, or tee-up terms. They are yellow lights.
proceed with caution. When you listen to someone,
choose your time and timing and plan what you will
respond without letting it be at all offensive. Remain
totally professional, looking the person in the eye
and lean in to a squared up, confident position.
SOURCE: L. Weber. WSJ 1-22-14, p. B7
“Leaving a job? Better watch your cellphone.“
As more companies allow or encourage employees
to use their own phone and portable devices for
work, as well as home, unexpected consequences
can arise. Their devices can be wiped clean.
This is appearing as the separation between home
life and worklife become blurred.
Read your user agreement statements and contracts
carefully before the “I agree” button is clicked.
WHERE THE JOBS ARE NOW
SOURCE: H. Rudzinsky, Photonics Spectra Jan. 2014, p. 60
“Where the Jobs are Now.“
This is a ‘finger on the pulse’ article on jobs that offers
a clear view and perhaps some optimism on the job market.
The last segment offers some appropriate advice for
job seekers. It links to a Brookings Report.
At a recent workshop Professors Jennifer Shumaker-Parry
and Eric Potma shared their experiences about career
observations and the academic interview process. Some
of their thoughts will resonate with many who seek to have
their careers involve teaching and research. Let me highlight
1. Time management and life balance.
The choice between working at a PUI and a research I
institution requires thinking through what motivates you
the most and while three domains (teaching, research and
service) will be large parts of your responsibility, the ability
to manage time and focus on your priorities will be critical
for achieving the tenure goal. Time is limited and the need
is to balance urgency, importance and personal life.
3. Take time to develop your ideas before your application.
While your post doc may be the most exciting term in
your career, you need to develop with your mentors and PIs
unique ideas. One specifically mentioned having three
“idea notebooks” for nurturing, organizing and developing
impactful outcomes. As the other mentioned, it is likely
worth taking extra time to develop ideas before applying
for academic positions. You will need to be prepared for the
“chalk talk” interview.
4. Openness in academic idea exploration
Both mentioned being open with colleagues to share ideas
even original ones.
5. Money means Start-up funds.
When interviewing and considering positions determine
where you are given the opportunity to be successful. One
shared having to choose between prominent university positions.
Initial offers were presented. The offers were considered with
a site visit for where their laboratory would be located and
Counter offers in a negotiated process were forthcoming,
where one university increased their start-up package offer.
Thus, it was more attractive.