Professional Development Resource Guide

The American Physics Society has a great resource to assist scientists and students in navigating their professional development. Their 10 steps include:

1. Follow Current Events
2. Learn Basic Skills
3. Give Presentations
4. Prepare a well thought out CV
5. Don’t Procrastinate
6. Set Goals
7. Identify Potential Employers and Relevant Jobs
8. Do your own thinking
9. Learn Soft Skills
10. Join Professional Organizations
11. PS

You can download your own copy from

Did you know?

My 15 year old son pointed me to a video called Did you know?. While visually simple, the content is simply amazing. I thought I knew a lot about the current job market, but the numbers in this presentation blew me away. The author of the presentation is a blogger, Karl Fisch, and can be found at

Take a look, and I promise it will get you thinking…..

How to Make Good Career Decisions

Prepare – Use information. Do your homework and learn as much as possible about all options.
Look – Re realistic. Look for the negatives, and make sure it’s right for YOU.
Appraise – Be both practical and creative. Explore as widely as possible, while trying ideas on to see if they fit.
Non-binding – Be flexible. Leave room for other options, and try new things out temporarily or on the side before
making irrevoccable decisions.

In a word, PLAN!

Adapted from “A Fork in the Road: A Career Planning Guide for Young Adults”, by Susan Maltz and Barbara Grahn, Impact Publications, 2003.

On Being a Perfect Match

You’ve often heard that just sending your resume in to a big company through their online job site is a waste of time, right? Well, here’s proof. reports on a study where researchers took a job opening and wrote 100 resumes specifically for that position. They then added 10% more information, and submitted them. Only 12% were picked up by the system as qualified.

Therefore, even if you are perfect for an advertised job, and your perfect resume shows that, there is still a greater than 90% chance that their automated system will NOT select your resume for further consideration.


One question that trips a lot of people up during the hiring process involves salary history. Knowing what you are currently paid might give some indication of what your current company thought you were worth when they hired you. However, it may or may not have anything to do do with fair compensation for the new company and position for which you are interviewing.

A better way to answer this question is to have done your homework, and report that the ACS Salary Comparator (or other impartial expert) indicates that the typical salary range for the new position would be between X and Y. Then ask if that’s the range they are planning to offer. This shows that you are educated about the position for which you are applying, and that you understand what is relevant, and what is not.

Also remember that negotiation should not start until you have an offer in hand, and that salary is only part of the total compensation package. (And sometimes not even the most important part.)

Research before an Interview

The Swain Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Library has a great list of resources you can use when researching a potential employer before going on an interview. Some of them are specific to chemists – about the only thing not listed is checking for patents issued to the company.

Checking out the company is something I highly recommend. Not only does it set you apart from other candidates (most of whom don’t bother to do this), but it shows you’re serious about that company, and you’re not going to waste their time asking questions you could easily the answers to on your own.

Thanks to Jennifer P. for pointing this out!

Applying online

I talk to a lot of job seekers. When I ask how their job search is going, they tell me about all the online boards they have been submitting their resume to. Very few of them are researching companies, talking to people, or doing anything more than pressing “Submit”.


Jim Durbin, a recruiter and consultant here in St Louis wrote a great article called Are you really going to apply online? that explains better than I could what really happens when you submit your resume to one of these job boards. Well worth reading!