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Despair | Freelance editing

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Despair | Freelance editing

Postby S.P. » Tue Sep 13, 2016 5:41 am

PART I

Me: nearing 40 | struggling postdoc | no chance in academia | looking for an industry job for years | hundreds of application, ten interviews | lost any hope of employment | why did I need to do a Phd? Nobody knows | disillusioned, morose | (yes, it's one of those posts…)

Please don't advise me : to be positive | to work on my CV | (it's perfect, in all honesty) | to network | (have 13 friends working in industry, all completely impotent in their ability to help me get a job) | (networking = myth?) | to not worry about my age | I'm in Germany, age discrimination allowed and proudly practiced

PART II

New idea: become a scientific editor! | Been proofreading hundreds of manuscripts past years | it's fun | since next to zero such jobs -> become freelancer | idea appealing | but market saturated | editing companies in India and China employ thousands of Western freelance editors | pay less than minimum wage | I know, I'm working now for one | humiliating, unsustainable | make more money from unemployment benefits | becoming independent: but how? | who will ever hear of me? | starting website not enough | go to conferences, grovel and push calling cards in people's faces? | cringe at idea | not my style | doubt effectivity | what will become of me | Hilfe!
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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby D.X. » Tue Sep 13, 2016 6:31 am

S.P. -

Ah. Your communication style is the reason I love working with Germans! Direct to the Point, no BS. Germans make great marketeers did you know that ?

Ok enough German advocacy.

PARTI: You get it. I get it. Enough said. Ja ich verstehe aber das ist der welt huete, tut mir lid.

Know fully well the Age descrimination working very well in my area as well, i happen to be in that large southern Kanton of Germany that speaks funny German. Hopp Schweiz. Also in the US but not as overtly in your face due to the legal situation there. So covertly in your face. I prefer overtly.


PART II: Freelance, is your experience sufficient? Are you doing clinial Level manuscripts for pharma? Editing is saturated ok. What about Content genearation, such as medical writer. Have you looked there? Germany as you know has a robust presence of pharma companies and of course where there are pharmas, there are 3rd Party Providers. There are quite a few German Medical Communcation companies that provide good Services both in German and English, why dont you look at them? Alot of Regulatory Affaris Services are there as well.

Focus your efforts in Mannheim (Monnheim near Cologne, alot of pharma and pharma Service Providers there, i.e. UCB i.e. ex-Schwartz, Roche Diagnositics, BI, and production plants as well). Then look at Frankfurt, alot of Service Providers there. Less in Munich and Slim pickings in Berlin, save for Bayer. Alot of These guys Need freelance work.

Have you tried the big Kanton to the South?


DX
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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby D.X. » Tue Sep 13, 2016 9:32 am

Hi SP,

Ok on not German - you're no different than most and yes, it is well established that many companies do look at a specific technical experience in the pre-clinical Research space and sometimes it can be hit and miss. Enter the Networking and exploratory internships ext. to get to try to get some experience there.

As you are open to non-traditional and away from the bench careers at this stage, I recommend you think differently and Focus some efforts on what we call transferable skills as a first step. No one will doubt you tehcnical expereince with some of those "generic" techniques you talk about, but the critical thinking behind how you used and leveraged those techniques to address a scientific question starts to be a Point of differnetiation. How you're able to commmunicate this to diverse audiences gets to another Point of Differentiation and so on. Some other skills that are transferable can include organizational, Project Management, Budget Management etc. Again here how you communicate and experess the fact you have those transferable skills will be a differentiator. So I recommend Change some thinking about and not just Focus on lab techniques as being what defines your comeptitive Profile.

Second, start thinking about your compeititive edge - you have some editing experience - what skills from there do you find are transferable? Start thinking about how to communicate and Position that. What else do you have? You have publications but you Position it as mediocre etc. well that's self defeatist. Position that as that infact you do have publication and that you were productive as evidence by your publications. For where you're looking for Jobs, it doesn't matter if its low Impact or even relevant as a hot Topic - the mere fact you're published can help depending on how your Position it.

As for me, I was just like you - I didn't have MALDI-TOF MS/MS under my belt (still dont) But I found a career path in industry that leveraged my knowledge, tranferable skills and competitive edge - my compeititive edge defined by some of the activities I did external to the lab to Show that I had interest in my desired career path and that I could succeed. A tranferable skill I was that I could take all that mumbo Jumbo about my obscure Protein and explain it so that a layman got it. it meant I could do it for other subject matters as well.

You mentioned you have a perfect CV - well for what Job? Are you using a technical high-science CV with mumbo Jumbo about PCR, Gels, Western Blots and FACS Analysis for a medical writing or editing Job? I as a former medical writer can tell you that it won't get you the Job.

I recommend that you get a list of Jobs you want to target - you mentione editing - then, enter Networking here, find other Editors with PhDs and get some Feedback on the field and on your CV. You may learn something. This is what I did when I was looking to get out of academia, the guy who ripped up my CV and gave me a life-long lesson on CV writing and gave me a platform to how to Position myself was a Finance guy working at a To Big to Fail Bank. Not a scientist. Get external views.

And Keep an open mind, sometimes Jobs are not just in discovery Research using those techniques, there are Jobs in manufacturing, Quality etc. many whom maybe willing to Train, find them.

And as I mentioned, if you have editing experience there are plenty of 3rd Party medi comm firms out there where you can find something entry Level.

And as a former medical writer, your perception that having a PHD makes you more expensive is wrong and that they'll never take you. Many PhDs I know (including me) found their industry life in a 3rd Party Med Comms firm. The PHD not necessary means that there are many medical writers who don't have PhD but experienced an command very good pay. In the begining it's quite the opposite, you'd actually be quite cheap cause you'll be doing grunt work. As i and many others did.

If fact, I'll add, it was a 3rd Party Med Comms firm who gave me massive edge early in my day (before I freelanced and while I was a post-doc) didn't pay me anything, but what they did do was open a door to one of their KOLs had me do a Rounds with them (see their patients) as a favor to me - all Born out of an informational interview about the Business.

So I tell my story, to ilustrate it can be done - you just Need to Pound some pavement but I would say first Change the attitude and be positive about your accomplishments. That first step will do wonders.

I only stayed a freelancer for a few months but i was able to leverage that experience (communicate and Position it) to get my first in house Job in industry - on the so called more commerical side.

DX
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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Sep 13, 2016 9:35 am

SP said, "It's a real mystery to me how Bayer, BASF, Roche and co., each with around 100,000 employees, ever recruit anybody. None of my fellow graduates has any specific skills, and that with a PhD from a prestigious, world-class institute. We all studied our obscure proteins, did some PCRs and gels, fertig. Bayer is NOT interested in that, I know for a fact. Who has a solution to the mystery?"

As stated here hundreds of times, there is no mystery. None at all. Companies hire people they like. You're assuming that they are going to hire you because of some protein you've worked on, etc. That's not correct. They may start shuffling the CV's looking for something specific, but it's never the "best scientist" or the "most perfect fit" who gets hired. It's the person whom you can enjoy working with, the one who fits into your team. No complainers allowed. No oddball personalities, no gripers, naysayers, negatives, etc.

No mysteries in the world of employment.

Dave

SP -- It looks like our system inadvertently deleted the middle post from you. I may have caused this myself while messing with the administrative tool -- so sorry. Please, repost your thoughts there, with my apologies.
"Failure is a bruise -- not a tattoo." -- Jon Sinclair
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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby S.P. » Tue Sep 13, 2016 10:15 am

Dave Jensen wrote:It's the person whom you can enjoy working with, the one who fits into your team. No complainers allowed. No oddball personalities, no gripers, naysayers, negatives, etc.


And how is this determined in a job interview, not to mention from an applicant's CV and cover letter? I can promise you that I never griped, complained, or said nay when I applied or got interviewed.

I realise that a cover letter might contain a negative undertone, without the writer being aware of it. Please believe me when I say that mine doesn't. My interviews too went very well, as far as I can judge, which is limited, I know.

Whenever I was interviewed, I ended up not getting the job simply because there were too many other candidates. There's too many of us, what can you do? In fact, in every interview I was directly told that they have another 30 candidates waiting outside, so "let's do this quick". As for the applications that didn't even get me invited, I'm forced to stay convinced that it's indeed my lack of any specific skills, indeed the ones advertised, that is the hurdle.

(A common advice: "Never seen an MS machine and the ad asks for a 20-year MS experience? Nevermind, apply anyway! You'll learn by doing". Well, this might work in the USA, but here they tend to mean every word they write in an ad).

To summarise, I need more evidence before I believe your suggested solution to the mystery. After all, I'm not an oddball and everybody's always enjoyed working with me. So why can't I find a job?
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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Sep 13, 2016 11:01 am

SG,

We get posts like this on occasion here on the Forum. Believe me, there's no "evidence" that anyone will be able to provide to you which will make sense. After seeing dozens of new participants who post messages just like this going back to 1996, we've all learned that we can add comments, try and explain how things work in the real world, and yet none of it helps. Believe me, nothing you read here will help you unless you are willing to divorce the scientific process from the job seeking process. You're the person looking for evidence, and that kind of person never does well with Forum advice.

Sometimes I've scratched my head and wondered -- "Why does one person listen and another person just continue to search for evidence?" And the only comment I have to that, after thinking about it, is that there's a certain sort of person who takes the scientific process into a process that is human-centered, not data-centered. That's right -- humans just don't work the same way that lab experiments do.

You're right, that if you are applying for a job requiring significant MS and you do not have the MS, that's a waste of time to apply. We've said that here on hundreds of occasions. But there's also the job that isn't centered on MS, where it's a "nice to have" and not a "must have" and in that case, if you've got 60-70% of everything else, we'd urge you to apply. Because, going back to my earlier comment, they'll take a person who they like (someone who appears to be the kind of person who fits in) and hire that person with 70% of what they are looking for when there are people with 80-90% of what they need who they just don't "like" as much. No, you'll never find the reasons for this in your data. You'll just have to trust that this is what happens.

And there's a bit of exaggeration that always creeps into these kinds of posts as well. The "Hurry up, we've got 30 more like you waiting to interview" comment sounds great to support your running dialog, but that's not the way that companies hire. I've never seen one company, client or otherwise, who would bring in 30 people to have lined up for an interview. That just makes no sense at all. Yes, we all agree with you that there have been too many PhD scientists created in the world -- or, to put it more specifically -- there have been too many PhD scientists trained for academic topics that have no interest to companies who hire. Perhaps our little Forum will make an impact on that bigger problem - but, my suspicion is that our Forum will continue to make a dent in that by assisting one person at a time, as people read the advice here and actually use it, to make a difference in their lives. The 'advice takers' benefit, the 'evidence seekers' do not. Nothing we can do about that.

Here's a great quote which sort of represents where you (and lots of others) are in the process, and what you need to do about it:

“We are so outnumbered there's only one thing to do. We must attack.” Sir Andrew Cunningham.

Perhaps your "attack plan" might be to totally throw out everything you've done and start completely from scratch. After all, it isn't working, so what does it matter? Find out what you're doing wrong in the interview -- that is the telling piece to me. You've gotten interviews, so you know what you are doing with your applications, your cover letters, your CV . . . but you're not doing well in person. That's something that someone can help you with. It IS possible to fix it!

Dave
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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby D. Martin » Tue Sep 13, 2016 8:02 pm

SP,

Dave is right even when the evidence maybe empirical. In my experience, I can already tell who will be a good fit or a bad one for my group (and I do not have tons of interviewing experience, so I can't even imagine people with real experience). Also, they may call your recommenders to get more insights regarding your personality (or in some cases use linkedin to see common connections and ask them, I have seen my profile checked by people from the companies I was interviewing).

Finally, you may think you are great at interviewing but who is judging that? (and please I am not trying to be aggressive, do not take it the wrong way) maybe you made mistakes or do not sound authentic, who knows???. I had an OK CV (nothing outstanding) and I got few job interviews but I got offers from every place where I interviewed. In all cases, they told me "you are great at interviewing" or something similar. I have done my homework and I have attended seminars and read as much as I could about the interview process and it is possible to find a job (a good one) if you polish your soft skills. just my two cents
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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby D.X. » Wed Sep 14, 2016 3:01 am

Dave Jensen wrote:SG,

We get posts like this on occasion here on the Forum. Believe me, there's no "evidence" that anyone will be able to provide to you which will make sense. After seeing dozens of new participants who post messages just like this going back to 1996, we've all learned that we can add comments, try and explain how things work in the real world, and yet none of it helps. Believe me, nothing you read here will help you unless you are willing to divorce the scientific process from the job seeking process. You're the person looking for evidence, and that kind of person never does well with Forum advice.


Dave


Actually, I diagree, there is evidence. Anecdotal evidence but still eviedence and at least in the clinical Research world, a small bits of anecdotal and correalative Trends pointing on one direction can result in palpable and immeidiate Action by Health Authorities.

That being said, the evidence here is anecdotal in that it can't be accurately measured but there are is a world-wide Population of life scientists trainied the in very same skill sets SP described (PCR, Western Blot, etc. etc. with so called mediocre publications - jeez i hate that term) yet they are employed and are in the industry. What got them there? They all sat in the same chair and you and I did. Something other than their skill sets or technical experience got them there.

It has been repeated time and time again, that once you've gotten to an interview, it about personality fit - and that combined with the experience and skills you bring to the table. But its the overall fit. You can't get the personality elements from a CV or a coverletter fully (you can get some hints) so enter the phone/interview.

But here is some solid evidence on the personality fit: On the Commerical Side of pharma, the personality fit is so important that most companys are doing psychometric testing usually based on Myers-Brigg as a Standard part of the interview. (yes even German ones are doing it). In one case I a psychologist was brought in to specifically interview me as part of the hiring process (flew in from another Country just for me!) That's the extreme. But most of the pharma's i know have this component, so much so that you just expect HR to send you a link when you're invited for an interivew, so they can have a discussion about the results.

And most if not all interviews today have a huge behavioral component, i.e. give examples of XYZ and how did you manage? etc. What was the outcome etc.

Not to mention the reference check, the questions that are asked to your references are rarely about your subject matter Expertise, but more about how you worked with others.

Of course the subject matter expertise and experience contributes to you getting to that interview in the first place, that's why your there.

So basically the process of the interview itself also Points to what Dave said - its a human process.

But as Dave hinted, Keep plugging away. D.Martin said tool up on the soft skills, I couldn't agree more. Many of us here were in your shoes, I kid you not when i say I had hundreds of applications out when I was looking for Jobs - looking to leave academia. It can be depression inducing. I had many interests but still a focused number of Areas within my interests - but one day....I actually had quite a few choices! It was like the flood gates opened. So good luck and try to get some feed back.

Spend sometime on this Forum, there is a wealth of Information here and you can get some learnings from the experiences of others.

DX
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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby PG » Wed Sep 14, 2016 4:37 am

The fact that you are getting interviews despite the fact that you seem to be applying mostly or maybe only for advertised positions says that you are definitely doing something right and your CV and cover letters are probably in a very good format. Getting 10 interviews for advertised positions is an achievement since that is normally a very low yield process. Having said that a company around here will typically interview maybe 3-5 candidates for an advertised position so the odds are still against you in each specific case. Also since you are getting interviews the no thank you replies shouldnt be caused by anything that the companies can see in your CV ie this is probably not around age, the fact that you did a PhD, previous experience or technical skills at least not as they are described in your CV and cover letter.

Have you received any feedback from the companies that you have interviewed with? Do you know anything about which step that made you not get an offer? For example do you know if the companies talked with your references or if they said no thank you as a result of the interview?
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Re: Despair | Freelance editing

Postby S.P. » Wed Sep 14, 2016 9:28 am

Thank y'all for your feedback. I never denied that in the job market the human factor plays a crucial role. But what advice will you give to the soft-skill-challenged? "Work on your soft skills" is an innocuous generic advice that is thrown around a bit too often to my taste. Are all the millions of scientists working in industry sterling presenters, communicators, and outright HR charmers? Hard to believe.

But I don't wish to discuss the trillions of Asperger's and Tourette's and simply obnoxious applicants out there, many of whom magically get jobs, I'm sure. Me, there's nothing wrong with my soft skills. I know it sounds defiant; indeed, why should you believe me? My interviews may have been disasters, unawares to me. But what if I truly don't know what to improve? I'm confident, a sterling presenter and communicator (verbatim from my reference letters), pleasant, positive and generally cute. You may argue that there's some elusive missing element. Might be. Do I intend to go to tedious workshops, sit in a circle like at an AA meeting and do puppet-theater simulations of job interviews? No thank you. If I don't boast some kind of resounding deficiency, why should I not just be allowed to be myself? Isn't "just be yourself" a generally good advice in most situations in life?

…there's a certain sort of person who takes the scientific process into a process that is human-centered, not data-centered. That's right -- humans just don't work the same way that lab experiments do.


First, I believe that any sociologist or psychologist reading this would beg to differ. Tons of research shows that humans often function in very predictable ways. But we digress. I see it differently: it's not that I insist on looking at the process through scientific eyes, it's just that I don't like playing games. If I told you that in order to get this job you need to win a game of checkers with me, you'd find the idea ludicrous. To me the whole HR thingie is a game. If I'm a generally okay person but you ask me to go to a soft-skills workshop or else I don't stand a chance, then it cannot be anything but a game. Perhaps this is the way it is, but can you blame me for not embracing it? But back to the main point: even if I do (and indeed I have in all my applications), what if I've exhausted the things to improve?

In my experience, I can already tell who will be a good fit or a bad one for my group.


Maybe your predictions were spot on for the people you accepted, but the ones you rejected, how will you ever know?

I have done my homework and I have attended seminars and read as much as I could about the interview process and it is possible to find a job (a good one) if you polish your soft skills.


When you recommend a soft-skills overhaul, "Find out what you're doing wrong in the interview" (Dave), don't you guys yourselves sin in treating this as an exact science? I mean: should I come to the interview with a white or a blue shirt? When asked about salary expectation, should I aim low (oops, low self-esteem) or high (oops, can't afford him)? When asked about my deficiencies, should I mention the classical forte-in-disguise ("work to hard"), or did this become by now something every HR guy knows and resents? I've heard the entire gamut of responses to these questions; from websites, colleagues, and even HR people. So who's right? Which soft-skill-improving advice should I adopt? I say again: I'm positive that I can benefit zero from such a seminar. Sounds infuriatingly arrogant, but indulge me for now. Where do I go from here?

Project Management, Budget Management etc. Again here how you communicate and experess the fact you have those transferable skills will be a differentiator.


I've never managed a project or a budget. As mentioned here, it's deplorable that there's so many PhD graduate out there without transferrable skills, but what can we do? Do I need to visit now business administration seminar in addition to the soft-skill ones? It's a bottomless pit.

You have some editing experience - what skills from there do you find are transferable? Start thinking about how to communicate and Position that.


All my reference letters extoll my editing skills. Still, when I applied to the position of assistant editor at a certain journal, where they simply wanted "editing skills", no experience, nothing special, I wasn't even invited to an interview, and the rejection letter audaciously claimed that I didn't have the right skills. This happened thrice (same publisher). Exactly the kind of Scheiss that accounts for my total and utter despair.

Have you received any feedback from the companies that you have interviewed with?


I don't know how it is in the US, but in Germany nobody will ever be honest with you about this. Fear of litigation? Who knows, perhaps if they tell you that you "focused too much on salary" this translates to "They called me a dirty Jew". (I'm a Jew, so I'm allowed this joke). I've never even received a personalised rejection letter: they've all been copy-paste.

For example do you know if the companies talked with your references?


Never. They only relied on my reference letters, which are raving.

===========

A question by the way: to what degree would you recommend an applicant to change their appearance in order to nail a job? I've been told to cut my rather rumbustious hair. I find this advice silly, to say the least. My application comes with a photo, which didn't prevent me from being invited 10 times to be interviewed. Some of my interviewers could use a haircut themselves. Why the automatic assumption that the more conservative the better? This is not an insurance company. The average age amongst Bayer's 116,800 employees is I daresay 35, not 85. Or from a different angle: why are science companies ruled by a protective layer of ultra-conservative HR? How did the scientist founders of these pioneering companies allow this to happen? Sob. And even if I accept this: slippery slope, anyone? Next I'll be advised to do a nose job (too Jewish) (I'm at it again).

And, changing the topic: can anyone help me with my original freelance-editor question? I currently feel that it's my only viable option, and this is something I actually like doing. There doesn't seem to be any scientific-editing forum. Am I doomed to freelance forever for an Indian company that pays Indian wages and that practices a McDonald's mentality of trying to deduct from your pay for every missed comma?
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