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What's on your mind? Topic Ideas for SC.org

PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2015 7:02 pm
by Dave Jensen
Hello Forum Audience,

Once a year or so we'll post a note asking here for help in identifying new subjects for the columns across the SC.org universe. Perhaps it's in "Tooling Up" or some other column that your idea might fit. The editors read these things!

Some really good topics have been suggested in the past . . . Please, tell us what you are thinking about now and what information you'd like to see developed further on ScienceCareers.org?

Dave Jensen, Columnist

Re: What's on your mind? Topic Ideas for SC.org

PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2015 9:47 am
by Dave Walker
A topic that has come up in my conversations recently is "due diligence" during the job search. I.e., how to correctly scope out a job opportunity before, during and after the interview.

While the answer to this and most job interview questions will probably be a form of "use your network," I think it has a general appeal across job types and industries.

I wonder if our review-addicted, Amazon.com-brains might have an effect. I'm amazed at the faith people put into websites like Glassdoor.com, or the canned responses floating on a company's website or LinkedIn page.

I most recently saw this spread offline, too -- an applicant turned down a job offer because one previous employee had terrible things to say. Turned out that the previous employee was let go and very upset, and their opinion was mostly untrue.

Re: What's on your mind? Topic Ideas for SC.org

PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2015 7:53 pm
by Nate W.
A controversial topic that comes to mind is the trend in higher education to hire more adjunct professors. What is really driving this trend?

In Dallas and Atlanta areas, 60-75% of all professors are hired as part time adjunct professors. The average compensation for an adjunct professor hired at Dallas colleges is about 3-5K per class per semester. In the public colleges if the class doesn't meet sufficient enrollment, the class and contract are cancelled. These positions offer no benefits like medical insurance or vacation time. To make matters worse, the colleges don't contribute 7.5% to social security; instead they take out 7.5% of pay and place the money in a 403b account that only pays 3% interest rate w/o any match. Also, the Texas public colleges place limits on the numbers of hours one can teach which is about 7 credit hours.

So, one can easily determine that adjunct professors make below the poverty level. Starbuck's treats their employees much better than colleges treat their teachers. There is no respect for teachers by college administrators.

While this trend is occurring more, public colleges are hiring more administrators and the average compensation of these administrators is quite substantial even for rather insignificant positions. For example, a VP or Director of Student Development at a local community college will make in the range 75-150K with benefits. Don't the teachers contribute more to the mission of the colleges than most administrative positions?

Of note, adjuncts can't apply for unemployment benefits since they don't pay contribute to social security and they will pay a 10% plus taxes if they withdraw money from this 403b (IRS tax code 3121).

Re: What's on your mind? Topic Ideas for SC.org

PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2015 2:12 am
by Parker
This is an unstable business with lots of uncertainty and instability. I want to know what to do if one hears of lay off rumors. Should you jump ship or stay put and see what happens? What if your employers get wind that you have started looking. Would they hold it against you? What if you don't start looking and get laid off and be unemployed?

Re: What's on your mind? Topic Ideas for SC.org

PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2015 8:06 am
by Dave Walker
To tack on to Parker's comment and build on my own, I'd like to ask: what's the best way to measure one's "market value?" I know a lot of SC.org readers are probably getting their first jobs and may not have a lot to fight for in terms of getting a better salary etc., but how about the best way to determine if an offer is lowball or if it's correct?

Re: What's on your mind? Topic Ideas for SC.org

PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 1:32 pm
by Ken
Maybe a "Day in the Life" series? Pick an industry or academic position, and find someone willing to share what they actually do in their daily work life.

I remember in graduate school thinking that I wanted to go into "business development" having no actual idea what that meant. Maybe finding out what such people do all day would help people figure out whether that's something for them.

Re: What's on your mind? Topic Ideas for SC.org

PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 3:27 pm
by Abby
Ken wrote:Maybe a "Day in the Life" series? Pick an industry or academic position, and find someone willing to share what they actually do in their daily work life.


I think this is a great idea. In our small diagnostic company we spend a lot of time in interviews talking about constantly shifting priorities and the daily pace of what we do which can be much different than academia or even other industry positions.

Re: What's on your mind? Topic Ideas for SC.org

PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2015 11:39 am
by P.C.
In past years I had offered the solution that the present post doc , adjunct, graduate student, and research assistant professor population be put to a couple of rounds of decimation by the sword. To be more kindly and efficient I suggest nominations of other means to reduce the surplus population.
Alternately there might be more effort to advise prospective students, and graduate students of the realities of poor investment as a prospective PhD student.