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

April 2014
« Mar   May »
Dealing with Unfair or harsh criticism
Filed under: Position Searching, Mentoring, Post-docs, Undergraduate majors
Posted by: site admin @ 11:02 pm

Bottom line:  Look for the main substance of contention
and explore positive ways to make the comments or
criticism improve your future performance and actions.

In previous posts, we mentioned “tee-ups” as a verbal “tic”
to be alert to when a person wants to harm you or your
reputation.  MindTools blog offers some tactics to defuse
the situation and make a creative outcome.

We can always do things in better ways, or address
weaknesses or mis-perceptions whether intended or
taken out of context.

Mindtools indicates remaining calm and displaying
respect and attention to detail is first.  Expressing
things in your own words and confirming intention or

Offer an openness to other positions, sometimes it can
be useful to summarize and state a forward-seeking follow
up action.  Where do we go from here?

Mindtools emphasis on maintaining confidence, offering
that your awareness of this can make you more effective.

Many times criticisms will be from third persons and you will
not be able to address them directly.  Nonetheless, remaining
calm in the face of words of criticism makes the critic even
more full of contempt.  It may mean to you that no clear
logical resolution is possible and you should move on.

1 comment
Future Trends in Technical Careers. Catalysts and Crystallography
Filed under: Position Searching, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 3:52 pm

This entry begins with a little story and intriguing discovery.

2014 is the international year of Crystallography.   One of our
class exercises included a written team reflection on crystallography.
One of the teams volunteered to write on this topic, which allowed
me to do a little homework and learning.  It is fascinating to
explore not only all the Nobel’s crystallography has been part of,
but also where the field is moving.  See this video for a sketch.

Then a marvelous article by J. Wesolowski reported the consortium
of eight partners forming the BioXFEL (x-ray, free electron laser)
to perform the next generation of serial femtosecond crystallography.

Some of the work will be done at the Huaptman-Woodward
Medical Research Institute.

Please also refer to a remarkable article on advanced
on nanomaterials and biocrystals by Ourmazd .

Another student introduced me by way of reviewing his public
relations documents to the grand challenge of designing, developing
and modeling new catalysts
.  It is an eye-opening view of
programs to develop future catalysts.
Materials Genome Initiative:  Grand Challenges Summit by
Mark Barteau and Cathy Tway
[.ppt file:  Catalysis-MGI-webinar-FINAL-1]

1 comment
Legal Issues. Noncompete agreements and other issues
Filed under: Job Offer (Situations), Mentoring, First Year on Job, Legal matters
Posted by: site admin @ 4:08 pm

In this year’s class one of the items we brought up that
surprised many of the grad students and post-docs was
the concept of noncompete agreements that many are
asked to sign at some point in their career.

Those in the legal profession are uniquely skilled in
language and describe them as an understanding in contract
law where an employee agrees not to enter into a similar
employment situation which would compete against the
initial employer. 
The employee would gain competitive
advantage based on confidential information, sensitive
information, trade secrets, business practices, new products
or marketing tactics.

The argument is that signing such an agreement signs
away our career trajectory and disowns the “human capital
of knowledge workers
, since it severely restricts where we
might go and what we might do in our professions.

Recently there has been more discussion encouraging
policies and changes in the law existent for some time
to restrict or invalidate noncompetes, as is the case in
California.  O. Lobel wrote recently in HBR and Gov.
Patrick of MA proposed such legislation to encourage
a more vigorous innovation culture which is claimed to
be restricted by noncompete agreements.

Al Sklover represents employees faced with such
dilemmas, whether to sign when asked, what to do
if you have signed and wish to leave
and other contentious

Being knowledgeable about the contractual issues that
may be part of an employment contract is something all
professionals should  know about– have a mentor and know
resources who can support you.

Grand Jury Investigations.
A Sklover issued a post about what to do if you were issued
a subpoena to appear before a grand jury.  I don’t suspect
many of us will be in this situation.  But then again
surprises and unintended consequences do happen, so
“forearmed is forewarned.”

“His direct reply was:  Without question you need to …
retain an experienced …criminal defense attorney,
licensed in your locale and well versed in Grand Jury

Telecommuting and Flexible work arrangements

A Sklover issued an approach that falls under agreements
and good use of time and facilities.  Many are bringing
our work with us on our cellular and iPad devices.  It
is growing quite fast, meaning there are few protections
in place for professionals.  His 15 point checklist can
benefit you if this is something you seek or do.


Negotiations. 2. Three things to avoid
Filed under: Job Offer (Situations), First Year on Job, Legal matters
Posted by: site admin @ 4:54 pm

A professional has recently received an offer for a position
that he is keen about.  He feels its starting salary may be a
little lower than market surveys  2  he has consulted recently.  
Although the job descriptions seeks a US citizen, he is not and
the offer would support his applying for immigration papers 
(either H-1B or permanent residency status)  for him and his spouse.

Even factoring in the costs for permanent residency status,
the starting salary remains a bit low, besides there is a long
service commitment after which the company no longer expects
compensation for sponsorship.

Three things should be avoided in his negotiations.
1.  Do not go into discussions without detailed preparation and
practice for what your goals are and what you want to say.

  - have a firm offer in hand
  - have a back up plan BATNA best alternative to a negotiated

Know the employer’s starting date, when first pay happens,
the job assignment, if the employer will help with relocation
and all aspects of the compensation package.
The employer only wants to do what is best for you and your
If it is an international assignment other factors are likely to
be important that amount to nearly 40% increase in compensation,
including housing allowance, paying taxes, employment for spouse
and trips home while stationed abroad.

2.  Trust and styles.  Some people expect that each offer is
a negotiation based on the particular circumstances of
the offer recipient.  Others expect that good faith is exercised
by accepting the initial offer. 

Establish your family’s known needs.

Your tone and intent can be influential.  If you indicate that
you consulted an attorney or a consultant, the employer may
be turned off as this may suggest a lack of trust.

Thus, it is important to share that you only expect to receive
a fair offer of compensation taking things into consideration.

3.  Do not start without establishing the employer’s and your
negotiable items
.  Have a plan of what your concessions might
be offered and what you seek. 
Commonly offer increases are 5-15%
Use positive language as you avoid responding “no” or “never”
to offer elements.  Ask for the final offer in writing stating the
specifics you negotiated.

comments (0)
How important is GPA in Being Selected for Positions
Filed under: Interviewing, Public Relations docs
Posted by: site admin @ 7:31 pm

A thoughtful student asked a question:  “it seems that in
academia that the role of grades is being stressed a lot
and I was wondering, if a student had a chemistry GPA
of less than 3.2-3.4, in their undergraduate record, does
this look negatively when applying for jobs?”

The fact of the matter for this person is that he completed
a double major in chemistry and a social science, so my
response was nuanced.  It goes along the lines David Brooks,
NYTimes editorial writer who suggested in his editorial  1
Employers’ Creed.“  [March 31, 2014]

“Bias hiring decisions against [just] high GPAs” without
leadership positions on campus, and who leaves the resume
reader as completely “flavorless.”

“Bias toward dualists,” with some measure of conventional
accomplishment, work or success.

“Bias toward truth-tellers.”  One quoted question to listen to is
‘Could you describe a time when you told the truth and it hurt you?’

Some comments to Brooks’ piece are on target, yet not
directly on the undergraduate GPA theme.  One did point out
the increasing use of Applicant Tracking Systems ATS by employers
which may provide a challenge.

Always tell the truth, but reveal it in an authentic story that
will convince your audience that you love teaching chemistry. 
Win some teaching awards in chemistry, volunteer to teach classes,
take education courses or POGIL curricula.
Don’t wait until last semester to do these kind of things.

comments (0)
Intersection of Technical Skills and Interpersonal Skills
Filed under: Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 8:12 am

Over the last couple of weeks we have offered suggestions
to have you consider that technical skills alone in this
competitive and changing marketplace will not help you
reach your professional goals.

1.  Computational, ie digital tools, and robotics and
database mining (big data) are merging with technical
skills.  These are targeted “hard skills”.

2.  Marketing skills have value as well.   [See also
link to the value of business cards.]

3.   Personal habits.  This past week I met and then interacted
via several kind professional gestures with M. M. Mitchell who
posed that we had common perspectives.  So, in
displaying a “wise skill” I am being an ally for her in
sharing several keen articles that I believe can result
in habits that will improve people’s perceptions of you.
     -  Improve your Self confidence
     -  People skills - Know what not to do
     -  Treat ourselves well

comments (0)
Resolving Problems: Conflict resolution, Data overload and Author ambiguity
Filed under: First Year on Job, Post-docs, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 10:43 am

Last weekend I was invited to and attended a terrific meeting
where I met scholars, acquaintances and friends who face
many of the problems we all do.

Please let me share three of many take-aways:

1.  Rebecca Bryant (see how she uses it)shared a tool you
should consider using that has been adopted by many in the
biomedical field. ORCID.
It provides a unique, confidential identification and tracking

2.  Sam Molyneux did a wonderful job describing where he
and his company Sciencescape has paved a new approach
to dealing with our problem of ‘publication overload’ and
the fact that we need to keep up with breaking news in our
fields of research and commerce, yet there are too many
places to look.  This really has a lot of promise in all fields
of basic (where publication scooping can happen) and
applied research (where others may patent in areas that
will exclude what you or your company wish to protect.)
A short video relays the story of this disruptive innovation

3.  Antonio Nunex and Anna Kopec outlined four strategies
for resolving conflicts and discussed how we could incorporate
the core values and interests of both stakeholders
issues where there seems to be differences.  (View the
power point slides available from the screen linked above.)
I appreciated their candor in isolating one issue at a time and not
going immediately to ’solution mode,’ which can limit
options and sometimes to a no-win situation via manipulation.
They carefully expressed that you allow questions to be
posed and go to primary interests at heart which could be
self-esteem, relationships, excellence, financial security
or reputation (respect) .

1 comment
Dealing with Interview Rejections
Filed under: Interviewing, Job Offer (Situations)
Posted by: site admin @ 4:49 am

EB has done a personal self assessment and would like
to work in metabolic chemical engineering.  There are
many new routes of taking waste product streams or
natural raw materials to produce useful therapies, fuels
and chemicals.

She has experienced several phone and onsite interviews,
based on networking and through online searches.  She
is getting rejection after rejection, or at least no call
backs within the expected time.  In fact in one interview
on the board in the small business interview room was
her initials listed with other initials and, believe it or not,
“back up” written next to it.
In another interview she met with team members where
it felt like they were looking for positions as well.  She
would receive an offer if they obtained an acceptable
full time offer.
What am I doing wrong, she asked.

1.  The rare fresh new hire circumstance is doing the same thing
that you did in your most previous role.  Expect that your
assignment will be different and you will and know how to adapt
and interrogate new circumstances and view things from a fresh

2.  The first reason a candidate is turned down is not having
the required technical skills.  This is something that you can
plan to do something about by finding out at the interview if
you could specifically ask after the interview process what
they liked and if there were any specific background weaknesses
that could have influenced a negative decision. 
So, don’t take it personal.  Show a willingness to be proactive.

3.  A second reason for not receiving an offer is style.
Style is revealed not only in words but also in nonverbal
communication.  We reviewed EB’s interview question
responses and encouraged her to develop STAR or SARI
stories.  But before this is the need to display authentic
enthusiasm for working there.

4.  Before the interview do your homework.  Often neglected
is the mental emotional preparation.  Enthusiasm, presence
and passion.

Be conscious of your mental state for the job interview.
Take a few moments to sit quietly, focus on your breathing
and avoid what you will or will not say.
Imagine that you work for the organization and immerse yourself
with the feeling of all the good things you will experience there.
Visualize it, feel it.

Then when you are at the site breath again and put yourself in the
same mental place.  Now focus on staying there.  Excitement,
enthusiasm and passion come from your heart.

comments (0)
Letter Salutations Reference
Filed under: Position Searching, Public Relations docs, Legal matters
Posted by: site admin @ 7:10 am

Our class in composing technical position cover letters in an assignment
and my search for salutations came up with a handy reference by Stephen

comments (0)