This week we talked about what is valued and sought for in
We (M. Godek and I) asked our seminar group:
What might you seek from a mentor?
Some answered one or two of the following–
Where are your career directions moving? Where are you now?
What are your visions and aspirations, strengths, weaknesses
and how to relate them.
In addition, suggestions to build soft, technical and wise skills
Navigate the organization, explore new ideas, new career path
Expand your committed network, build confidence.
Then, with many questions and stories, we discussed
characteristics of good mentors, how to meet and invite
a mentoring relationship that is win-win.
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.
IDPs– We find these shortcut tools in many organizations. We have
shied away from bringing this up after a conversation with Judy Grutter
a true guru in the field of career management and personal counseling.
IDPs are commonly planning documents or templates completed over
the next period, commonly, a year. They are reviewed, revised and
discussed with supervision with the aim of guiding performance to
achieve objectives leading to outcomes.
There is a common misapplication of this format to apply to managing
careers and long term goal achievement. No disagreement that
objective setting to achieve goals is reasonable and important for
ourselves, teams and organizations.
AWARENESS OF STRENGTHS VALUABLE
There is no argument that a person is greatly aided in her or his career
quest by doing a 360-degree, self assessment of emotional intelligence,
hard skills and interests, values and strong talents, personal behavior
tendencies, cultural biases, experiences and expectations.
Expecting IDPs to do all this is just the beginning of expecting to do
There are other skills, soft and wise skills, that most IDPs seem to miss.
Some IDPs try to fix weaknesses and others extend a person’s strengths.
Nonetheless, the author needs to own the document and not be just what
the boss wishes.
What are some downsides of exclusively expecting IDPs to be a career
1. needs to establish desired outcomes in an ever changing marketplace
2. needs to have clear objectives
getting a job, any job is not enough
3. requires specific priorities and have strategies and keystone habits
to focus, limit distractions and understand perfect is the enemy of good.
4. can put undue pressure on individual if someone else creates the
5. understand human’s Fear of failure and be resilient (wise skill)
6. adapt to changing conditions and needs
There are ways of dealing with the career management uncertainty. We
need to understand both the piece that IDPs may partially provide, and
all the other pieces that must be supported elsewhere.
This blog suggests that career management have three options in
planning– specific focus, contingent outcomes, and a ‘Z plan’ where
everything works out perfectly.
There are so many media entries in video, e-books and
podcasts these days that provide “secrets” to land
a job you might desire. Mostly the contents are
recycled material that helps you become “qualified.”
Competition has increased. Advice might offer getting
“ahead of the curve,” but how long in advance can you
have the newest item?
There are some honest fundamentals relating to the
human condition and psychological behavior that
can be lasting skills that are useful in many areas.
Indeed, these skills give you an advantage over “qualified”
candidates who have the required “soft” skills and necessary
“hard Skills.” To differentiate them we call them “wise
Midcareer people also develop capacities to discipline
their attention and perceive trends with intuition.
Three skills appearing on the horizon of skills that might
differentiate you from other qualified candidates are:
having a personal “growth” agenda,
inserting pauses into your NOW habit.
Taken from John Maxwell’s work seeking growth allows
you to see yourself and add value to you and your actions.
In his 15 Laws of Growth book, Maxwell lays out a
reasoning and a method to counter human frailties
in order to balance your life and improve relationships
and careers..the growth paradigm
sees the big picture, prioritizes
measures your improvements and applies
Amanda Ripley wrote about Rick Riscorla who may have been
the wisest hire Morgan Stanley ever made. He was responsible
for emergency evacuation of employees in the twin towers
attack. Ripley breaks down the psychological impact of
people facing disasters and pieces together what helps people
develop a “survival arc.”
Constantly measuring and improving training in ways of
simulating likely scenarios, like evacuations
Develop and use “breathing exercises” in the face of startle
Know that there is a way out, positive attitude is a force
multiplier and we can learn from positive and negative events.
INSERTING PAUSES TO REFLECT
Many can identify one of their weaknesses as procrastination
in the face of fears, uncertainties and doubts. There is a
common understanding that our brains work in several modes
and that the thinking mode is slower reacting. So when
we are in the middle of an action or reluctant to take action,
you can gain much by pausing to reflect on the experience
to learn from it. Maxwell offers four I’s to spell out your
Investigate - reflect and gain insight
Incubate - ask questions, ask for help, help others
Illuminate - allow yourself to internally brainstorm
Illustrate - look for analogies and metaphors, as stories
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.
Individuals forming start-up companies have many things on
their mind. One of the ones ACS Entrepreneur Network
points to is raising capital from investors. Two links to
the Accelerators blog highlight what they
might think about first.
When we wish to hire qualified applicants to STEM
positions all stakeholders face challenges with many points
of view, including fairness, equity, people with the right
skill-set (soft, hard and wise skills), legal, ethical, political
and more. Interesting discussions of H-1B programs in
2015 from the business perspective is linked below.
Finding ways to use CO2 as a feedstock in an efficient
process for value added chemicals is worthwhile research.
Recent advances at Berkeley are linked.
START-UP ACTIVITIES BEFORE VCs
SOURCES: WSJ, 5-28-15, P. B6, “What startups should
do before raising cash;” WSJ, 6-4-15, P. B6, “When
should start-ups set out to raise money.”
There is a lot of hype and PR in what you can read on
this topic. Know when you are ready, know that a
lot of burdens are placed on the start-up when
investors are involved.
Investors often exchange capital for shares in the
company, betting on their future. The more they
invest the more they will expect. Plan carefully for
sustained growth and know where the investors’
money is going.
The first article’s examples are not “pure” startups.
H-1B GAMESMANSHIP MIGHT BE SHORT-TERM
SOURCE: WSJ, 6-3-15, P. A4, ” Firms, Workers Try
to Game Visa Lottery,”
The comments to this article show how much heartache
headache and struggle this complex situation is
providing. Where is fairness in this tragicomedy?
The article points out some observables, comments
fill in some of the realities that are not mentioned.
SOlAR POWERED GREEN CHEMISTRY TO CAPTURE
SOURCE: Photonics Spectra, June 2015, P. 60
“Solar array turns carbon dioxide to useful chemicals“
This has the potential to “change the chemical and
oil industry.” It uses silicon and titanium oxide
nanowires combined in the laboratory with anaerobic
bacteria in water in model systems.
BONUS: READING MUTUAL FUND PROSPECTUSES
SOURCE: WSJ 6-8-15, P. R7, What a top 10 List
Does not tell you.”
Fund’s holdings can change before publication.
Sector allocation consistency may be more reliable
about holdings in addition to turnover.
Comments are helpful.
SEC Form N-Q- end of 1st, 3rd Q
SEC Form N-CSR- end of 2nd, 4th Q
Another map to consider for career management in
the UK is offered by Vitae. Where this NESACS blog
describes a focus on the interviewing continuum, with
the zeroth level (self assessment), steps before, during
and after interviewing, Vitae partitions the career
management steps into:
- understand yourself
- plan your career
- hear from others
- virtual interviews
- explore the market
- network and develop matches
Jean Cummings wrote about the significant rise in the near
future of contract technical workers. To be competitive in this
emerging marketplace of multi-national and multi-cultural
professionals, she highlighted being able to
1. present your goals, values and attributes to different
audiences who may ask for your services or you see a match
to what you can offer. (your brand statement)
2. describe stories that provide clear examples of your efforts,
outcomes and impacts. (STAR or SARI, situation-task-action-
result or situation-action-result-implication)
3. develop habit stacks (demonstrating desirable soft skills)
and wise skills that will differentiate you.
This is a daunting task. She offered two dozen tips for working
with recruiters for getting their attention, positive feedback
and interest in bringing you on-board.
This entry is about mentoring.
While no one has all the answers. No human can realize all the
history, interactions and subtleties around human situations. Yet,
there can be real benefit if we develop mentoring relationships.
In fact, there is a site that displays a number of well-known
people and the individuals who were their mentors.
Not only are recent graduates and post-docs “in the hunt” for
their next position, people in positions are asking how should
I position myself for being available for being considered for
my next position.
What should I do? they all ask their mentors. Consider:
Ideas (what is going on in parallel fields),
information (how do I express myself and get feedback),
interviews (what are the emerging trends for making ourselves
INTERNATIONAL SURVEY OF CAREER PATHS - SPIE
SPIE reported a telling snapshot of its membership’s typical
workweek, job satisfaction, mobility, how they define success
What was telling about this article is the international nature of
the survey and the added cultural dimension overlaid on the photonics
industry. The remarkable feature that this adds is offering a study
in a parallel field to the chemical enterprise that may hint at
similarities and differences that are not “teased out” from
TAKE TIME TO MEET WITH MENTORS; TAKE TIME TO
UPDATE THEM; OFFER TO HELP
Despite all the advances in technology, in person, face-to-face
meetings sets the “gold standard” for communication. It is enhanced
by technological follow-ups. In the last week, I have interacted with
dozens of people. Each of the interactions were spurred by
making connections with individuals in face-to-face encounters.
This is a masterful “wise skill” to develop.
Ask for feedback, learn new insights, find out what is important to
ECONOMIST UPDATES PROFESSIONAL ONLINE NETWORKS
Did you know that recruiters are Linkedin’s main revenue stream?
Led by its “talent solutions” segment it pinpoints, as long as we
include the pertinent details in our profile, and keep it up, formal
academic background, experience breadth and depth, broad skill
strengths, affiliations in organizations and participation in some
groups. (If you have not gotten feedback on your profile, ask
your mentor for feedback where you wish your career’s future
In the same issue Linkedin’s competitors in France and China
(viadeo) and Germany (xing) are delineated in economics terms.
These are becoming the new exchanges for screening interviews.
Thus, having relevant up-to-date profiles using keywords that
recruiters seek is paramount.
Sitting with drinks we chatted about how their workplace culture
was changing as a result of a recent change in CEO. She mentioned
that it was quite curious and impactful that she found herself staying
quite late one evening. She took a short break and walked down the
hall and found herself seeing the new exec coming toward her. She
smiled and greeted him. He responded and asked what kept her late
It was review time and the forms they need to fill out take a great deal
of time and effort. He was grateful to receive the frank and honest
input. He had some ideas about how to improve them.
A week later the division devised a new research reporting scheme,
much like group meetings reporting and commenting on literature
results. Her group was selected to go first and so she sat in the middle
and near the front. The CEO came in just before the start and sat
directly in front of her. At a break in the session he turned to her
and engaged in small talk. Then, he mentioned that he had put in place
a change to the review process and wanted her to come to him and
let him know if it was shorter, easier and met their needs.
She was approached by a number of her direct reports and superiors
about how did she have the new CEO want to speak to her. What did
he say, etc.
It goes to point out the importance of confidence, and the ability to
engage in small talk and know that decision makers need unfiltered
information with specific data.
IMPORTANCE OF SMALL TALK
NPR, C. Trageser, 11-30-13 wrote a piece and offered a linked
podcast so you can gain more information on the importance of
small talk. It is good reading.
Note especially the “contrariwise” comment not liking it. “…failure
to hire the most qualified individual the result of a poor hiring process
rather than scientists not learning skills relevant to their jobs after
spending nigh three decades on developing their necessary skills…”
Technical skills alone are not enough to be offered the jobs you
seek. Round out your education with co-curricular skills
INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE APPLIED TO PRECISION
Robert Stevenson American Laboratory N/D 2013 made me want
to change my plans at an upcoming meeting when he extracted the
essence of Eric Topol’s book and distributed it throughout an
article on precision medicine. Precision medicine is where
patients and health care providers team up to assess and treat risks
and deliver “the right [therapy] in the right dose at the right time.”
20000 genes are regulated by >4 million regulators. Complex.
No surprise that one mutation can disable a “stop signal”
“Stop signals implicated in autoimmune diseases and cancer.”
Personal electronics ideal interface for connecting biosensors to
the digital world.
FDA approved pills with RF chips to “time stamp” ingestion of pills.
Patients diagnosed with cancer should request a portion of their
biopsy frozen for sequencing and “inquire about whole genome
Decreasing value of “population medicine”
Strong consideration for “”no nuke” policy for exposure to radiation.
Server farms consume as much energy as the world’s airlines.
BIOPHOTONICS SURPASSING BIOMIMETICS
Caren Les reported Eijiro Miyako’s composite biooptical
material from butterfly wings and nanotubes using lasers
Should I be surprised? At a recent workshop we
addressed “wise skills” which are deliberate, proactive
skills that we practice as a result of co-curricular
learning, not the “hard skills” from our formal education
and not “soft skills” that all employers expect each one
of us to demonstrate and use. Wise skills set us apart
from all other the highly qualified candidates.
Surprise #1: Many could identify with procrastination
as a common weakness, once they thought about their
behaviors and responses to situations. They liked
learning about the “NOW Habit” which is a stepwise
understanding of usual causes of procrastination and a
thoughtful routine to “push through” the barriers to
reach our objectives.
Procrastination is that habit we use to “ease our fears,
anxieties and self-doubts.[the cue]”
It can result in “busywork”. But, another outcome of the
cue is to treat everything that comes up, as important.
This results in many interruptions, which adds to more
time to restart our work and delaying doing the important
Plan to do play things. So that you can return to the urge
to do work toward goals.
Set goals and workable objectives. Think backwards from
when you want to achieve your goals.
Know your “flow states” and how to enter them.
Plan that you will have adversity. Learn from each setback.
Surprise #2: It is possible to identify habits that do not
lead to positive outcomes. But what was surprising
members did not realize you can intentionally change
habits to achieve desired outcomes, by knowing:
CUE-ROUTINE-REWARD (The ‘Habit outline’ of Duhigg.)
This is something they could do for themselves, but it
takes specific action and thought to develop
Keystone Habits. (Duhigg, Chapter 5 in book)
Surprise #3: Some members mentioned that the pace
of the workshop changed from one section to another part
of the workshop. Where there was interaction among
participants it seemed slower but was absorbing. When it
was more lecture, it moved faster and then engaged the audience
via questioning and response. There could have been another
exercise, one commented. I thanked them for the comments,
the whole strategy was to reveal the importance of
[liking the exercises and sharing with others],
[creating incidents and situations where surprises or unexpected
outcomes were teachable moments, yet we finished ahead of time]
and keystone habits.
Surprise #4: Subliminally at the beginning, we did a series of
activities that were analyzing who was attending the session. Yet,
each person felt the exercise revealed things to each participant.
This was a pursuit of reciprocal audience analysis, where the
presenter learned about the audience and the audience learned
about themselves. [Audience analysis is another wise skill.]
A colleague currently in an industrial post doc
position in a radiopharmaceutical firm contacted
me. JJ has been there for nearly a year and wondered
what he should do next.
Despite the pronouncements about the need for more
technically trained scientists and engineers for future
prosperity, jobs and careers are not always clear.
We often hear about how various industrial firms are
starting, continuing or expanding their post doctoral
programs. CENews recently reported as much. Yet,
we do not hear about what to do next. The career path
is not so clear.
[The case is the same in the UK: Meetings are conducted.]
JJ indicated that he had a discussion with his supervisor
about continuing on. The boss indicated that his work was
appreciated. While he would like a permanent position,
he learned about a potential 2 year extension on his unique,
first time in the company post-doctoral position.
We talked about it being very good that JJ had established
good working relationships with his supervisor. It might
be appropriate to inquire if you could be offered a longer
term commitment for working at the company. You liked
working there and would like to have your career grow at
the company. [if that is the case.] You might ask what are
the chances and what is the decision timeline so that you
can work together productively.
Other things to consider
We know post doctoral appointments are usually temporary
and that industrial post-docs can pose limitations on
publishing, networking and attending meetings. See also.
How are the business conditions in the company’s future?
Are sales and profits improving? Are staff being added?
New products? New customers?
What should he do?
- Assess if there is one or more positions currently open or
available for him to fill. Speak with people of influence and
information in the company.
- Determine what are your accomplishments in your post
doc. What are accomplishments that you can insert into
your resume? Should you consider using a List of Projects
page? What have you patented? Published? Presentations
at technical meetings and with customers? Consider contacting
customers. These are mostly involving application of
technical skills and developing new skills.
- Have you worked on improving your soft skills? How is
your communication, working in groups, coming up with new
ideas, implementing things and scaling up? Any interactions
with customers, vendors, negotiations?
- Have you developed new wise skills for your self that will
set you apart from your competition? Do you have mentors?
Have you improved your intuition? Do you have a working
set of keystone habits– avoiding procastination with the NOW
habit? Have you further developed your “committed network.”
Now is the time to use it.
Please remember, verbal offers are not legally binding. If
you receive an offer verbally, ask for it in writing with all the
Does controversy prevent you from putting your ideas in the
public domain? As we know, when we introduce a new or a
counter-intuitive notion, many will criticize or disbelieve.
The key thing is to listen. Then, think seriously to
devise experiments to test thoughtful hypotheses. It is
time to fully observe and interrogate from several perspectives.
NEW TREND: video conferencing growth
More and more virtual video conferencing is a method of
choice for people to get together, just like “drive through”
windows for transactions. Rachel Nielsen describes business
results, companies involved, and relating it to CERN’s high
level of virtual meetings .
OBSERVATIONS: The bigger trend than having meetings is
collaboration at a distance using iPads, handhelds, sharing
data and workscreens on projects. This leads to a flurry of
hardware and software solutions to develop needed collaborative
meeting room functionality.
IMPLICATIONS: Video conferencing is evolving as an
important co-curricular skill for many fields.
1. “I” reveals your relational status- Pennebaker
E. Bernstein authored a report summarizing Pennebaker’s
work on conversational use of pronouns. Controversy
surrounds some of the article’s assertions relating to
use of “I” and the “status of the person”. She offers
that a person who uses “I” less frequently is the higher
status person and can be associated with “hiding the
truth.” While she does indicate that “mirroring” the
conversation partner is helpful, use the “use of I” in
your self expression while observing verbal and
nonverbal signals in your listeners.
TAKE AWAY: Different signals are assessed with the use
of “I” in communication. It is wise to test with a mentor
to see what fits best in different situations and audiences.
2. Computer models to predict job success using skills,
behaviors and values- Google, Conagra, Avon Products
Rachel King wrote a piece that revealed that a number of
firms have developed algorithms to infer who would be
good hires, who would want to leave a firm and who should
be Fast Tracked for higher positions.
TAKE AWAY: In the world of “big data” many computational
studies may be hypothesized and conclusions inferred. They
are correlational and significant ones that affect people,
future possibilities and long term issues should be specifically
tested and confirmed. See a series of commentaries.
I was so pleased that in each of the last two weeks to
be able to meet with undergraduates at Niagara University
and UCONN and share with them some observations
about employment trends.
There are two headline areas that were shared. The
first headline is that careers have morphed into something
less predicable, more varied and much more dependent on
technical or hard skills, soft skills and wise skills.
Along with this morphing is a media domination of our
attention that Douglass Rushkoff has written about freeing
ourselves from the tornado of effects that the loss of
personal narratives, change of the perspective of time and
multitasking to ground ourselves in a purposeful, nurturing
world. [Suggestion: Do a personal self assessment and pursue
mentors to establish goals and create a narrative.]
The second headline is the Chemistry Jobs– Simplified
View paradigm of four concentric circles, where the to
the center is the more focused on the disciplines of
chemistry, engineering, materials isolation, fabrication and
The second circle from the center is Chemistry based jobs
and includes extraction, manufacturing, regulatory, sales,
technical services, quality control and design.
The third circle from the center involves science-related
jobs, including biology, geology, physics, medicine, toxicology
astronomy, space science and the like. Also, policy,
journalism, business and research and grant management,
association and organizational advocacy.
Finally, the fourth concentric circle is science inspired jobs
which include venture capital, economics, futurist and movies
[from the VISION 2025 ACS Presidential Task Force of
Dr. Marinda Wu, p. 18]
There are untold numbers of ways chemistry skills and background
can and do provide jobs and future careers. To help them develop
we encouraged gaining experience via
internships [undergraduate research fits here, as well],
purposefully develop co-curricular skills,
know the importance of referrals and committed networking,
have a professional internet presence and
be willing to work your way up.
We are seriously living in a time of abundance. Wise futurists
provide many diverse possibilities, including Diamondis,
Anastas and Vaitheeswaran.
It took me by surprise this week when speaking with
Rob, when he related to me that there is a disconnect
between what recent grads think or are led to believe
and the reality in the job market. They, he said, do not
realize that skills and papers published may be ‘check
marks’ in evaluations but ’soft skills’ are looked at as
essential in the hiring process.
One soft skill that clearly stands out is confidence.
We may not have a definition on the tip of our tongue, as
it is the situational expectation that your efforts will
result in a positive outcome. This expectation leads
to a list of positives– greater energy, support from others,
goal-directed effort and cooperation. As R. Moss Kanter
points out there are three cornerstones of confidence:
accountability, collaboration and initiative to take action.
The reality is we observe a demonstration of a person’s
skills in a presentation. Having confidence goes hand-in-
hand with giving good presentations. Being confident does
NOT mean not being anxious or nervous. But it is knowing
how to rearrange all the butterflies in your stomach to fly
A person can learn good presentations skills. A person
can also gain confidence. The presentation of our technical
accomplishment is the medium by which our confidence
is displayed. [Rules of thumb.]
Gaining confidence is a common thread through a series of
stories of women entrepreneurs in the T. Corrigan and J.
Desai’s piece in the WSJ describing what it was that each
overcame in their careers to become successful.
C. Fiorino- overcame dropping out of law school by
being given the chance to exceed an entrepreneur’s
expectations, first at an entry level position. Then,
developing skills and interests where her leadership
skills could be honed.
B. Comstock- wisely learned how she could propel her
curiosity to dispel her lack of confidence to compete with
competent peers. This attention switch has allowed her
prove to herself and build a reservoir of courage to try things.
L. Tilton- challenged her self-image of being a
victim of circumstances and posed herself with goals
that had value and meaning so that she became a positive
force for good.
These stories of courage and building confidence are
central parts of what catapulted these leaders as
entrepreneurs, not only as first rate presenters. So, garner
a perspective of what a technical presentation is used for,
besides the results and conclusions.
We have shared a set of soft skills that scientists and engineers
are expected to use and display and a set of wise skills that,
when they are displayed set job seekers and those considered
for promotion apart from their competition.
Scientists, engineers, managers and leaders are considered
knowledge workers. [see some definitions of knowledge workers
at the end] Especially in mid career, they have
considerable responsibilities and expectations for which
they are evaluated and rated. We need to be mindful that
while our supervisor’s reviews are informative, our personal
assessments are what are critical to our satisfaction and
happiness. Unfortunately, these only follow, in many cases,
being let go by organizations and are part of the repertoire of
outplacement firms at higher levels. We maintain that self-
management for mid-career knowledge workers, managers
and leaders should be a regular practice. See also 1 . Self
self-discipline of attention. Hunter and Scherer wrote ‘self
management begins with attention’ and P Forni articulates the
essential role attention plays by controlling our emotions to
allow us to set goals and rationally criticize our own behaviors.
perception allows viewing the same information using more
focused attention from differing viewpoints. It is “metaphorical
thinking” in action, described as reflection and introspection.
Avoiding the Einstellung effect as described by Partnoy is another
fine example, where humans repeat old responses or behaviors
when newer and better ones are available.
self-awareness of our habits by studying our cues and outcomes
and assessing if they achieve the goals we seek. Often our
actions do not and we need to mindfully address the habit, as
Duhigg has pointed out.
adapting a mindset of growth by trying new approaches like
Peter Palchinsky model, which recognizes that the real world is more
complicated and evolving all the time with “facts” being meso-
facts. see Harford and Arbesman .
Palchinsky’s approach boils down to three principles:
- Seek out new ideas and try new things
- When trying something new, do it on a scale where failure is survivable
- Seek out feedback and learn from your mistakes as you go along
Did you ever wonder where computers fit into your daily
life and into the future? Some observations:
I have seen computers transform people who don’t fit the select
“intellengencia” group become successful doing things that
did not exist before. They leave the select group behind.
I have seen computers transform the way business is done– sped up
transactions and lowered the entry costs for starting new ventures.
I have seen computers change broadcast media and perspectives on the
process for getting facts and mesofacts.
Ray Kurzweil’s latest book “How to create a mind” describes
how humans are enhancing their abilities and developing new
capabilities with computers, robots, ‘bots’ and similar networked
devices. He does this by teaching a model of the brain’s operations–
“pattern recognition theory of the mind” and relates its
structure - function relationships as understood today. Then,
he relates some of the observed limitations of the brain and
how we can put computers to use in a “gap analysis” approach
to the human situation.
This all plays into what undergraduates and recent graduates
might place into their curricula. Take courses that help them
acquire computer mindset and skill sets,
develop paradigms for creating lists and prioritzing,
be exposed to solving different kinds of problems and
participate and lead groups in thinking outside of their
current frameworks (different cultures, different industries, different
languages and tools).
Graduate students and post-docs might allow themselves the
opportunity as scientists to
self reflect on human limitations and
Then, explore how they might use computers to reach their goals.
It could be in an academic realm or it could be in an experiential
realm (internships, cross-functional programs, developing soft and
wise skills ).
Mid-career professionals and those looking to change need
to proactively continue to
be exposed to new ideas and concepts,
hone their communication skills (especially those using
computers for they are gaining importance) and
deliberate on things they might “unlearn, relearn and explore
for the first time.”
Kurzweil comments that by age twenty humans saturate their core
memory apparatus and need to unlearn things they once believed.
Arbesman wrote about meso-facts and the rule of hidden knowledge
offering that groups of people without high level expertise can come
up with ideas and solutions to problems better than many experts.
While the best talent knows that they have to do more
than “hang out a shingle” listing their talents or posting
their accomplishments on Linkedin to find a desirable
position. They are likely to find success in their
job hunt by hiring an executive agent.
Also different at the executive level are the attributes
that are highly prized. Jean Cummins listed many
of the attributes of successful executive candidates.
1. ethical behavior and expectations communicated in
thoughts, actions, and words
2. demonstrated business savvy (win wars not skirmishes)
3. intelligent bearing in many audiences
4. likeable and consistently persuasive and memorable
5. consistently accepts leadership responsibility and succeeds
6. energetic and proactive
Jean calls them by slightly different terms. The points
to note are that they are distinguished from just listing
accomplishments. They are appreciated as refinements
that make the accomplishments possible.
They are more than individual soft skills and wise skills and are
attributes to build toward. Those seeking executive positions
consider reviewing our shortened list and Jean’s longer list
of adjectives and incorporate them in their personal
descriptions and assessments.
Last week I had the pleasure to meet undergraduates
and then offer a program on “Wise Skills,” followed
by some exceptional mock interviews. After the
program at Niagara University, Professor R. Goacher
and I went over the MUD cards which presented
some of the questions the undergraduates had and
things they liked about the workshop.
Here are a couple of the questions.
1. What are some suggestions about how to calm
yourself in an interview and how to keep yourself
from fidgeting when you get nervous or don’t know
what to do with your hands?
This is a targeted question which hints at a generally
larger phobia that all people face– nervousness in
interviews and giving presentation. Some understand
from the get-go that it is normal to be nervous and
to manage it by several tactics. Two undergraduates
who took me to the class room actually saw me do
many of the things that prepared me to do well–
- 60/20 rule and know your first 2 minutes down pat
- use resources in the room– board, prepared hand-outs,
visual aids, both prepared in advance and created live
- relate to the audience and perform an “attention
switch”, where you are no longer thinking of yourself
but an actor making a case and seeking positive feedback
from the audience
- learn and develop the presentation skill of waiting,
taking pauses allowing you to think as you are delivering
and taking in audience nonverbal signals, Partnoy’s, “Wait”
is exemplary reading on this.
- know the audience
- prepare yourself by visiting the restroom before beginning
to make sure you are at your level best.
2. How can I approach someone in a networking situation?
I am young and feel that I don’t have much to offer. I don’t
want to come off as someone who needs a favor but can not
So, let me tell you what we did at Niagara. A new professor
and I went to lunch and she paid. We have jointly agreed,
yet informally, that I would be pleased and have the time to
act as a mentor. We chose our lunch items and then
proceeded to the check out where I briefly
chatted with the cashier who was there in her role for her
We got her name, the cashier learned mine and
we talked for a moment about weekend events. The new
professor then introduced herself and made a nice
Walking away, the professor commented, do you commonly
create small talk with many people, engage with and make
friendly chatter making them feel significant and present.
Yes, I responded– these are consequential strangers and
part of my network.
There are others. Several questions I have from the week
I will contact respected mentors and seek their thoughts
and advice. It is a way I keep in touch. Several former
students and colleagues will be asked the same questions
more for saying a quick hello.
Several of my competitors who professionally compete
for the same opportunities I will share what has happened
in my week of presentations. I do it even if I do not hear
back, in fact, not expecting anything in return. These are
tactics of a networker.
Then, I will at some future point contact people with whom
I work well.
Resources such as this blog are a continual refresher of
sharing well intentioned, focused on other people’s
betterment, not-personal-gain communication.
Some observed trends:
“Some schools … make career development a
mission-critical aspect of the college experience…”
L. Weber, WSJ 5-22-12
“Eliminating midlife workers has become a tacit
business practice and a disasterous socioeconomic
trend over decades…”
M. Gullette, Brandeis Magazine, Spring, 2012
“…companies are pulling back on sponsorship
for education…Schools have hired staff to serve
students that expected to leave their current company
during or within 12 months of graduating…”
M. Korn, WSJ 6-7-12
“…working a temporary assignment can be a
way to expand one’s professional network, an aid
to future job hunting.”
J. Borchardt, ACS Career Blog, 6-11-12
“Most people think of themselves as fitting
in a job within a hierarchy, like a career ladder or
escalator. The problem is the ladder and the
escalator are broken. You need to invest in your
skills and your network. Make sure you are
connected to people outside your company.
Figure out the new rules of the game.”
The world has changed… adapt.
- Gain some experience in and during your
undergraduate years; internships, summer
- Develop communication skills and learn to
be a contributing part of professional societies
[there a many ways to attend, contribute,
volunteer, organize, and learn by doing.];
student membership, ad hoc committees
- Form mentors, learn leadership by accepting
responsibility in senior undergrad and graduate
- Organize a professional and Internet presence
for yourself. Represent yourself well and
invest continously in yourself improving your
- Become adept inside and outside your
organization in wise skills, especially committed
- Learn and participate in critical “platforms”,
like LinkedIn and applicable “aps”
- Adapt to evolving situations. [Now, not
everyone is going to like this….]
Not everyone is an extravert, partner with some
one who is. Try things that will help you grow
Prosper and help each day.