It is challenging for people in technical fields
to consider the changes in the employment marketplace
today. So much can seem to be against our better natures
where we are taught that deep study and inspiration can
A. Big prize awards are offered for innovative ways of
solving human problems or for commercial innovation,
using crowd-sourcing approaches [See Chapter 5 of the
Second Machine Age, by E. Brynjolfsson and A. McAfee]
B. Digitized, specialized robotic equipment replace
people doing certain tasks. And strange concepts like
Maravec’s paradox: high level reasoning requires little
computation, but lower level sensorimotor skills
require enormous computational resources.
These and many other examples lead critics to dismiss
all of these as re-packaging things for the wifi-computerized
Recently, a faculty member asked me what I proposed to
do in a workshop. Before I could answer, he smiled while
dispelling his disbelief, you are not going to just talk about
“polishing the apple”.
The supply and demand picture of technically trained people
continues to shift and while your technical substance needs
to be strong, you need to recognize the need to stand out
from other equally qualified professionals. You can learn
to improve listening skills, demonstrate curiosity and
make a compelling case for yourself in voice, style and
nonverbal communications. You can do this without being
inauthentic or deceptive in your motives.
Specific evidence is in creating cover letters and resumes
that are specific, clear, easy to read and brief (error-free, too)
They do not have to be encyclopedic and cover all aspects.
Yet, they need to be targeted and show an understanding of
marketing to your audience/customer.
Specific evidence is also in knowing what apparel is expected when
you arrive for interviews, and how you connect with people
in informal and formal settings.
Again, you are marketing a product– yourself.
One of the many tasks we have when we return from a technical meeting
is to follow up with contacts using the business cards we have received.
Some of the follow up happens automatically, like when someone sends
a Linkedin invitation, which acts as a mutual follow-up.
There are also people who you want to connect with and provide specific
information and people who you want to work with on a common project
collaboratively. Fact of the matter is that if we did not have these
little business cards, with short notes on the back reminding us of the
situations of meeting, follow up actions and points of information we
would lose much of the purpose for attending meetings– committed
Not long ago, Joanna Stern authored a piece in the WSJ telling of many
of the attempts to create digital replacements for business cards. Her
conclusion and items from many commentators: Keep on using them
and learn some business card tricks.
Coincidentally, while I was at a recent meeting Diane Darling (one of
the better speakers I have attended) sent an email in which she included
How to Process Cards after an event. Some of her ideas are in the
Within 24-48 Hours
Send thank you notes for kind gestures, to hosts, for people who
provided you professional services [I believe this is critical.].
Invite specific people into Linkedin and connect with your
contacts to establish if there is mutual value in sharing a reference.
Diane recommends doing a ‘more professional job’ than the
standard invitation in LI. (I suggest this only when the situation
calls for it.)
If you promised a specific follow up, comply. If you cannot do it
within 2 days, I suggest a short note telling when you can do
Diane and I like to note Linkedin, follow-up plans and items
on the cards we receive and keep them for future reference. I
also like to organize the cards in a card file and, funny little thing,
I attach post-its with added ideas and connections in my hotel
room and return flight home, while things are relatively fresh.
This week I had a delightful conversation with a fellow
career consultant Professor Laurel Habgood, chair and
on a review committee hiring new faculty at her college
We talked about the difference between applying for
chemistry faculty positions in research-intensive R1 and
Principally Undergraduate Institutions PUI.
Professor Habgood reads the cover letter which should
reveal a command of English. She likes to see the classes
the applicant can teach and if the applicant really
understands the curriculum and the role being
pursued. [So, this suggested to me that some contact
would be helpful and appropriate to mention in the
(2) She indicated she examines an applicant’s CV first
to confirm their commitment to chemistry and institutions
similar to Rollins College. She looks for experience
in teaching courses that might be comparable to those
at Rollins. Although this can be learned having valuable
full class experience in the lecture, lab, grading and
mentoring is essential. So, those who have visiting assistant
or assistant professor background in residence have an
If there is (3) an overlap of fields with current faculty it
could be a problem. Also, if there is some expectation
of special equipment or laboratory space that reveals
a ‘caution’ for the application. There is even a reluctance
if the equipment could be found at another institution
or a collaboration is proposed.
A fourth area of investigation is the person’s teaching
philosophy which is seriously considered.
She commented that she is amazed when she sees applications
which leave blank or do not comment on teaching in
situations where people’s backgrounds are different than
yours. This “diversity” question needs to be thoughtfully
and articulately answered.
So if you have a strong interest in teaching at a PUI,
Laurel would be a valued career consultant to request
with the ACS.
I enjoy reading and learning approaches, new trends
and successful ideas found in the WSJ Accelerators
blog. In yesterday’s issue some outstanding ideas
were shared by Jay Samit, Cristina Bechhold and
Neil Blumenthal about a concept “Committed
Just as Neil states networking itself is an overused
and abused term. Andre Schiotzek from UCI said
the same thing when he spoke about post-doctoral
experiences a month ago. Just like Andre, Neil states
it is first making acquaintances and then friends with
with others. It is important to share our interests,
strengths and weaknesses with them.
Jay and Cristina describe strategies to start and
continue vibrant networks:
- arrive early manage where you spend your valuable
time; scope the room and break the ice with others
- target who you associate with to meet introduction
- fly first class it can generate business
- speak on panels
- be active in worthwhile charities
- mindfully attend events, conferences, shows and
seminars; use existing friendships and associations
- manage your time and your relationships–
mutual introductions and attending others’ events
Things to avoid:
- trying too hard — name dropping, embellishing your
- don’t be all “take” and no give
- avoid selling your interests and needs to the expense
They are all related in the world of technical careers.
So much so, that the previous generation of people
who prized longevity, security, and loyalty seem at
odds with our current career paths.
The previous generation had linear “trendlines” and
fewer variables for technical careers compared to what
we all face today.
No one generation of technical careers, not baby-boomers,
not Gen-Xers or Gen-Yers are any different and not
facing more complexity, shorter cycle times, and
irregular lags between cycles.
It really beckons us to think more deeply about what
our needs, priorities and dreams are for ourselves and
our loved ones and families.
What I would argue is that despite the drive to short term
wins, which form a hedonic treadmill, it is important
to search and reaffirm our values and principles in
all the things we do and say.
Longevity now means forming different multi-generational,
interdisciplinary teams to tackle problems, if even for
a short term. Then, doing it again and again and again with
Security does not mean static; it argues for dynamism, recognizing
constraints and timelines. It means preparing for change and
Loyalty recognizes both the good in everyone, including ourselves,
and our limitations and defining priorities and common
Over the last couple of months features of the new US
Patent law have been brought to my attention and may
be of interest to you. One is called a provisional patent
application [note: not a provisional patent, as I was led
to believe] which established a filing date before the USPTO.
It is a legal document containing patent specification, all
elements to make the subject matter understood and fully
embodied, without formal patent claims, inventors’ oaths
or disclosure statement. The applicant must file a formal
application for a non-provisional patent application within
The provisional patent application can be less detailed,
has lower costs and expires if not followed with a formal
patent application within a year.
Ashby Jones provided an update on another feature of
the newer patent law, the Patent trial and appeal board.
It, as Jones describes, allows a party to challenge whether
a patent should have been issued based on whether they were
vague, obvious or flawed. Both sides of the issue claim
either the board lessens their rights or it is making it
too expensive to hang on to patents for which they struggled
to get approved.
In our Professional Development class this week,
half the class was assigned to describe a key strength
they have and provide a clear, relevant example of when
they have demonstrated it. The other half described a
weakness each one has and what they are doing about
These are relevant questions each one of us needs to ask
ourselves when we do a personal self assessment.
Some indicated that they struggled with completing
one or the other situation, because it was not something
they did in their native culture or they had not done something
like this before. In each case I reviewed their submissions and
provided constructive commentary on keywords, concepts
and stories. One suggested, however, a weakness of
“perfectionism”. To which I indicated– try again. That will
He came up with something. However, there was a discussion
in our class. Some felt that they fit with that weakness
So, we discussed that striving for excellence is certainly one
desirable strength, however, its negative, despite advice others
may provide to call an extreme of your strength, a negative, in
this case does not work in real situations… Why not? the discussion
1. this is one of the top “RED FLAG” answers and I
would suggest you not use.
2. perfectionists are far less happy than high achievers
and less able to cope when things go awry.
3. there is no such thing as “perfect, ” so perfectionists
are chasing an impossible task and might never know
when to end a project
4. they can often miss deadlines and waste time, money
and resources re-doing a task that they will never be
pleased with anyway
5. they tend to make poor managers by setting impossible
standards and withholding praise from staff.
Your future supervisors and managers will seek out your
weakness since they wish to find out how you perceive
yourself and if you can take constructive feedback to
A career is a process (not an outcome) with many
transactions. You are the CEO of ME, Inc. as Reid
Hoffman wrote. Your job is to learn your strengths,
develop an ability to articulate your value so that
others will understand and appreciate you and your
contributions. Test scores from college entrance
exams are again being sought at a time when there might
be an oversupply of candidates.
New trends in when an employees 401K match is
paid out can provide a difference when comparing
The “pull” marketing of our job hunt strategy is
continuously influenced by tactics in using Linkedin.
TEST SCORES IN JOB INTERVIEWS
SOURCE: WSJ 2-26-14, p. B1
M. Korn, “Job Hunt? Dig up those SAT Scores“
The author writes about a recurring trend to include
an applicant’s SAT test results as a factor in the evaluation.
SAT scores provide a short term assessment, valid or
not, of a person’s preparation and prediction of
success in the first year of college. So many things
have evolved in the SAT tests so it might be hard to
compare 1970s vs. 2013s results. A person’s track
record of results and objective references of what
they actually do on the job should be most relevant.
It should be a signal to interviewees if this occurs
as article comments point out.
401K MATCHING FUNDS TIMING DELAYED
SOURCE: A. Sklover, 2-21-14
“Did you know that…“
A. Sklover pointed out a recent bump in the trend for
employers to hold on to longer term savings for
employees. First it was replacing formal pensions with
401K matched at the time of contribution. Now, the
matching is happening at the end of the calendar year.
Thus, account balances will be lower throughout the
year. And, should an employee leave or be asked to
leave earlier, they do not receive the match.
Al provides six checks for employees to consider.
LINKEDIN JOB HUNTING TACTICS
SOURCE: L. Garver CareerHub BLOG 2-23-14
“Linkedin Confusion or Conquest“
Things you typically will not hear at a workshop
Your homepage: complete it, scan for valuable
resources, consider “liking” to significant items
Apply for positions daily; don’t miss Monday
Premium service: “feature my application,”
explore using “A vs. B testing” various options,
Participation: initiate discussions in primary and
secondary groups, visit and become knowledgeable
in topical areas, reconnect with network, follow
up and comment to contributions important to you.