This is a story about two conversations. The first is
one with a very accomplished senior grad student.
The second conversation is one of a series with
a department of chemistry chairperson.
Ph.D. LACKING NEEDED SOFT SKILLS
Almost Dr. Smith (not his or her real name) wanted
to talk about a situation in which she finds herself. She
has received several promising offers, only to be rejected
after providing references. She has learned from a reliable
source that the reference supplied the information that her
writing skills were not up to acceptable standards, whereupon
the offer was pulled.
She asked what can she do now? Learn by various means–
reading for style and formatting, specialized training to write
for specific audiences, and practice, of course are several
possibilities. Shouldn’t the grad school provide that for her?
The answer is generally, not in today’s climate.
Second conversation, now.
PROPOSAL TO CHAIRMAN TO OFFER PRACTICAL
[Bring a solution, when you ask about a big concern you
When the new chair was installed I went to her with the
concern that many graduates do not have essential writing
skills and other “Soft skills” that we need to be successful.
What are some courses, programs of study, and tutoring
assignments (shadowing, draft writing, editing, reading)
that are offered or can be offered? We will bring it up to the
dean, was one response.
Another time, post-docs are people without support,
representation or a voice. What can be done to help their
case? That is up to the individual PI was the response. I reflected
on several national labs, medical schools and NIH programs
and received the feedback. That is not something I can do.
I pursued: Why not? some of the ideas are nice, but I would
be stepping on people’s [departments] toes and it is imprudent
to do here.
Another reason is that I can not impinge on the time they are
working in the lab. They have so many distractions and
commitments as it is. To add another requirement would take
time from the research work that needs to get done.
So, it goes. Outside speakers emphasize it is important to “get
out of the lab” and learn extra-curricular skills through different
activities, internships and volunteer roles. Most students immediately
reflect that their boss would not like them doing that. Most say
they feel pressure to be in the lab 7×12 getting results.
While I receive consistent support for Professional Development
activities in summer and both semesters, I am only one and
so much more could be done to make a difference. What we
do is as much or more than is offered in other R1 institutions.
Please send in ideas and concepts working in other institutions.
I look forward to them.
We have written about using emotions in our
storytelling especially related to trust, by Brene
the psychology of influence. His latest Pre-suasion
is highly recommended in offering ways to understand
how we are influenced and might be able to express
Cialdini presents “pre-suasion” as frontloading attention
by altering audience members associations with what we do
or say next.
- privileged moments: tuning in to times when audience
is most receptive
- channeling attention using attractors and magnetizers
- ‘I link, therefore I think’ - creating or building on
Agenda setting theory- media rarely produce change by
presenting compelling evidence; more likely persuade
indirectly by selecting issues and facts and excluding
Forced confessions have a history going back to the 1692
witchcraft trials appearing in many trials, Chinese Cultural
Revolution ‘convictions’, and Joseph McCarthy Communist
Party affiliations indictments 1950s.
Neidert Core Motives Model of Social Influence
Stage 1: cultivating a positive association, using
“reciprocity” and “liking” in a meaningful, unexpected and
Stage 2: reducing uncertainty, using authority and social
proof to provide priority to a course of action
Stage 3: motivating positive action, sealing the action
to move ahead.
Where Influencing is used in marketing:
1. media traffic reports as programming space editors
2. naming of supplements and nutrients sounding like
derivation from natural products.
Yahoo had an appropriate article by Maria LaMagna
about the consequences of lying in an interview when
asked how much you currently make.
This could happen in various interview formats…
screening, on-site, wrap-up with HR, or during
salary negotiations. Preparation and research
In all cases tell the truth, as they may ask you to produce
a pay stub. Alternatively it is fair to ask what is their
I feel it is appropriate to state that salary is one
component of an overall compensation package.
While it is a gauge on your value to the company,
it is fair to point out that other factors may be equally
important to you…vacation, citizenship work papers,
insurances, location, travel requirements, etc.
What is my future like? many are asking as we face an
uncertain future. It seems as this was the case decades ago,
but it is more uncertain now.
What is the reason? What are the drivers?
Harari has something to say about this. Look at his TED Dialog
1. We have lost “our story”. The narrative that describes modern
life in the 21st century is not what previous generations’ stories
were. This is one of the major roots of upheavals seen around the
2. Technology is bringing people together in many ways while
it separates us into many many subgroups. The wealthy, in
information-rich positions, influence the decisions of authorities
and will take advantage enhancing income mal-distribution.
3. National priorities have no connection to reality in many global
issues. Job loss, despite all the rhetoric, is not as strongly
influenced by immigration as it is by robots, algorithms and AI.
4. Political leaders have very little influence to do good. They
have great influence in doing bad and it is usually not one
individual responsible, because there are many supporters and
people of influence.
See some of the reviews
of Harari’s work bring up several other
disconnects we observe and may not easily explained. Knowing
allows you to define for yourself
the meaning of joy, satisfaction, happiness and help.
Two recent communications provided thoughts for this
post on the complex visa issues facing international
CASE. EB-1, EB-2
One was from Southeast Asia who earned a Ph.D. and worked
as an industrial post-doc before accepting a permanent position.
She learned that her firm was closing its doors and landed a
technical position at a leading international firm.
It was a positive experience for more than a year as her
direct manager and senior technical professional mentored
her through the politics of the product development group.
Unfortunately he is no longer there.
She finds that the work is challenging and a positive experience.
However, there are “people challenges” that are hard to work
through. How long should she stay and what goals should she
Pressure seems to be building up with the challenges. We talked
about retaining benefits (401k, bonuses, promotions in title)
seeking her working visa, and long term ambitions if things turn
She pointed out that if she knew what she knows now, she
free assessment of her case and guarantees if she self applies
for an EB-1 or EB-2, there is a money back guarantee.
CASE. Canadian Visas
A second conversation was with a Canadian professional
working in the US as a post-doc.
Canadians are allowed to visit the US for up to six months
(182 days) per calendar year. Nationals of other countries
are allowed only 90 days. You can accumulate those
days by one long trip, or an aggregation of several short ones.
The nonimmigrant NAFTA Professional (TN) visa allows
citizens of Canada and Mexico, as NAFTA professionals,
to work in the United States in prearranged business
activities for U.S. or foreign employers. Permanent residents
of Canada and Mexico are not able to apply for TN visas
to work as NAFTA professionals.
$50 for the filing fee and $6 for I-94 fee. Pay at the border
at the time of applying for the TN Visa. Total Cost by Mail
= $325 for Form I-129. See the USCIS website for the
latest fee amount.
Current U.S. laws and regulations say that Mexican and
Canadian citizens can stay in the U.S. in TN status for periods
up to three years. Even better, TN workers are supposed to
be able to extend their stays indefinitely, in three-year
increments, so long as they satisfy the requirements under
the TN program.
As a Canadian citizen hoping to work in the US, there are multiple
options that are available to you. Some relevant work-related visas
- HB-1 Visa-this option is available to individuals who at least
hold a bachelor’s degree. The employer would have to agree
to sponsor you and should file the appropriate paperwork on
- E1 or E2-if the business you plan to work for is 50% owned
by nationals of your home country and it trades and invests
in the US then this could be another option for you.
- O Visa-if you have proven substantial contribution to areas
such as education or science you may be eligible for this type
- L Visa-this type of visa may be an option if you have
worked for a company for at least a year and then wish to
pursue employment in the US under another branch of the
- Green Card-if you have a master’s degree or work in a
position that requires it, you may be eligible to apply for
a green card to continue working in the US.
As you can see, there are various avenues you could take to achieve
your desired results. To better understand your options and to select
the appropriate option, you should contact an immigration
Keep in mind, many of these processes take time to complete, so
you we want to be sure to choose the best option.