Baffling, Perplexing, and Even Confusing

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Baffling, Perplexing, and Even Confusing

Postby James » Thu Dec 02, 2004 1:23 pm

Mr. Jensen's comments in another thread (What's wrong with me?) make me question what I've been doing, and the type of job search I am pursuing.

If this information is correct, and it is seemingly supported by other people in that same discussion, than WHY DON'T THEY TEACH THIS STUFF IN SCHOOL? In other words, why would you end up getting through a MS or PhD program, all the time thinking that a job search is mailing CV's to advertised jobs, if that isn't the way that it really works?

My feeling on this puzzling scenario, is that the job search SHOULD work like we are taught. You SHOULD be able to just send out CV's to ads and get a job. But, for some reason, the system has broken down and it has been CORRUPTED instead, and now people have to KISS BUTT and make phone calls to get a job.

The whole thing is baffling.


Baffling, Perplexing, and Even Confusing

Postby Andy » Thu Dec 02, 2004 2:10 pm


Your professors in graduate school don't teach you what it's like to do an industry job search because for the most part, they don't know how it works themselves. This isn't a knock on them, it's just not something most of them have gone through.

You're way off base when you lament how things should work! Who ever "taught" you that getting a job consisted of sending a CV through the mail? Put yourself in the position of a hiring manager (in academics or industry). You drop an ad into the back of Science magazine, how many CV's do you think will show up in your email inbox? Let me help you out: 200-300.

How do you sort through these and separate the wheat from the chaff? Well, if you're the hiring manager, you probably have an expertise in whatever area you're working in. People you worked with in grad school/postdoc may have related exptertise, and now they are running their own labs and have good grad students/postdocs who are looking to move to industry. You call your friends and acquaintences, people you've met through meetings, etc. : "I've got 300 CV's here, do you know anyone with skills XYZ who is looking to move to an industry position?"

If I am hiring someone and I need, say, a synthetic organic chemist, think about what I'm faced with. I have to hire someone that is the biggest plus for my company that I can find. Whomever I hire has to be very good at what they do and get along well with their co-workers. Otherwise, I look like a chump. Like I don't know who to hire. My colleagues won't respect me if I hire someone who can't cut it. So what do I do? Do I just place an ad and look at CV's? No! I might place an ad, but since I know where the best organic chemists train as graduate students, I call up the PI of those labs and ask them who they would recommend. I call people I know at other companies and ask if they've interviewed any good organic chemists lately that they didn't end up hiring and that might be a good fit with me.

Are there good people out there who don't have as many publications as other people who may in fact do a worse job? Of course, but all things being equal, I am going to hire the guy who published in Cell, Science and Nature over the guy who just had one paper in Nucleic Acids Research. Not fair, but since I have to take a chance on someone, I'm going to choose from what I percieve as a stacked deck. I'm going to choose such that the odds are in favor of the cadidates success, and therefore, my success. Even if I haven't published in Cell myself, that's the way it is.

My point is that the way to get a job is just through normal human interaction. If you want to characterize calling someone that did their PhD in the same lab you did 8 years ago as KISSING BUTT, then hey, go ahead. If you're above it, don't stoop to the level of calling someone you met at a meeting and asking them what they think of the Biomarkers group at Genentech. If "the system" is corrupted, then opt out of it. But here's the reality: "the system" consists of nothing more than people trying to find competent people with whom they would enjoy working. Most people communicate by calling people they know and asking them for advice. So just get in on that action, be cause that's the only place where the action is.

Now, don't tell anyone, but I must admit that several weeks ago I got an interview at a big company where I did not have any connections that I knew of. Although I normally never do it, I submitted my CV to the company's website. The next morning, the hiring manager called me. I didn't even know him!!! So I guess it works sometimes after all, right?

No. Turns out he knew my old boss.

Good luck!



Baffling, Perplexing, and Even Confusing

Postby J.J. » Thu Dec 02, 2004 3:43 pm

The people who get jobs aren't the people who "deserve" them, they are the people who know the most about how to get hired.
I was really frustrated during my job search, and I had the same kind of astonished "Why didn't they tell us we were on our own?" feelings. Then, I got over it, because as much as I wanted to wallow in self-pity, it wasn't getting me a job. So, I pulled myself together, did all the stuff everyone hates to do, and (hokey, yes) it was good for me. Because now I've done a job search in a really bad economy in a city where I had virtually no connections. Far better that it happen to me in my 20s than in my 40s. If I had been handed my first job handed on a silver platter, I still wouldn't know anything about how to look for a job, and I would be toast if I ever got laid off. Trust me, once you've done this, you will wonder how you ever thought you could get a job just submitting resumes online. Good luck to you-there's a ton of advice here to help you through the process.
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Baffling, Perplexing, and Even Confusing

Postby John_Mastro » Sat Dec 04, 2004 7:33 am

I think one of the job hunting books is entitled "Resumes Don't Get You Jobs", emphasising the other means to getting interviews. Sure everyone needs a perfect and editable CV , but there are other perhaps more important means to generate inteviews.

Baffling, Perplexing, and Even Confusing

Postby John Fetzer » Sat Dec 04, 2004 1:19 pm

There may be major changes in the works. I know of a few universities that now have classes on job search, people and communications skills. The Carnegie Institute has an intiative on graduate education is also looking at this as a needs area for graduate programs.

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Baffling, Perplexing, and Even Confusing

Postby Dave Jensen » Sat Dec 04, 2004 3:19 pm

There is also a program called "Survival Skills and Ethics Training" which does a good job of setting up institutions with their own trainers on a wide variety of training topics related to the job search, the academic/industry differences, etc. See their Website.

Also, the NextWave site has a current article about a program at Clemson which is funded by a grant and actually has moved on to a for-credit course at this school. See the article in NextWave at Earl Wagener Course.

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