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What's wrong with me?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 12:32 pm
by Dave Jensen
Hi Eric,

I think you've had some excellent advice and commentary by all the other posters. Kim's comments about the importance of networking, which it appears you haven't done, and Andy's comments about headhunters were both right on the money.

I say that you have not been networking because it is clear that you are calling people and asking for a job. That is the worst kind of contact there is. Those are simply good contact names that have been squandered and that are now useless. The "kiss of death" in making an introductory networking call is to ask "are there any openings?" or state "I'm looking for a job." That's because you will get immediately turned over to the HR department.

Eric, please don't take this personally. I believe you are conducting what I would call a "lazy" job search. This is a very common problem for PhD job seekers, and I know it doesn't feel lazy when you are stressed out and feel like you are working hard. But seriously, names are difficult to find, but they are NOT impossible to find. Large company or small, you can find the names of people who work there. You've learned to do this via the literature, and that is one way. Often, however, that ends up turning up names of people who are a bit too senior to be of much help. You'll want to turn up names of people who are just a year or two, or a few, years ahead of you. They'll still have some empathy for your situation. And don't take the lazy way out with them! Ask them questions about how THEY made the transition to the company, how THEIR acquaintances found a job in industry, etc. Make it like a research project. As a chemist, you are probably totally persistent. I'll bet you will go to the ends of the earth to solve some complex problem dealing with physical chemistry. Why not put that same curiousity into finding names at companies and then doing this "research" to find out how people DO make their first job search work. Stick to it -- ask these folks for the names of some rather new hires, so that you can talk to them as well. If you are local, offer to take them out to lunch. Its worth the price of admission!

Also, the word "lazy" comes up when talk comes of headhunters. I know this, because I am one! Headhunters are lazy people, working in a tough commissioned business. When you approach them, you are wasting your time if you have no industry experience. Headhunters move people from company A to company B -- NOT from the university to a company, that would be rare. It is a bit lazy to think that headhunters are a solution for anyone in your situation, so just don't even waste your time. Just get on the phone, talking to as many people as you can, in companies about how they got their job and about the process that they went through. Soon, you will find that certain of these contacts are receptive to an occasional followup call, and in those calls, it's OK to say "Are there any openings?".

I believe you are wrong about "by law companies must advertise their jobs." There is no law stating that companies need to advertise jobs, and only about half of them are advertised! The rest are totally filled via "reverse networking". In other words, company A has a hiring manager with an open position, and they start calling their old adviser, their buddies over at Company B and Company C, etc. They ask around until they get a few good CV's. These are what Val referred to in his post -- friends of friends. (The talk of "laws" concerning advertised jobs comes because in some cases companies have too few minorities, and they need to fill some jobs only with women, or only with African American or Hispanic scientists, which provides them the necessary and important diversity they need. In those cases, the advertised job is critical to prove that they've been attempting to reach this diversity).

What does it take to be a "friend of a friend"? Just getting your CV into that person's hand. Not by jamming it in unannounced, or via a 2-minute "I'm looking" call . . . But, by developing that person as a networking acquaintance. Once you've had a few of these "champions" fall into your camp, you'll start getting more referrals from out of the blue. You'll hear about open jobs. Amazing what a change it will make in your search. I am ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that there is nothing wrong with you, and that you are just approaching the whole thing as if you are owed a job from all the years of hard work, when in reality, that PhD is really just like a fishing license. You got the paper, but now you have to learn to fish. Having the license only gives you the shot at going out to look. Doesn't mean you'll be eating trout tonight for supper.

Dave Jensen, Moderator

What's wrong with me?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 12:42 pm
by Dave Jensen
I just found out that our system has a word limit, and my eager posting above got cut off. . . That's what I get for drinking too much coffee before posting!

I had a PS which stated: "By the way, don't forget that your networking contacts have the potential to earn as much as a $2,000 or $3,000 bounty from the H/R department. Companies pay their people "referral bonuses" for new hires. This means that the people you talk to have a financial motivation for helping you, as well."


What's wrong with me?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 4:54 pm
by Ken
I think something that gets lost in these "Network" threads is that networking is not just something that you have to do to get the job. People end up feeling resentful, and walk away with an attitude of, "Well, I'm a good scientist, and that should be enough."

However, the type of person who is able to network, to make connections and interact with the appropriate people to get a certain job (in this case, the job hunt) done is the type of person who is going to succeed in an industry setting; networking is not just about getting interviews, networking is part of the interview.

What's wrong with me?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 6:39 pm
by Dave Jensen
Great comment Ken . . . That's right. Networking is EXPECTED in industry.

If I were looking for a Principal Investigator for a client company in a field of cancer research, one of the employer's major comments in the job description discussion they'd have with me would be that they need "a scientist with a good rolodex of contacts in the field of cancer vaccines," etc. In other words, they HIRE BECAUSE THAT PERSON IS A GOOD NETWORKER. It's a life skill, and often gets lost in this forum because we always relate it to job seeking.
Thanks Ken,


What's wrong with me?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 9:15 pm
by Val

Dave Jensen wrote:

> What does it take to be a "friend of a friend"? Just getting your CV into that
> person's hand. Not by jamming it in unannounced, or via a 2-minute "I'm looking"
> call . . . But, by developing that person as a networking acquaintance.

I am writing a piece below, because I believe my situation is not uncommon.

As I discovered only after I started my PhD research, I was a skilled cheap scientific labour to my PhD advisor. He always kept on saying to us, students: "Do whatever I say you to do", "finish PhD quickly, and get a job quickly". He did not encourage an independent thought which would deviate us from the shortest way to completion of a publishable work. He did not encourage us to go to conferences or work in collaboration with another prof -- for the same reason. When I finished, I had a bunch of papers published in the top journals. But did it help me to find a job after graduation ? No way. The prospective postdoctoral sponsors seemed to be oblivious to the number of my publications in good journals which was the result of above average.

Here was the problem: I did not have an opportunity to form the professional network during my PhD studies; and I did not have a propensity for social networking ("shmoozing"). I had no enthusiasm for the science which I did before, because I never had an opportunity to own the outcomes of my research. I had to re-invent myself if I wanted to get gainful employment and set a career (any career !) going.

I was different from the profile of an easy-going enthusiastic PhD graduate with native English who applied for a very limited number of postdoctoral positions in Australia. I had a friend of mine who did a transition from being a physicist to being a programmer and then an electrical engineer. He paid my attention that the academia and industry had a shortage of skilled specialists who could build scientific instruments (this would require knowledge of physics and electronics and programming). He helped me to re-write my CV. New Val was born :-) . My CV became more popular among employers, both at academia and in industry.

As time went by (with some painful periods of unemployment), I accumulated some lines of experience in my CV. In my current position at the large R&D dept, I push myself to write papers and make presentations at conferences. The indifference of my supervisor does not help. I am trying to set my own line of research which would utilise my inclinations and best skills. If I follow my calling (i.e. what I do best), I will have achievements. People will start coming to me for advices. The word about my expertise will get around, and I will be the prime candidate among the superiors if they want to set a project which utilises the same skills as mine. This is my strategy at this stage of my career, and I hope it will bring me at a higher level of career staircase.

I am facing a new challenge: I need to change my mind so that to come across the superiors and prospective employers as a senior scientist on whom they could rely in completion of a complex project (which involves the demonstration of successfully getting through social, political and scientific issues at workplace). Life is a constant struggle :-( .


What's wrong with me?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 9:40 pm
by Jim
This is a great thread. Eric hang in there, like I do. I have been hanging around for three years "networking" after my postdoc at a top university. Science isn't for everyone especially those with opinions and or a maverick type attitude. I take pride in knowing that I am in the true elite of the America. I reside in the 5% that remains unemployed yet having credentials and enthusiasm which outdistance me from the pack.

Shame on Dave for saying the word lazy to a PhD student. You think you work less hard than the HR person who is screening applicants for positions without which the company would cease to exist?
Truly one wonders how IBM ever functioned before they brought in a bunch of party girls to decide who the cool scientists were.
One last thing about networking with job guys. I interacted with a MS job advisor assigned through ACS who told me that even with my experience, I needed to set my sights lower because my PhD and postdoctoral experience didn't mean anything. Of course said advisor hadn't done either.
Okay enough rant! I again say keep a stiff upper lip, every PhD I have ever met is employed... somewhere. Decide what you want to do and don't let no's discourage you from your ultimate goal.

What's wrong with me?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 10:30 pm
by Kim
Companies are required by law to post their job openings, ONLY under certain immigration issues in the US.

For example, the immigration law requires a company to look for American candidates first before hiring a foreigner, who has no working visa in the US. So the companies must advertise the jobs before they can hire a foreigner. Otherwise, companies are not required by law to post job openings.

What's wrong with me?

PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2004 11:02 pm
by AL
If I were you, I would go for an academic position - mostly because it sounds like you have a very good chance at obtaining one.

As the song says, it's "nice work if you can get it."

The reason I say this is that as a professor, you retain much greater control over your intellectual property than as an industry scientist. I know of many professors whose research went so well that they were able to start companies based on the IP their academic labs produced.


What's wrong with me?

PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2004 11:06 am
by Dave Jensen
Jim said, "Shame on Dave for saying the word lazy to a PhD student. You think you work less hard than the HR person who is screening applicants for positions without which the company would cease to exist?"

Jim, I hope that Eric knew this isn't a personal condemnation, but a descriptive term that I use for that kind of job search. I also referred to headhunters as lazy. I hope you'll see my meaning, if you re-read my post, that people sometimes take the "easy way out." They may not even know they are doing this. They may be working VERY HARD on their job search, but the reality is that they are just tapping the same old "send" key, or writing to the same old "To Whom it May Concern" over and over again.

My apologies to Eric or any other grad student or postdoc who felt this was an attack on their work ethics. Nope -- just one of my weird terms that I throw around in seminars,

Dave Jensen, Moderator

What's wrong with me?

PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2004 11:10 am
by Dave Jensen

What I like about your posts is that you put so much of yourself into them. They are always excellent examples and I hope you realize that you are really helping others. While we don't always agree, I always read your posts with interest.

Dave Jensen, Moderator