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The one issue running through the "job search difficulties" Forum posts

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The one issue running through the "job search difficulties" Forum posts

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Sep 14, 2015 4:25 pm

Through the years, we've seen hundreds and hundreds of posts dedicated to helping people solve their job search difficulties. And I'm happy that many people have reported back that they've seen some help and encouragement along the way. But I was recently speaking with a couple of colleagues here on our Advisory board, and there is one issue that runs deeply through posts about job search troubles. I'm not trying to blame the job seeker here . . . I know how hard it is. But this is a personal issue that you need to look at if you're having trouble.

That issue is resilience. For some reason, people can have all kinds of crazy stuff thrown at them by their science -- nature just doesn't work like we think it will some times -- and they can stay resilient and move on to the next experiment. Or, they can get rejected by a journal with a tough critique of the paper, and still move on to fix that issue and resubmit, or change journals. All of this is a part of the scientist's life.

If so, than why do scientists not bring this level of resilience to their job search? It's almost as if they get their PhD and expect that people will be lining up to offer them positions. That's not going to happen. Instead, you face the biggest challenge of all and you need resilience to get past the hurdles that will be thrown in front of you.

Some of the posts with the pain and anguish expressed from repeated job search difficulties are the most difficult ones for me to read. I hope that those scientists can stay with the processes discussed in this Forum, because despite the odds, they will generally lead to success.

Dave

PS - Here's the link for the article referenced above: http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2015_09_16/caredit.a1500225
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Re: The one issue running through the "job search difficulties" Forum posts

Postby PG » Wed Sep 16, 2015 6:24 am

I think that this is in large part a question about experience. Everyone that does science knows and have experienced mutiple times that all kinds of things can and will go wrong when performing experiments. The people that couldnt deal with this no longer works with science.

The same goes for publications and grant applications. Everyone that has done a PhD knows the peer review process with its strengths and weaknesses and accept this as a part of their job. Again the people who cant or wont deal with these issues adapt or do something slightly different either in industry (that has at least partially other issues to deal with) or outside science.

When it comes to job search a lot of people have much less own experience and while performing experiments and the peer review process is consiered something that is looked uppn as a part of the job the process of applying for a job is being looked at as something much more personal. If you start thinking that you didnt get an offer because of the fact that you are not good enough for some reason it is easy to end up in a negative spiral that wont lead to anything good.
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Re: The one issue running through the "job search difficulties" Forum posts

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Sep 16, 2015 10:52 am

That's right, PG. That "negative spiral" has an epicenter here on the Forum at times, and it is sad to see people putting themselves through that. This month's "Tooling Up" is about resilience, and I hope that it will help people see that the process is just a part of the job of being in a science career.

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Re: The one issue running through the "job search difficulties" Forum posts

Postby Dick Woodward » Wed Sep 16, 2015 11:36 am

I agree with PG 100%. I have seen a similar situation with salespeople - if they begin to take the rejection personally, they get into a failure cycle. When you are rejected for a position, it can be for a myriad of reasons, such as:

- they had an internal candidate who was favored for the position

- they found a candidate whose skill set was closer to what they needed

- they decided not to fill the position (often happens due to budget shortfalls)

- the direction of the company changed

- etc., etc.

The bottom line is to not take it personally. They are not rejecting you because of who you are, they are rejecting the fact that you are not the best match for their needs.

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Re: The one issue running through the "job search difficulties" Forum posts

Postby Will S. » Wed Sep 16, 2015 1:20 pm

I think it has to do with the lack of structure in a job search, and the lack of transparency. You send your application package/resume, you go for an interview and you receive a "sorry" letter without further explanation or feedback. At least with research or peer review you have something you can do to fix your problems, which makes it easier to be resilient.

But when you get 4 or 5 rejections over the course of two months with no feedback and no clear actionable fix, all you can do is think that there is a fundamental problem with you. A job search in a competitive market mimics well the "learned helplessness" protocol to induce depression in mice.

And this isn't only in academia. Just google the interest in thank you letters. I don't know one person that got hired or not based on it (though you should always write one because it takes one second and can't hurt), but it is _something_ you can do and gives the impression you have any control.
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Re: The one issue running through the "job search difficulties" Forum posts

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Sep 16, 2015 2:56 pm

Job interviewing is an area where you have a HUGE amount of control. You can study the interpersonal dynamics of interviews, read all about "common" interview questions and learn how to deal with the behavioral interview style. You can send "thank you letters" which are enormously helpful, or you can simply do none of these things and suffer endless rejection.

So the idea that resilience will help is true ONLY if you are learning from each of these attempts. If you do the same things each time, and it isn't resulting in any change in your behavior or performance, than I guess the "numbers game" element could go on to endless numbers.

[How anyone could think that thank you letters are not important . . . that's just crazy,]

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Re: The one issue running through the "job search difficulties" Forum posts

Postby Will S. » Wed Sep 16, 2015 7:52 pm

I think I was misunderstood. You can prepare for interviews and learn from previous interviews and improve your chances. So we do have control over it and you can get better and learn from previous steps. I just meant to say that in over competitive environments you may not get a job even if you did everything right. And if that happens too often, well that is pretty much learned helplessness.

The "thank you" letter was a tangent as an example of something people obsess with, but isn't as important as a good cover letter, resume and interviewing skills. I send them and I always tell people that ask me for advice to send a personalized one, but I often see perfunctory notes and I think they are just an indicator that you know the rules of the game. In a less competitive environment, where there is one or two candidates for a position, I doubt very much that such note would make a difference. Experience and cultural fit would probably be more important. But when there are 10 commoditized candidates (life sciences PhD searching for junior researcher position) interviewing for a job, than even tiny things push you past the edge, and that gives a sense of lack of transparency.
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Re: The one issue running through the "job search difficulties" Forum posts

Postby Dave Walker » Wed Sep 16, 2015 9:22 pm

I think Dave did a noble job addressing this issue, and PG (as always) made a great succinct point: the Tooling Up readers are quite inexperienced in the ways of job seeking.

It wasn't long ago that I was a job-hunting PhD hopeful trying to make sense of its rules. I think it's natural to be depressed with the uphill battle at first. The hard part is that resilience is a frame of mind one must generate on their own.

I think the quickest way to get on the path of resilience is getting help, be it from informational interviews, a mentor or a therapist. The analogy between failed experiments and rejected job applications is so clear to us, but it's easy to get a closed mind when one is putting so much energy into finding a good job and not coming across desperate.

As for this forum, I believe the odds aren't in our favor to some extent. Because this is the Internet, a pseudonymous poster can type their feelings into a white box and post it easily. And, unfortunately there are far fewer folks who return and share their success stories.
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Re: The one issue running through the "job search difficulties" Forum posts

Postby Will S. » Thu Sep 17, 2015 6:46 pm

I resent a little bit if the comment about disgruntled "pseudonymous posters" is directed towards me. On the contrary! All I was doing was pointing out why academics can't apply the resilience acquired in their work directly to the job search because there is a lot of murky waters in a job search.

I love this site and how the moderators try to make it a place for solutions, not for whining. But I see value in the occasional disgruntledoc post because it curbs my "why does it only rain on me" feelings, to know that other people got stuck in the system.

But people, the advice from here (and from www.askamanager.com) works! I am currently going through the motions of landing a job outside academia with a PhD and I'm really close to having all figured out. Once all is done, I'll write a more detailed description of what I did, but it's pretty much what everyone here tells you to do: network, show you are good and you fit a company needs and never give up.
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Re: The one issue running through the "job search difficulties" Forum posts

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu Sep 17, 2015 9:59 pm

Will S. wrote:I resent a little bit if the comment about disgruntled "pseudonymous posters" is directed towards me. On the contrary! All I was doing was pointing out why academics can't apply the resilience acquired in their work directly to the job search because there is a lot of murky waters in a job search..


Will, no one was picking on you. I believe David was just mentioning that it's so easy to put up a negative-tinged post here, that it's no wonder they dominate at times. It's much harder to come back and thank or comment about one's success.

And thank you for the optimistic comments you posted at the end!

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