Another of my articles was just posted on the ACS Careers blog. Check it out at
Archive for January, 2009
I finished reading this book this morning, and found it very interesting. It is basically short, first-person narratives from about 30 professional women scientists who are also mothers. Organized chronologically, this book provides an interesting historical perspective on how scientists who want to balance career and motherhood have progressed, or not, over the past several decades.
Each talks about how they manage the balance in their lives, over the days, months and over the lifetime of their careers. The similarities are striking – the wide-eyed innocence with which most entered the ranks, knowing that balance would be possible but not quite how, and the angst when they realized that there were no clear-cut right answers, but a just a series of difficult choices. Most went through stops and starts in their professional careers, trying different career paths and child care options until finding a balance that worked well for them.
It seemed to me that part-time and nontraditional work was used by women more in recent years, though that could just be that those women are easier to find now. I also found that the vignettes were more painful to read the further you got in the book. I suspect this is because the earlier stories are by older women, who have had time to come to terms with their choices and see their children grown and living fulfilling lives. Those later in the book are still in the middle of day care, career building, and the eternal struggle for more hours in the day.
I suppose I should find this encouraging – with the perspective of time, the women in this volume were overall happy with their choices, and had both satisfying professional careers and happy, healthy children. In science, as with raising children, it can take years of trail, error, and wondering until you finally achieve the results you have been looking for. You are never sure how things are going to turn out, and have to go with your best hypothesis and gut instinct. You do the best you can with the information you have at the time, watch closely, and stand ready to change course if things do not turn out as expected.
Science and motherhood are both difficult paths, requiring dedication and persistence, but the payoffs are big. The stories in this volume of how some women scientists have done both may serve as examples, and encourage others who choose to follow both paths.
Has anyone ever told you to take advantage of new technology in your job search? Or to do your homework before sending out a resume or going on an interview? If you wondered just exactly how to do that, wonder no more.
Jennifer Petoff has created a “knol” (unit of knowledge) that explains exactly which tools to use, how to use them, and what steps to take to identify your dream job and get it. It’s called Enhancing a Job Search Using Google Tools: Tips for PhD Students and Post-Docs. The steps she advises are right on, and should be followed by anyone looking for, or even thinking about looking for, a new position.
Jennifer does a great job of showing how meticulous research (easy now that we have the Internet) can help in planning and conducting a job search. It’s amazing how few people do even the obvious research, and Jennifer points out several less obvious techniques that will make sure you stand out from the crowd of applicants. While the specific tools used may change (and there are alternatives to most of the GoogleTools that she mentions, these techniques will always be useful.
I attended a Webinar today on behavioural interviews, and thought I’d share some of their tips with you.
They cited a statistic that behavioral based interviewing is 2 to 5 times more likely to result in a successful match than traditional interviewing. Good news for both sides!
Behavioral questions are used to try to predict on the job behavior, and make sure the candidate will fit into the culture of the company. It can also reveal why the candidate is ready to leave their current company, why they behave the way they do, and sometimes can reveal how the hiring company compares to the competition. They can also uncover information that would not have been covered in a traditional interview, and it’s harder for the candidate to just give the answers they think they interviewer wants to hear.
In any interview, the interviewer is trying to asses the candidate’s knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) and how they match those needed for the position. These might include communication, problem-solving ability, coaching, creativity and innovation, and so on. Specific KSAs will be required for each position, and will be identified in advance by the company. A behavioral question will ask the candidate to provide a specific example of a time when he/she has exhibited each trait. To follow up, probing questions are used to make the candidate elaborate, and will often reveal if the candidate is fabricating. By asking each candidate the same questions, companies can avoid any appearance of favoritism or bias.
The interviewer is trying to draw out as much information and as many examples as possible, so they can really get an understanding of how the candidate thinks, and acts. The answers are then quantitatively evaluated against “ideal” answers, and higher scoring candidates are further evaluated.
Dr Lane started by pointing out that chemistry contributes to every major industrial segment – 20K or 11% of all patents are chemical in nature. It’s a $650B industry that influences 25% of the nation’s GDP.
Dr Lane’s 7 C’s for career success are:
Competence – in your field is now price of admission, not ticket to success. Your ability to learn is vital. Must be a learner, not learned. “In times, of change, learners inherit the world, while the learned are beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. (Eric Hoffer)”
Courage – to pursue new areas, lead into new directions. Must know how to fail. Must try areas that no one has tried before. Working in new environments – generations, across cultures, etc.
Collaborative – becoming increasingly important. Chemists are being asked to address enourmous, complex, interesting problems that cross many disciplines. Teams are dynamic, globally scattered but must still work together.
Communicate – both what is said and what is not said. Young people need good written skills, but as you get older more of your contact is through oral communication. All transactions are between humans, but perhaps facilitated by technology.
Creative – inventive. Force yourself out of the box.
Committed – to excellence, to your career
Competitive – being motivated to succeed. Desire to raise the standard. Healthy competition is a great motivating force.
My article entitled Academia to Industry….or the other way around? was just posted on the ACS Career Blog. Check it out!
Thinking you’re not happy with your current job? Looking for something that will make you happy? Check out this list of The 10 Most Satisfying Careers In America. Maybe you’ll find something you like better…….
For those you who, like me, are at work on this last-day-most-people-are-taking-off, you’re probably finding it rather quiet. A few people are at work, either to do specific tasks or because they’re saving vacation for another time. It doesn’t feel like a work day, so not much “real” work is getting done.
This is a great day, however, to knock off those nagging tasks that should only take a few minutes, and you’ve been leaving “until you had time”. Everyone has a to do list, and all sorts of things get added. However, some seem to linker forever, not getting done but not getting deleted. Today is the day! Either do them, or decide they’re not worth doing and delete them from the list. Clean out your to do list, freeing yourself from all the guilt of seeing them on there every day. Free your mental energy for things that matter to you, and let go of things that would be nice but aren’t necessary. Perhaps the reasons you wanted to do something no longer exist. Perhaps a particular task has been made irrelevant by other developments. Perhaps you’ve moved in a new direction, and should be doing something different instead. Perhaps others add things to your list when you’re not looking (I know this happens to me!).
Take the time to examine each item on your to do list, and either make progress on it or delete it. Go through the piles of “papers to be dealt with” on your desk, and file, recycle, or address each one. If you get yourself in the right mood, you can get quite ruthless and get a lot done.
Then you can go back to work next Monday, when the New Year really begins, with fresh energy and a well-ordered list of things you really need to do.