Advice for the recently unemployed…..

The coolest person I know wrote a great article about how to conduct a successful job search. Specifically, it’s about how to react when you are laid off – mobilize your forces, get your elevator speech ready, go out there and talk to everyone. Lots of great advice!

12 Tips for Conducting a Job Search Fire Drill

And even those of you don’t think you’re going to be laid off, it’s worth a read to see how well prepared you are. Just in case….

I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but……

I have received several resumes from friends lately, many who are not chemists but are currently “investigating new opportunities”. I try to give them leads and other resources, but I can always at least provide a critical review of their resume. Here is some advice I’ve given some of them, which I also share with you.

Make sure to put your contact information (address, phone, email and web site) on your resume. Seriously. I got one yesterday that just had a name, no more. Even if I’d wanted to hire the guy, I would have to track him down.

If you are a “newbie”, don’t think using a bigger font will fool anyone. If you don’t have enough professional experience to fill 2 pages, don’t use a huge font thinking they won’t figure it out. 10 to 12 point font is good for everyone. Give some thought to volunteer activities that show transferrable skills, or other relevant information you can include.

If you are a more experienced professional, you don’t have to list jobs all the way back to high school. I saw a 4 page resume that listed 20 jobs, going back over 20 years. A skills-based format would have served this person much better – he could have highlighted recent, relevant accomplishments that would be of interest to the company to which he is applying. Very few hiring managers will have the time to wade through 4 pages of tiny font to see if you once had the skills for which they are looking. It’s also okay to group jobs that were further back in time, or just list the company name and date, without all the gory details.

Hot off the Press….

I am currently in Chicago, attending the AAAS annual meeting. While I will be presenting a talk tomorrow morning (special prize to anyone who attends that talk and tells me they read this), I arrived early so I could check out some of the other sessions.

The one I attended today was entitled “Beyond the Resume: How To Network and Market Yourself to Enhance Your Career”. The first half focused on traditional topics that I’ve covered many times in this blog.

The second half, however, moved on to talk about networking – both traditional networking and new electronic methods. Most of their tips were right on, so I thought I’d share them here.

First and foremost, remember that your network requires giving, not just taking. Ideally you will give before you need to take, but many people don’t do that. So, the least you can do is remember to thank people for the help they give you, keep them apprised of your progress, and maintain contact in the long term – hopefully because you are on the lookout for ways to return the favor, and not because you never know when you are going to need them again.

LinkedIn is a great tool, and it is becoming a necessity, not a luxury, for all professionals. However, LinkedIn works best when you use it actively. Solicit recommendations, and write recommendations for others. Seek out people, make real connections with them, then connect on LinkedIn. Finally, keep in touch with the people you connect to. Drop them a line and see how they’re doing, and what’s new with them.

Twitter is growing in popularity, as evidenced by the increasing number of mentions in the popular press. While it’s not sure how this tool is going to work out, right now one of the best things you can do is find out what it’s all about. Set up an account, and follow the thought leaders in your industry. Most of the tweets now (depending on who you follow, of course) are pointers to hot, interesting news articles. One more way to keep up on what’s going on in your industry and field.

Finally, Facebook. While this purely social network is not really used for business, many employers do search it before bringing a candidate in for an interview. Also, many people now have family, friends, and business colleagues as “friends” on these social networking sites. Therefore, the best plan is to not post anything that would bother you if it showed up on the front page of the New York Times. Failing that, you can set up “groups” for your friends, and only let certain groups see certain things.

How To Guide on Scientific Job Searching

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.

Behavioral Interviews

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.

Thought for the Day

I cam across this quote in an email this morning, and it really resonated with me:

“It’s a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.”
~ Robert Strauss

Next time I’m tired of my project, or of prospecting for the next contract, I hope I will remember this one.

Asking for Help

One of the biggest things that gets in people’s way when they have career problems is their own ego. Often people are embarrassed by the fact that they were laid off, and so don’t tell anyone and try to find a new position all on their own. This rarely works – you can’t cover nearly as much ground all by yourself as you can when you have a wide network of colleagues and friends looking out for you as well. Talking to other people is the single best thing you can do to jump-start your job search.

Even people who are employed have trouble asking for help. You may have a problem with a colleague, be wondering about a new career direction, or be debating what new skills would be worthwhile to acquire. In some cases, it may not be wise to discuss these issues with people at work.

So where do you go for help? If you’re a chemist, you can use the American Chemical Society’s career consultant program, and search for a volunteer who is ready, willing and able to listen to your concerns and offer impartial advice and guidance.

If you’re not an ACS member, you can use a service like MentorNet to find a neutral outsider who will serve as a sounding board. It’s amazing how many people are out there willing to help you. All you have to do is ask……