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"Employee paid" Career Services for Scientists - A boon, or pure sleaze?

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"Employee paid" Career Services for Scientists - A boon, or pure sleaze?

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Jun 29, 2015 11:23 am

Here's a trend that has been developing over the last few years, and one that has picked up steam since a website with a "cute" and "irreverent" (British-sounding) name popped up with a guy that wanted to make a few bucks from scientists. Now, people have left that fold, and started their own money-making ventures, "helping" scientists with their job searches and so on, and at this time there are dozens of "counselors" out there charging people for their time, basically taking material from this site and others and offering it for sale.

Is this a good or bad thing? Well, on the positive side, if it helps a few people, that's great. I'd like to hear about it if that's the case. Mostly, I hear from people who have invested in these "services" and who have not had the success that these sites promise to deliver. I am absolutely flabbergasted that people who have taken years of graduate education to get their PhD's actually think that the way to get a job is by spending hundreds or thousands of dollars. Don't be confused by an "easy entry" price of $80 or $100 to get into the first level of "membership." It's a constant pressure to increase your commitment, and your expenditures, that comes along the way. Want some help producing an "industry CV?" Sure, that's $100, but you're going to DEFINITELY want the next step, which deals with networking and so on . . . Sarcasm intended. Readers, I think this is a really bad trend.

In the old days after WWII, there were lots of people looking for work, and "employment agencies" grew like a weed, and they offered employee paid placement into jobs. In other words, you went to them and you were indebted for the costs of finding that job. Then, those became illegal and the employers began paying for those employment agencies. With this trend for scientists, the "cute" little websites and the high-pressure "consultants" who are associated with them, we're going back to the old days of people paying for job seeking assistance. Except, these websites and consultants make all kinds of promises and aren't forced to deliver. You pay them anyway.

What does the audience here say about this kind of activity, and what can we do as a group to prevent this from proliferating?

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Re: "Employee paid" Career Services for Scientists - A boon, or pure sleaze?

Postby Nate W. » Mon Jun 29, 2015 11:41 am

The internet and a tight job market breeds a lot of snake oil salesmen. This also applies to some external recruiters. Dave, I have seen some recruiters who advertised positions in biotech for which they don't have a client. They do this only to collect resumes and then sell them to prospective clients. Sadly, it only hurts the candidate.

This says more about the sleaziness of those providing this "service" versus the integrity of the candidates. Service is being kind. If you want something done right, do it yourself, which involving good old fashion networking and building relationships.
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Re: "Employee paid" Career Services for Scientists - A boon, or pure sleaze?

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Jun 29, 2015 2:58 pm

Nate W. wrote:The internet and a tight job market breeds a lot of snake oil salesmen. This also applies to some external recruiters. Dave, I have seen some recruiters who advertised positions in biotech for which they don't have a client. They do this only to collect resumes and then sell them to prospective clients. Sadly, it only hurts the candidate.

This says more about the sleaziness of those providing this "service" versus the integrity of the candidates. Service is being kind. If you want something done right, do it yourself, which involving good old fashion networking and building relationships.


Nate, yes there are unethical practices in every area of employment. But we're talking here about people who charge you for help with networking, interviewing, and "job finding." This is happening more and more often. There's even a "postdoc" for postdocs, dealing with how to find an industry job, sponsored by a University. It's all such a scam. We're bleeding all the vulnerable people here.

I'm asking a very direct question here, of our PhD audience, and that is . . . Is this trend a GOOD one, or a BAD one. To me, they're making out PhD graduates in the sciences as some kind of sheep that need to be sheared. It's disgusting and it should be stopped.

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Re: "Employee paid" Career Services for Scientists - A boon, or pure sleaze?

Postby Dave Walker » Mon Jun 29, 2015 3:33 pm

I think a lot of this has to do with the industry in question. When I was a wee undergrad, I remember talking to a business major friend. She told me, very matter-of-factly, that she used a headhunter to find her sophomore internship. She said it like she hired a personal trainer. She told me it would impact the rest of her career, and it was worth it. The headhunter got results, and she got access.

Would you say that was unfair? I don't know; it certainly sounded like the way they do it in business school. And I know this doesn't exactly fit Dave's description, since it's leveraging the connections of the "career counselor."

So in our circles, I think this is ultimately a scam for the great majority of grad students and postdocs. The market is saturated with PhD holders, and the competition is fierce. Networking is the surest, most rewarding thing to learn early for one's career. In that aspect, a "counselor" can realistically provide only so much. And since grad students and postdocs have no familiarity with this field, they can be raked over the coals on price!

This isn't to say that training is a bad idea: I know a woman who is an excellent instructor on business etiquette and networking as a concept. Her clients are usually business-types who know exactly what they lack. I'm not so sure your typical postdoc or grad student is aware of their career weaknesses.
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Re: "Employee paid" Career Services for Scientists - A boon, or pure sleaze?

Postby Nate W. » Mon Jun 29, 2015 7:34 pm

Dave Jensen wrote:
Nate W. wrote:The internet and a tight job market breeds a lot of snake oil salesmen. This also applies to some external recruiters. Dave, I have seen some recruiters who advertised positions in biotech for which they don't have a client. They do this only to collect resumes and then sell them to prospective clients. Sadly, it only hurts the candidate.

This says more about the sleaziness of those providing this "service" versus the integrity of the candidates. Service is being kind. If you want something done right, do it yourself, which involving good old fashion networking and building relationships.


Nate, yes there are unethical practices in every area of employment. But we're talking here about people who charge you for help with networking, interviewing, and "job finding." This is happening more and more often. There's even a "postdoc" for postdocs, dealing with how to find an industry job, sponsored by a University. It's all such a scam. We're bleeding all the vulnerable people here.

I'm asking a very direct question here, of our PhD audience, and that is . . . Is this trend a GOOD one, or a BAD one. To me, they're making out PhD graduates in the sciences as some kind of sheep that need to be sheared. It's disgusting and it should be stopped.

Dave


Dave, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I think what they are doing is unethical. Whenever, there is a tight job market, like that in the biotech sector, there will be people who will take advantage of the situation.

Ironically, the British word used to described this service is completely at odds with the qualities of being a cooperative team member (if my suspicion is correct). All I am adding here is that there are many wasteful middlemen involved in the hiring process even some that seem legitimate.

Candidates should stop wasting their time with the middlemen and start networking directly with hiring managers at their target companies. In defense of those who are struggling to find non-academic work, it is often difficult to tell the wasteful middlemen trying to make a quick buck versus those who actually want to help or those who actually have a need. For example, should I submit a resume to a posted ad on the internet where the employer is not listed or a contact person?

As a rule of thumb, I don't apply to such ads anymore or pay someone to help with my job search. Sadly, these situations are always a scam.
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Re: "Employee paid" Career Services for Scientists - A boon, or pure sleaze?

Postby D.X. » Tue Jun 30, 2015 2:45 am

Hi Dave,

I'm not entirely clear what the Career Services are promising , I.e. jobs, network?

However, if they are providing fee for services centered on CV development for academic PhDs, for non-academic jobs in a manner that is coaching (not just a re-write) OR they are providing services on interview coaching for industry jobs (i.e. managing responses during behavioral interviews, or coaching on responses to typical questions, or preparing for an presentation), then I'm Ok with this.

Provided they are in fact providing a service that coaches, mentors, and helps candidates position themselves well for the non-academic world and gives skills that serve as a platform for self-development beyond the fee-for-service provided. A sort of personal coach that paid for.

We know the non-academic way of CV writing and interviewing is a big gap for newly minted PhDs - even for those with experience. Not everyone has the skill and personality to network to find a credible and experienced mentor to help tool up in these areas - certainly this forum can help fill a gap for those who are confident enough to leverage it.

If these services are then promising networks and job opportunities, then that's beyond fee-for-service coaching/mentoring then that's unethical. And sleaze.

In fact, I would even have a hard time accepting a promise of getting an interview after said coaching above, you can only mentor/coach with a promise of meaningful skills that serves as platform for self-development. If the service is credible that is. (i.e. based on feed back from clients via references etc.)

This is to be differentiated from an awesome recruiter who is NOT paid to coach, but takes the time to do so WHILE placing a candidate. Different story here, and lucky I have experienced these and should I become a recruiter one-day, I would do so for candidates I believe have promise. What goes around comes around.

That being said, I would then recommend one stays away from services that promises a network or a job. That's earned. It can't be given.

If services are centered providing coaching, be it CV generation (not just writing a CV for you) or interviewing skills, then the payee should solicit references to validate credibility.

Make sense?

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Re: "Employee paid" Career Services for Scientists - A boon, or pure sleaze?

Postby PACN » Tue Jun 30, 2015 10:53 am

I'm not sure I agree. Networking, cover letter and CV writing, interviewing-- these are all skills that can be taught. And I can say from experience that a number of PhDs graduate and do postdocs without ever had training in developing these skills (a discussion for another time perhaps). It seems to me that a good coach that could work with you one-on-one for your job search could be quite helpful. On the other hand, someone who prints a bunch of articles off a free website-- not so helpful. As a postdoc considering alternative careers, I found the career counseling service at my university to be very helpful. It was free to me, but I know not all universities have that benefit for postdocs (and not all scientists looking to change careers are working at universities). If they can help you put your best foot forward and get a job more quickly than you might have otherwise, I might consider that worth a modest fee. Like most things, I think it depends on whether that person is good at their job.
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Re: "Employee paid" Career Services for Scientists - A boon, or pure sleaze?

Postby Dave Walker » Tue Jun 30, 2015 1:33 pm

I haven't seen one personally, but what Dave is describing sounds like "virtual" coaching, which amounts to sending articles others' content as a service. That's a scam no matter what field it's in.

But my thoughts echo PACN's -- soft skills can be taught, and a teacher can cover a lot of ground relatively easily. Call me old-fashioned, but I am skeptical of anything but the in-person kind of coaching.
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Re: "Employee paid" Career Services for Scientists - A boon, or pure sleaze?

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Jun 30, 2015 3:43 pm

PACN wrote:I'm not sure I agree. Networking, cover letter and CV writing, interviewing-- these are all skills that can be taught. And I can say from experience that a number of PhDs graduate and do postdocs without ever had training in developing these skills (a discussion for another time perhaps). It seems to me that a good coach that could work with you one-on-one for your job search could be quite helpful. On the other hand, someone who prints a bunch of articles off a free website-- not so helpful. As a postdoc considering alternative careers, I found the career counseling service at my university to be very helpful. It was free to me, but I know not all universities have that benefit for postdocs (and not all scientists looking to change careers are working at universities). If they can help you put your best foot forward and get a job more quickly than you might have otherwise, I might consider that worth a modest fee. Like most things, I think it depends on whether that person is good at their job.


I absolutely agree -- the best schools have the best PhD trainers and they should continue doing what they do. Those are essential.

I'm talking about the new trend for people to charge PhD job seekers for help in these areas, even up to and including multi-week courses at great expense for Postdocs.

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