Rarely, if ever, do Chemistry graduates ever receive formal
or informal introductions in chemical enterprise business models.
Preparing for some engagements I came across
several interesting items that readers might like.
No one tells you that when you are out of state or country, your
credit card may be rejected for a purchase. It is helpful to have
a second card handy and available and to notify the credit card
company of foreign or out of state purchases/travel and when
there is a sizable purchase.
The world of commerce and business can be modeled and projected.
Nonetheless, models are always approximations and usually wrong.
So, when looking for positions good mentors point to looking at
the real data and emerging trends. Two sources are this month’s
Fortune magazine and a ground breaking book by Brynjolfsson and
McAfee about the second machine age which points out so many
things about the growth and decline of career paths, companies and
the job market itself.
CREDIT CARD NOTIFICATIONS
We were traveling 3000 miles away from home. We had stayed at
a hotel where we charged our room and I believe we had charged
a meal purchase. Marriott Card
Then we stopped to fill the gas tank and charged the purchase. Our
Fidelity and AAA VISA cards where rejected. We learned that
international purchases, electronics or jewelry purchases, credit
card balance [for those who carry a balance]. expiration date or
security code errors, expired credit card, gas or rental car charges
[especially if out of state or there is no credit delinquency in your
history], can lead to card rejection.
Fortunately we had a Marriott Rewards Visa that was accepted.
Lesson Learned: Call your 800 number on your card before your
trip, telling the operator where you planned to travel.
As a result, we needed to call the two card companies that rejected
the purchase to reinstate the accounts.
PROFITABILITY AND GROWTH TRENDS — INDUSTRIES,
SOURCE: Fortune, June 15, 2016 “Fortune 500 Lists” of
Companies and Industries.
This issue is a must for job seekers who wish to consider a
corporate career path. First glimpse at Pp. 16-17 which
shows the “profitability of different industry segments” from
1995 - 2016. The energy sector has taken a major nosedive
from top to bottom in the last 2 years. Three sectors that
consistently led the pack are financials, technology and
healthcare. This does not mean there are no jobs in energy
or sectors not in favor.
Brynjolfsson and McAfee have written about the second machine
age that we see upon us with sustained exponential improvements
in digital technologies and areas of commerce that use and
benefit from digitization, winners-take-all economy, and
the new ranking of fields, leaders and superstars.
P. F29 - F36 gives industry sector rankings of companies.
P. F37 - F42 gives ranking based in each US state
Al Sklover posts a “did you know…” blog post every once in a
while. So, I thought it might be worth mentioning something
some applicants would consider after interviewing. Knowing
something about what else may be expected from each
successful applicant includes polygraph, credit, security
Applicant medical evaluation and drug testing.
You might be aware of mental and competence testing that
some employers have third parties administer. Also, it is required
by federal law to pass alcohol and drug testing of blood and
urine. There is a benefit for employers since insurance premiums
can be lower. In addition, employers seek to maintain a drug free
perception, which also includes nicotine from tobacco products.
Complications occur with medications and statutes that legalize
controlled substances in certain states. Thus, marijuana is listed as
a schedule I drug under federal statutes leads companies to fire or
refuse to hire, if detected.
Certain prescription medications may also trigger a red flag, so it
is worth knowing about medications that physicians prescribe for you.
Can job security be relegated to rely on algorithms?
My short answer is probably not, because it makes assumptions
to achieve an outcome in a reasonable amount of time.
Our careers make many shifts, turns, abrupt endings, transitions
and shifts at many unexpected times. Why are they so
unpredictable? For one thing, they are human endeavors
that result in and from mistakes or put another way less
than optimal outcomes.
I viewed Derek Lowe’s blog “The Algorithms are coming,”
in which he discusses and Angewandte Chemie article about
developing optimum and projected synthetic organic chemistry
paths to making synthetic target molecules with computer
As we decide it is a more efficient habit to employ algorithms
in our life, it is appropriate to ask such a question in relation to
important outcomes like dealing with job security.
An algorithm is a set of commands or instruction steps designed
to achieve a suitable outcome or optimization, like page-rank,
min-max, and many others. Algorithms have been in vogue
for centuries. We observe many situations where robots, laser
optical devices and machines are making tasks minimizing human
intervention and judgment. In fact, many “aggregators” use
algorithms to match up job descriptor keywords to display
positions a job seeker might apply for.
There will be an increasing marketing of career path algorithms
to lead you making your choice. It is a very complicated
series of decisions that has a very long lead time, building
up of experience in some cases, developing soft and
wise skills and assessing your own desires and needs,
which often cannot be put into a search tool keyword list.
I found McHenry Community College has a nice list of
suggestions offering that it is not just a concern when in
a job seeking mode, but throughout our career as things
change. An algorithm will not do this.
We should all be alert to what happens to employees at
DuPont and Dow as the two leading chemical corporations
as they process their merger and carve outs forming new
entities. We may not be directly involved but it adds to
what technical professionals will face more of in our future
Jacob Bunge wrote that 1700 job cuts will happen in
Delaware to DuPont (see also Morningstar source) which
will flood the market with outstanding talented scientists
and engineers. It can be traumatic for each person directly
or indirectly affected. It is a message that there is no “safe
harbor” and job security is the knowledge that you can obtain
another desirable position if your current one is in jeopardy.
It can also mean that you are given some time to evaluate your
options and pursue your personal and career goals.
SOURCE: A. Tergesen, WSJ1-2-16, “Target date
funds must rethink bonds“
There are a number of comments to this article that describes
how bond components of target date mutual funds might be
overweighted. This impacts retirees, the author emphasizes.
Target date mutual funds one commenter points out is a marketing
tool for those needing investment advice in making investment
choices mostly in tax advantaged funds.
Another pointed out the benefits of target date funds are
risk management and “diversification” with a projection
of lower price. Because all managers “race” for yields
risk has been sacrificed. Conditions have shifted so assumptions
about return projections and costs have changed. There is no
prescription for those who have invested in target date funds,
but it does indicate another risk factor, not in the prospectus that
nearly no one reads.
SOURCE: A. Sklover, 1-6-16, “16 Questions for joining a
There are several things Al Sklover brings up in this
article about joining a start up company to aid in decisions
about joining and negotiating what things you and other
employees, founders, advisers and consultants should share.
The way it is done is classic-Sklover, tell a story and its
outcome and offer salient principles, actions and resources.
Who do you ask for financial advice? Whoever you ask, how
do they personally benefit? It is sometimes not clear.
We will change jobs in our careers 10-20 times. That means
there will be more than a handful of times when we will
consider moving long term investments. A link to a thoughtful
article might help our thinking, based on fees, options available,
protections and tax situations.
Where to put your investment assets for best tax advantage
is another of this entry’s links. asset location
More companies are offering employees the chance to either take
a lump sum for their long term security or go with a pre-set annuity.
It is a conflicted decision often with a time limit. A link
discusses possible questions to ask as many situations are different.
SOURCE: A. Tergesen, A. Prior, WSJ 8-15-15, p. B7
“Better IRA Rollover Advice“
401(k) Rollover IRA
Fees institutional class retail class, often higher
ask for quarterly fee disclosure statement
Investmt plans are fiduciaries more options, good for
options helpful expert investors
Distribu- advantage penalties apply
tions Especially aged 55-59.
Variety of options should be confirmed.
Cred. advantage governed by states
Taxes Variety of situations should be confirmed.
SOURCE K. Hawkins, “Why some assets should be
shifted to nontaxable accounts.“
How assets are taxed should influence their location
in your portfolio, Ken Hawkins opines. Since equities
yield dividends and capital gains, taxable accounts are
suitable locations since IRAs, etc. can be taxed at higher
than 15% rate.
Tax friendly stocks (growth, ETFs) should be in taxable
accounts. Tax free bonds and bond funds are better located
in taxable accounts.
Lump sum distribution of your long term savings often
are not high enough without assuming high risk
investment positions to duplicate annuities.
Ask what other benefits might be offered if you maintain
Nearly 80% of the members of our graduate course in
Professional Development rank security or certainty as
a leading desire. Thus, a high percentage sense a higher
level of un-certainty.
I led a seminar recently on ‘Dealing with Uncertainty’ where
the attendees were asked what were they uncertain about.
Was it how to make good decisions, or
What should be their next career step, or
Should they stop with a MS, or
How to do a good job search, or
How long should they expect to stay at a job, when should
they move, how do you look for a position while working,
What do you do if your boss disagrees with you or
does not like you, or…
You might get the point. Then, I asked them to share
their uncertainty with others before asking them to
discuss what feelings do the uncertainty evoke?
Did they feel confused, or anxious, or frustrated, or
stuck (and not able to change or move), or making false
starts? The top three feelings they expressed were:
anxious, confused and frustrated.
We talked that many of their situations were created by
the circumstances that they were in influenced by outside
forces. They have relatively little control over these.
What they each have control over is how they individually
respond to the feelings that the circumstances evoke.
Those who felt confused might lack VISION. What are
their career objectives?
Have they done a S-W-O-T, strengths-weaknesses,
opportunities and threats analysis?
Do they participate in setting goals, performing a “gap
analysis” and design a personal development plan?
Do they have a Z Plan, a personal desired outcome
when everything comes out “jelly-side up”?
Those who felt anxious might lack the NECESSARY
SKILLS. Have they performed a personal self assessment?
Do they know soft and wise skills that they are expected
to display and will provide advantages? Do they know
how to manage and build personal self esteem?
Ref. Brian Tracy
Those who felt frustrated might not have developed and
used available RESOURCES. Have they mentors that
seem committed to them? Are they aware of legal
counsel of Al Sklover for employment issues? Are
they aware of the WRAP method (Widen options,
Reality check solutions, Attain distance/perspective
and Prepare to be wrong)
Working through these brought some clarity to dealing
with each person’s sense of uncertainty.
Thanks to Hari Narayanan for bringing the uncertainty
matrix to my attention.
A colleague/collaborator and I were conversing about
mentoring and mentoring programs. She was telling me
about the struggles when discussing what is important,
who should be targeted and what would a successful program
She brought up the finding that different parts of an organization,
like marketing, finance, medical affairs (medical device mfg),
and R&D views mentoring differently.
Some parts think of the role as helping new members come up
to speed with the culture because turn over is high. Another
part of the company has very low turnover, flat organizational
structure and intense detailed work. (You almost have to have
a retirement party to induce a change.)
Thus, mentoring in specific companies can assume a company
cultural bias to meet the needs at a particular point in time or
departments that it serves.
So the roles of teacher, coach, mentor and sponsor can be
adjusted. Mentoring graduate students in technical fields
needs to adjust to each field in the same view. The skill sets
can be used to meet different goals since in each field of
research, development, marketing, management, product
development and manufacturing uses the technical elements
with different goals. The emphasis is morphed to meet the needs.
She also share an interesting link to the different roles.
KAHNEMAN: IMPROVING DECISION MAKING
This brought to mind a recent book by John Lanchester
who spoke about how Kahneman influenced the interview
process in selecting military candidates (without going into
He did experiments on selection processes where
critical skills and abilities were defined, questions were
prepared by knowledgeable stakeholders for a pool of
[JOHN LANCHESTER How to speak money: What the
money people say—and what it really
means, Norton & Company,
New York 2014]
He then had a random portion of the group take objective
measure tests before interviewing.
Better selections were made when the intuition of
interviewers were supplemented by independent testing
So, in various places this additional testing is being done.
Lanchester also presented remarkable meanings of
business terms which technical people might find useful.
failing upwards: someone who screws up and is promoted
to a bigger job just as the first result collapses
fiscal and monetary: fiscal means dealing with taxes and
spending, controlled by government; monetary means
dealing with interest rates, controlled by the central bank.
“a haircut:“ in investment bonds, people who have lent money
are not going to get all of their money back.
“hollowing out:” process by which jobs disappear from the
economy while appearances remain the same.
At its peak, Kodak employed 140,000 and valued at $28B.
Instagram was sold to Facebook for $1B in 2012 and employed
“hype cycle:” process involving new inventions, technology
or product design arrives with much fanfare and is found not
to live up to its claims.
McJobs: low status, low-pay, low-security, low-prospect
jobs like at a franchise as McDonalds.
Types of unemployment: frictional, structural and cyclical
frictional: people move, voluntarily choose to change
structural: loss of jobs due to technological change or
obsolescence (chemical photography)
cyclical: loss of jobs due to boom and bust cycles of
the economical system
Our long term health and financial security often follow
family as important and indeed “priorities” in our lives.
It is reason enough to keep an open eye and mind to
tips, strategies and changes to investments, IRAs
and 401K accounts that are linked to. [Not being
an expert, more to share items of potential value to
Negotiating for various items is a second topic.
As it is a subject we do not identify as important,
but it really is something we do not only when we
are hired but throughout our life. The context in
this post is for women professionals salaries.
Looking for answers to what is important in
our lives is the third link. While it is done in the
context of business and economists, I dare say it
is a common area of interest for chemists and
technical professionals of all levels and disciplines.
It is sorely missed in our world view.
IRA ACCOUNT SCRUTINY
SOURCE: L. Suanders, WSJ 10-11-14, p. B8
“Scrutinizing Supersize IRAs“
While the comments offer considerable backlash
from those who legally took advantage of things
the lawmakers could not envision, the article
offers some advice. It offers
1. “if you have an IRA that holds nontraded assets,
make sure to cross every “T” and dot every “I” for
2. Don’t count on your IRA surviving many decades.
3. Consider maximizing contributions to tax
sheltered plans now.”
NEGOTIATIONS: SALARY MAY REFLECT “ASK GAP”
SOURCE: John Bussey, WSJ 10-11-14 P. B4
“Gender wage gap may reflect ask gap“
The comments to this article go outside the bounds
of a plain hypothesis. The idea is to ask for what you
identify as a priority. If you do not ask it is rarer
that you will get it. To ask “put your best case
forward and ask…”
While social scientist have a list of explanations
for differences between men and women– job
choice, career interruption, experience, being
in a union, hours of work, child care, [from article],
asking for a raise is a difference– men ask more often
by putting their best case forward.
APPROACH TO WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU IN LIFE
SOURCE: Schumpeter, the Economist, 10-4-14, P76
When we retire is when we often wait to figure
out what is important. It is too late. You have
heard stories about suicides in offices of people
who let everything go except their business or career.
This article cites several examples of people who
think about and establish their priorities as part
of the daily adult lives. The article is worth pondering.
If interested in this, the book by Greg McKeown,
Essentialism gives you more depth.
Can anyone predict her or his future career path?
If you use people’s careers from an earlier generation,
there are few timely examples. Most are out of date.
Why? It is hard to predict who will be around doing
similar things in ten years. Much of the advice I have
read speaks about transferable skills. Nonetheless,
researching, deeper planning and practicing formal skills
successfully trumps the ‘wishful thinking’ in “transferable
skills” for a majority of cases. A link is provided hints
at “LinkedIn age” strategies.
Recently, I traveled with checked baggage in two
airports and lost a checked bag in one and a carry-on
bag in a second. Both were recovered without any losses
except time for recovery and ‘worry-greys.’ One was the
airline’s problem, for which we could have received
reimbursement of the checked baggage fee (Alaska Air,
but we needed to file the claim right then and there.)
How much attention do you pay to the the luggage you
buy and use and what you pack in checked and carry-on
luggage. Links offer very good suggestions that may
save you a bunch.
When recruiters and interviewers rate the biggest
interviewing mistake, they list a dozen with the most
revealing being not having good questions to ask about
the company, the job, the industry and priorities (without
being disrespectful or negative in any way). Find a link
to interview questions you might ask in your interview
TRANSFERABLE SKILLS FALLACY
SOURCE: J. Cummings, Aresumefortoday Blog
Jean opens up a ‘can of worms’ by suggesting in her blog
that in the current Internet-dominant-use age, the ‘beatified’
transferable skills is a tougher sell for people who wish
to change fields. In fact, she goes on to point out that
due to Linkedin, recruiters can demand their top choices
for positions meet all of the job description’s ‘must’
This spells out some career management planning
and proactive steps to take. Deeply study and determine
the professional industry and field that will be yours
for the next decade. It will, if not is, be more difficult to
switch, and be successful, when you are at senior levels.
“Play the field if you want in your twenties, but settle down
in your 30s”.
“Develop the core, desired skills and keep your eye on your
goal a couple of years down the road and manage your
BAGGAGE TIPS FOR TRAVELING
SOURCES: The middle seat, WSJ 8-14-14,
“To catch luggage thieves, high definition cameras and
“Six rules for luggage security,”
- valuables, breakables (chargers, meds, papers) in small bags
- roller bags - be prepared to check, by having a small bag
of perishable items inside ready to be removed for hand carry.
- consider your security vs. convenience in choosing bags.
- pack as if your bag will be ‘rifled’
- get to baggage claim early to watch for your bag [I did
in SeaTac and my bag was digitally followed all the way
to Seattle, only to find it was “hung up on the escalator track”
I knew it did not come out.]
- tell the police immediately and be a bit of a pest.
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS TO ASK
Fifteen rules of thumb for framing questions and Ten
great questions to ask are primo! Know the ‘dumb dozen’….
Over the last few years in graduate student self-assessments, one
of the leading values that they express is for Security. In a sense,
we can all relate to the desire for a secure future.
Interestingly, very recently an accomplished scientist who was hired
by a drug discovery company CEO was publicly fired
(ie. story in the WSJ) for not rapidly leading his team to develop
new profitable products.
He had been there but 7 months…
Security needs “a 21st century meaning in technical careers.”
It is the ability to look where fields and needs are moving and
proactively seek out skills preparing us to contribute and
have further development plans.
Desperation, exasperation, and despair appear in the eyes of many
STEM field graduates about what they will do for STEM JOBS. It is
more about “minding the gap” between what is taught and practiced
in your education and training and what is needed in emerging and
growing fields. Just as the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky
said ‘pay attention to where the puck is going to be, not where it
What societies do you belong to? What local sections do you
actively participate in? How do you decide? What is offered and
WIIFM (what is in it for me)? Just as the Internet has triggered
changes in marketing and sales of books, consumer items, and all manner
of knowledge sharing (MOOCS, weblogs, webinars) it is also changing
the playing field for technical societies.
SECURITY IS THE VALUE OF APPLYING YOUR STRENGTHS
FOR EVOLVING DEMANDS AND PROACTIVELY WORKING
ON PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT PLANS GETTING US READY.
SOURCE: Career Planning Career Mapping Tool MONSTER
Monster has put forward a forward seeking tool that might
be of value to your thinking process about managing your
However, leaving this on a computer or in a cloud file
while seeming to be current misses the urgency humans place
in face-to-face interactions.
Plan to develop mentors, sponsors and referrals by working hard
to help others meet their goals. Lou Adler offered salient advice
- get help in being a “perfect fit” for an opening.
- people who refer you for an opening, help themselves by helping
- know what recruiters seek when filling a position (they work for
the company), and give examples in your resume and relate stories
when you interview
Security is also about protecting your valuable information,
reputation and computer resources. In a podcast I recently listened
to I became convinced to explore ‘Krebs on Security.‘
- security tools
STEM JOBS: SHORTAGE OF JOBS or SHORTAGE OF SKILLED
We need to “keep up with the times.” If my university is not dedicated
to doing it, I need to find other avenues. If my employer does not have
the funds or give me the time to do it, I have to find other avenues.
We must keep abreast of evolving needs of employers.
EXAMPLE: 25 years ago only a few places sought HTML coders.
Ten years later, your entry card was punched with HTML experience.
HTML is less a key but a commodity today. Jobs can be had with a
lower salary or for niche hiring (projects).
Other experience with cloud computing and analytics seems a better path.
There is a “gap” between curves of skill level in what we learn and
what is needed in positions. Peter Grey points out to independently
learn and gain experience in emerging technologies and critical ‘hard
skills’. Gain experience and meet goals in new areas of challenge
instead of repeating previous career path efforts. Learn from and keep
peers in your network.
Further reading from a recruiter about STEM jobs.
TRENDS IN TECHNICAL SOCIETIES
The debate goes on: Is it worthwhile to belong to a technical
The presence of the Internet and online Open Access Technical literature
might influence some segments of the professional population.
The need shifts depending upon the fields that you are involved,
your current and future needs, and your personal assessment and
how you would use the society for your advantage (WIIFM).
Some questions to help you decide about society membership:
Are you stuck where you are with little or no help out? (connections,
networking, sense for where field is moving and what is emerging,
access to leaders and hiring managers, finding solutions to problems,
finding resources and tools to solve problems)
Do you have mentors to ask about alternatives for decisions?
Do you feel that you are doing something that has already been solved
by someone else before? (Googling your question does not help!)
Are there situations that a group effort in advocating a cause would
be much more effective?
Some questions to help you decide about belonging to a large, broadly-
involved organization or a smaller, more cutting edge, faster moving
Do you want to be elected, volunteer for and serve in a leadership
capacity? (chances are better in smaller org. or a local section)
How are you planning to continuously improve and update your
skills to be prepared for the future?
How will safety and common good be served best? Prevention
(like checklists) rather than band-aiding failing flow chart or procedures
BONUS: It is noteworthy to point out an organization that is
reinventing itself as it sees the changing landscape in publishing.
The way they are doing it is an example to point out.
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 in
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) .
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
The turn out last Thursday at the Local Section meeting
was quite good as Katherine Lee moderated a ‘right on
target’ panel discussion entitled “Alternate Careers for
Chemists, or what I want to be when I grow up”.
It featured three chemistry trained people who have
transitioned into impactful careers:
Accounting: Chris Montean, Ernst & Young
Venture Capital: Eddine Saiah, Atlas Venture
Intellectual Property Attorney: Heidi Erlacher, Mintz, Levin,
Each one was progressing well in their careers and found
(1)they were “stuck in a rut” with limited futures or
(2)found their current roles doing more “paper pushing and
‘administrivia” and less science. learning and exploration or
(3)be limited to working at the bench where her legal intuition
and technical strengths could be leveraged for much more.
They all demonstrated curiosity and related stories of how
they found a path with an open mind, adapting (learning through
difficulties), and broadening their perspectives of what they were
good at and found they received satisfaction from.
ASKING GOOD QUESTIONS
Throughout the panel discussion, one or two questions that
clearly resonated with the audience.
People noticed not only the responses but also who the
questioner was and how they articulated their query. It is
situations like this that professionals notice who asks the
“aha” question making the session real value. The timing,
the tenor and the tone make a difference in a good question.
I remarked to several people that I was interested in a couple
of companies that a colleague had interviewed for. One
person, Maya, asked about this approach of me pursuing things
on another’s behalf. This is one of the things good networks do.
Committed networks are allies for you and do some of the
due diligence that you would want to do.
While meeting a number of people I encountered colleagues
who I had not seen in some time and caught up with what they
were doing. Several new people approached me and are now
part of my Linkedin Connections. Several asked for advice
OTHER AREAS JOB GROWTH
One questioner asked other areas where our technical skills
as scientists would be strengths. So we met afterwards and
I shared some items that have been shared in the blog, including
intersection of fields
defense related devices for security
material science and engineering
therapies for bugs that are pan resistant
computational chemistry, property and toxicology predictions
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.
HT and I have known each other for a few years and collaborated
on some projects successfully. He is looking for a position
and seems overwhelmed with daily pressures.
He seeks a position that will last for a decade or more and
provide a sense of security for himself and his family. Is that
realistic in today’s economy, workforce demands and personal
Recently, “On Point” presented a segment on “tours of duty”
employment cycles based on a Reid Hoffman HBR article.
While this may not fit everyone’s picture, it is a reality for
several fields and locations.
It is a mindset that “freelancers” share. In order to be
successful one needs to adopt an entrepreneurial spirit
about your job search. Douglas Rushkoff has written an
interesting book about some of the forces that generate this
reality in “Present Shock” where HT and others seem “overwound”
with too many pressures.
Rushkoff points out that
1. we have lost the sense of our life’s narrative and are pushed
into many pressures in the moment– work, car, rent, daily events,
2. we are constantly interrupted by various communication
media and find we are at the beckon and call of ever changing
things at the same time– constant needs. (He calls this digiphrenia.)
3. we relate to global trends (unemployment, advertized “happiness”,
dominance of ‘branding’, loss of beginnings and endings, etc.). This
leads to despair and loss of hope. We need to define our separate
agenda and purpose.
It is hard to separate ourselves from the tornado of effects
and become grounded. Reassess what steps to take.
Suggestion: Do a personal self assessment and pursue
mentors to establish goals and create a narrative. It may
involve a tour of duty. Worth considering.
One of the MUD CARDS in a recent workshop asked:
How do I express to people that I am seeking employment
or a change of positions without seeming to beg or needing
to express why?
In today’s very mobile employment scene, changing jobs occurs
for many reasons and more frequently than we expect and at
times when we might not expect to.
My first inclination offers that we should in constant “committed
networking” mode. It helps you maintain relevance and contact
- in your field and outside of your field
- at the same stage of your career and at earlier and later stages
- needing help and offering help to others, even if nothing comes
back in return.
A step before committed networking involves you performing a
personal self assessment about what your motivations are
for employment at this point in time and perhaps if you
are tuned to near term changes, in your near future. Are you
motivated by: advancement, affiliation, balance, excitement,
ability to contribute to the greater good, security, desire to
learn, respect, — whatever it is!
Figure out if it is your feelings or the position that you are
in (if you seek a change from current employment). The
“rub” you may have may start with current job conflicts
(boss, responsibilities, time commitments, travel, co-workers,
mission, security), but evaluate if it is in your personal motivations
or in the position. A change of positions, if it is in your
motivations, might not be satisfied with a change of positions.
Amy Gallow authored a thoughtful HBR piece on modifying
one’s current roles and responsibilities to improve personal
job satisfaction without formally changing positions.
Perhaps the most telling approach involves understanding
the “interviewing continuum” and the role of networking
conversations, small talk and introductions. Viewing your
job search as part of series of interviews that you have
significant influence in participating helps you proactively
pursue positions without feeling as if begging.
Many indicators in the slow economy that “permanent
employment” is for the few (due to budgets, cut-backs,
grant funding decreases). All employment for
knowledge workers, however, is full-time; even if your
assignment is as part-time or contract work since it
means that they do not want to compensate you for full
time with salary, benefits and post-employment costs.
You are usually ‘on call, working from home, and
This entry offers (1) a counter to ominous 401K
changes, that it is still in our best interests to use.
(2) A pessimist’s view of the job horizon is that the
job market, that is more and more ‘not advertised,’
will challenge us to adapt to unfamiliar tactics,
(3) one being what freelancers do to reconcile
their ‘episodic’ income streams.
MORE ON 401K CHANGES
SOURCE: K. Greene, WSJ Jan. 7, 2013, p. B7
“How good is your company’s 401(k)?”
While in the last ‘W-O’ segment we spoke to some
changes, this article provide more of the same. BUT,
I note one of the comments “there are no other
programs that give immediate tax deferral on
contributions, employer contributions, deferred
taxation on gains/earnings, allows ‘institutional
rates’ of charges and shielding of assets from
Be diligent in reviewing your strategy.
SOURCE: L. Weber ad L. Kwoh, WSJ Jan. 9, 2013,
p. B1 ” Beware of phantom job listing”
“With the … market weak…, … back-channel methods
are the rule…” One comment summed it up, if you
see an ad for a job description, it has already been filled.
In the day when the talent market was tight, the
‘hidden’ job market was an apt description. Katherine
Hansen has talked about the unadvertised job market
where networking is one of many strategies. Positions
are not just hidden or restricted.
It calls for a “freelancer strategy” to know that your
career is in your hands and not in just one location.
Learn the skills of the successful freelancer– what
are your notable assets, what are people willing to pay
for you to do, build security by helping colleagues
help other colleagues, without expecting anything
SOURCE: Interview of S. Horowitz, Forum
Jan. 4, 2013 Freelancer’s Manifesto
Website link to an award winner who has initiated
programs to assist freelancers navigate the challenging
world where the economy, job market, and organizations
may challenge “at will” knowledge workers. As the number
of not fully employed grows with time, whether temp,
part-time, contracted or in transition, this podcast
offers a compass. There are no quick fixes.