Plan B and Bob Dylan

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Career Planning

Plan B and Bob Dylan
This dialogue was a reaction to a statement in the fall by the president of American Historical Association about removing the stigma of Plan B from a nonacademic career path. In the report, a assortment of opinions had been voiced about modifying the …
Read far more on Inside Higher Ed


The Radical New Humanities Ph.D.
The Stanford document proposes a situation where college students make a decision on a profession strategy — academic or nonacademic — they want to embark on by the end of their second-year of graduate research, file the strategy with their division, and then put together tasks and …
Read a lot more on Inside Greater Ed


Science Ph.D. students interest in faculty jobs decreases above time
This study suggests that science Ph.D. students need to have more info and resources about pursuing non-academic careers, the authors create. This research offers distinctive survey proof concerning students occupation preferences, supporting frequent issues …
Study much more on EurekAlert (press release)


Sufficient is sufficient. UE grads informed to leave residence, get a task
… deal with at Saturday commencement ceremonies in the Ford Center, but not before stealing some laughter and applause from the family members sections with a bit of nonacademic guidance. Move away from property and get task as soon as achievable, Kazee mentioned.
Study more on Evansville Courier & Press



Science PhDs Are Post Academics Too​

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Career Planning

Given the current dismal job prospects in tenure-track science academia, it’s no wonder more science PhDs are exploring alternative career options. Although we were groomed to succeed our mentors in the academy, bench life isn’t for everyone. Some of us don’t have the passion for conducting the same meticulous experiments day after day or the wherewithal to generate the endless grant writing required for PI survival. We are tired of spending nights and weekends in the lab, sacrificing sleep and social life to experiment-based timetables. But what non-bench career options are available that utilize our doctoral experience?

As postdocs, we are responsible for staying current with research in our field. However, sometimes that field is so narrow that we find ourselves unable to converse with other scientists about our work, much less attempt to explain it to our family and friends. We are intelligent detail-lovers, but we can also be generalists. A broad understanding of contemporary science is essential in order to produce high impact research, which is typically a by-product of collaboration. But inter-disciplinary collaboration produces more than prominent publications; it enhances our ability to communicate science across other fields. Some scientists are gifted communicators with a knack for relating research to anyone. And for those who can put research into a social and political perspective to engage and enlighten a non-technical audience, science writing may be the perfect career path.

Science writing encompasses a variety of career prospects, from technical writers who prepare users manuals for biotechnology companies to science journalists who work for media outlets. Science journalists don’t always write for lay audiences, though. Some write for professional audiences in institutional or society newsletters, alumni magazines and in-house publications. For science PhDs interested in public relations, there are a myriad of public information positions available at universities, non-profit organizations, government agencies and private research foundations. These organizations seek spokespeople as conduits through which research can be articulated to the public. For example, public information officers write press releases that are distributed to the media and serve as liaisons between reporters and institutional staff.

Trading pipette for pen is a daunting transition, but postdocs would be surprised at how they already fulfill the job requirements. Science writers are expected to attend scientific meetings, read journals, and maintain contact with scientists in their field of interest in order to stay current on advances in the area. Depending on the size of their organization, science writers may be responsible for covering a wide range of science or they may have a narrow range of interest such as biotechnology or neuroscience. Science writers, like postdocs, spend their professional life continually learning. Each article challenges them to master a new vocabulary and become familiar with new concepts. All science writers share a common responsibility: to monitor research developments and translate information of interest to their audience. The advent of social media has many science writers producing more than print journalism. Podcasts and videocasts are becoming popular, and prospective science writers need not only an in-depth understanding of their topic, but also the ability to accurately and clearly communicate research to a broad audience.

So how do you know if science writing is right for you? Dr. Sue Ambrose, science writer for The Dallas Morning News, offers advice for aspiring science writers in Alternative Careers in Science: Leaving the Ivory Tower, a book I recommend for any science PhD who is considering alternative career options outside academia. As Dr. Ambrose puts it, good science writers “would rather learn a little about many areas of science than spend the rest of [their] career focused on a single, narrow field.” If you savor the sense of accomplishment that comes with publication, loathe writing in the context of academic prose, and would be relieved to never have to run another experiment again, then science writing is a career to consider. If the prospect of returning to the classroom isn’t appealing, there are other ways to launch a career in scientific journalism that don’t necessitate financial investment in formal coursework. Several awards, fellowships, and grants are available to aspiring science writers; a listing of these opportunities is maintained by the National Association of Science Writers. AAAS sponsors an annual Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows Program that places STEM graduate and post-graduate students at media organizations nationwide. The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing is also a great resource for the science writing community, and includes a guide to careers in science writing.

As trained scientists, we anticipated a future at the bench. But for many of us, due to the current state of the academic and industry job market, alternative career options represent more tenable choices. And for those who love science but not lab work, science writing may offer the perfect solution.

Meghan Mott (PostDocs)


The Last Word…For Now

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Career Planning

From Julie Clarenbach at Escape the Ivory Tower

All that education, but not on this

Unfortunately, most of the people around you are academics – and they likely know next to nothing about the non-academic job market.

The people in your life who aren’t in academia, well, they aren’t in academia. They don’t have the experience to help you translate what they know about getting a job to your particular situation. Worse, many of them probably did go a traditional route, getting a degree in and then staying within one particular field. They might even be telling you it’s the only option and you are, what’s the technical term?, screwed. (Or worse: They might be saying you have to go back to school.)

Of course, there are hundreds (probably thousands) of books out there explaining how to go about the job search process and even how to switch fields, but none of them address the particular problems of translating academic experience into something persuasive.

There are a handful of books helping academics and humanities majors think about what else they might do with all of their training, but they don’t really explain how to go about creating a comprehensive job search that will maximize your chances of success.

If only you could combine all of those things into one…

In order to craft a job search process that is both likely to be successful and isn’t going to make you lose your mind (either from anxiety or boredom), you need to put all of these pieces together: an understanding of how to translate academic experience to a non-academic audience, the tools and strategies that make a non-academic job search easier and less stressful, and how to combine it all into a system that you can use.

Call it a non-academic job search system. But I’m sure you can come up with a better name than that.

Week 1: Articulating what you have to offer

There’s a lot of work to do before you even start looking for things to apply for, which is why a solid master resume is the foundation of a successful search. It’s important to gather all of your experience together and document what skills and talents you’ve demonstrated throughout your life.

It’s easy for us to downplay our skills and accomplishments. We do it for lots of reasons – we’re afraid of being boastful, we’re afraid of being called out, we’re afraid of being thought of as snooty or intimidating or whatever. But the best antidote to downplaying isn’t forcing ourselves to sell ourselves, it’s confidence. And the easiest way to become confident is to document your actual skills and achievements.

This session enables you to articulate why you’re appropriate for a job you just know you’d be good at – and avoid jobs you don’t want just because you look like a fit on paper.

Week 2: Reaching out to find more

People are always going to be your best source of information for everything from all the ways engineers have gotten jobs trading stocks to whether company B’s vacation policy really is unlimited to whether the flower industry is likely to slump.

This sessions helps you activate your network, get clear about what you need, and find the right people to ask for help. I’ll also give you strategies for dealing with any anxiety you have about asking, for networking without smarm, and for getting the most out of your discussion.

Week 3: Finding and creating job openings

Some organizations have clear rules and procedures for hiring employees. Higher-ups have to approve it, departments advertise in particular ways, and everything goes from there.

More often, the whole thing is a bit more chaotic than that.

Yes, jobs are advertised in print and on-line lists. But employers want to attract good candidates, and placing an ad somewhere is rarely the most effective way to do that. And sometimes companies have problems they don’t even know how to solve – until they meet you.

This session will help you expand your search beyond job listings and even beyond job openings by exploring companies of interest and considering the ways you can solve their problems.

Week 4: Applying for a particular job

Applying can look like anything from filling out an online form to emailing a resume and cover letter to having coffee with someone who knows someone who could actually hire you. And make no mistake – interviewing is part of applying.

It’s your job to articulate how your skills and experience can help the company achieve the goals it’s going after. To do that, you have to have a reasonable understanding of the company – and of yourself.

This session will enable you to ask the right questions, dig for the right information, and connect it to what you have to offer.

Week 5: Negotiating

The offer of a job isn’t the end of the application process. It’s the beginning of the final act. The job search doesn’t end until you put your things down on your very own desk on that first day of work.

A successful negotiation means that no one is resentful on that first day – and ensures that the first day of the right job actually arrives.

This session will give you the principles of a successful negotiation and how to put them into practice.

Week 6: Putting it all together

No system is going to work without ways to plan for, execute, and keep track of all the many bits and pieces of information, relationships, and tasks. When you’re deep in the process, you’ll be reaching out, finding openings, applying, and negotiating to different ends all at the same time, and keeping it all straight is crucial to the outcome.

This session will help you put everything together into a manageable system that won’t overwhelm you.

How does this relate to the Conscious Careers course?

You might have seen that Jo VanEvery and I offer a class called Choosing Your Career Consciously. In that course, we help people explore their own experiences and interests in order to expand the set of possibilities they’re considering as a next step. You have a lot of options other than academia or teaching your subject in another venue.

In other words, the Conscious Careers course covers the work you have to do before you dive in to applying for actual jobs, namely, figuring out what you might want to look for. We build off of that work in the very first session of Becoming Post-Academic.

While having a sense of what kind of work you want to apply for will be helpful as you go through Becoming Post-Academic, if you’re having trouble imagining what kind of work you’d like to do, taking the Conscious Careers class would support your work in this course. The next round will begin in October, and we’re offering a package discount – both classes for $299.

You can read more about Choosing Your Career Consciously by clicking here.

So what does Becoming Post-Academic include?

The course will take place by conference call and chat on six consecutive Thursdays beginning June  7, 2012, at 7pm ET. (Here’s a handy time-zone-converter if you’d like to see what time that is in your life.)

The $179 price ($149 before May 31) includes six 90-minute classes (including recordings of all sessions), worksheets to help you apply the materials to your particular situation, and examples of job materials, interview questions, and tracking strategies.

When you register, you’ll immediately get my master resume worksheet and template delivered by email to help you start documenting your skills and experience. After the course begins, you’ll get additional worksheets and examples sent by email.

The cost is payable online by credit card or PayPal through a secure link.

Let me sum up

So what do you get by signing up for this course?

  • Concrete action steps that get you to your goal
  • A system that tells you which steps to do when – and that you can use whenever you decide to change jobs
  • Evidence of your experience, skills, and accomplishments
  • Strategies for researching companies and translating your talents into their needs
  • Ways to succeed at interviewing
  • Non-scary strategies for networking
  • 9 steps to simplifying negotiations – and getting what you want
  • The confidence to move forward and actually step into a new career

What It Means to Be Post Academic

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Career Planning

The scariest thing a young faculty member experiences is not, as is conventionally supposed, the “need to produce” and therefore her/his experience is not aided by the “mentorship” of an experienced scholar.  Rather, the young scholar’s fear stems from the fact that no one in the department is talking to each other about scholarship.  Faculty are socializing, going out, schmoozing all the time, and the ideas that supposedly drive the work they do are not being discussed.  The mentor, if assigned, will try to teach the young faculty member how to navigate the minefield of the department, but that is exactly what is alienating. .  The mentor, especially when well-intentioned, may be the model for what is wrong, not an aid in coping.  Indeed, if the mentor is really similar to the young faculty member in terms of ideology or social identity, the mentor may be a model for what the young faculty member does not wish to become.

The one conversation everyone is having incessantly is the one about the micropolitical maneuvers within the department.  This conversation is, of course always done with armor on, with an eye toward alliances and enemies already made, with everyone watching to find out which camp the new faculty member will join.  And while there is a relationship between micropolitics and geopolitics, it is far more tenuous, far more mediated by local institutional conditions, than the new faculty first imagines.

Because no one is talking about substance, only alliances, and because alienation is general, a vacuum exists at the center of institutional power which is not filled by talent or argument, but by those who feel most comfortable or justified taking advantage of it.  For those in power, and for those who hope to attain power, the arrival of a new junior faculty member is to be watched closely for his/her schmoozing choices. As a result, it is not simply the case that junior faculty fear senior faculty, but that the senior faculty fear the junior faculty, walking around wondering whether this new person will contribute to their already hatched plan to take over the curriculum.  The fact that the new person was hired with accomplishments and expectations much higher than so many senior faculty members does not help this form of fear, of course.

While it remains true that the power differential between tenured and untenured faculty makes the ubiquity of fear particularly threatening to the careers of junior faculty members, the longer one stays the more one discovers that one’s unhappiness is simply an example of the larger misery of faculty members.  Senior faculty don’t exactly help or support one another either.  Tenure might lead to a sense of security; it surely does not breed happiness.

The net that academics are ultimately caught in, regardless of the structure or the “progressiveness” of the specific department, is the net of personal power. Within the capitalist professional class, the criteria by which alliances are formed and judgments made is generally limited by an abstract and objective, rather than personal, question:  did you make money for the shareholders?  Even where personality or group dynamics dictates one or another poor relationship, there is some criteria of performance evaluation outside of academia’s twin criteria:  personal alliance and ideology.  In truth, it takes an incredible number of hours to evaluate adequately any individual’s research.  For all but a handful of us, the number of people who have given our work that kind of attention is miniscule.  We are tied to those individuals not the way a consultant is tied to a client’s account books, but the way we are tied to lovers and friends — and ex-lovers and enemies.  Obviously, I am aware that markets create winners and losers, and also, that there is no “free market” unconstructed by the intervention of human psyches.  Yet at least within the bourgeoisie the existence of a monetary reference point provides some resistance to personal power, while the structure of institutionalized intellectual work permits no such outside reference point — not community service, not ethics, not, in light of the inability of humanities scholars to agree about what such a concept might mean, truth.  Academia has neither capitalist forms of abstraction nor socialist forms of solidarity to recommend it.


What Not To Say In Your Job Interview

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Career Planning

Job Interview
by tedmurphy under CC BY


Job Interview – What You Should NEVER Do

What you should say during a job interview depends on the position you’re trying to get along with your preferences, skills as well as experience. However, some answers are better than others.

No good will come from talking bad about your past companies. You stand the chance of appearing as an employee that could be considered a “management issue”.   Requesting special treatment in the interview can make you appear as someone who will have constant requests once you are comfortably employed.  Also avoid personal problems, by complaining or whining you show that you could allow home issues to effect your duties in the work place.  Make sure to avoid statements that could  be perceived as argumentative.  Your goal should be to prove you will be liked within the company and fit into it identity.  Expletives and derogatory remarks should be avoided, but don’t be dishonest.  The truth will come out at some point, and misleading information will come back to haunt you.

Informing an interviewer tasks you are above can also be an alarm. Be sure you apply for positions which are right for you, and realize that people continually must complete tasks which are less than enjoyable. Take time to learn about the organization before you decide to interview.  You should know why you are attracted to the specific company, as well as how you fit in and how it helps to further your own personal goals.  Allow the potential company to initiate salary conversations. It can be a red flag if the interviewee is the one to initiate the topic of money.  Asking about holidays, sick days or vacation is often a potential turnoff since you will seem more interested in time off as opposed to working hard on job by itself.  The hardworking, devoted employee is more dedicated to completing the tasks and being productive.

The topic of strengths and weakness can be a dicey topic.  When discussing strengths you should give three or four examples of your good qualities, and relate them to how they will help you be an asset in this role for their company.  Weakness can be harder to answer.  Many will answer that they are a ‘workaholic’ or that they can be hyper focused on doing a good job.  This can sound dishonest or not believable.  The better idea is to be truthful by admitting a  minor personal shortcoming, and explaining the steps you are taking or have taken to overcome this attribute.

  • Please…I beg of you…don’t come to an interview if you haven’t bathed or brushed your teeth! If anyone thinks I’m kidding, I’m not. While this may seem absolutely obvious to almost everyone, I assure you, there are some folks who may not realize this matters. And if you are one of them…it absolutely does! You don’t have to come dressed like a fashion plate – in fact probably a good idea not to unless it’s some snazzy high-fashion job – and even then, less may be more. Tasteful, well-groomed, bathed…I think this pretty much says it.
  • Don’t interrupt the interviewer! Even if you think you get where they’re going and have the most brilliant answer ever to their interview question, this is one of the most annoying things you can do. Give them a chance to finish. And at least do your best to maintain eye contact and show you are listening intently – and are very interested in and respectful of the person speaking.
  • Don’t take off on your own and answer a question that wasn’t asked. Following up on the previous “don’t”, you may think you know where they’re going, but they may throw you a curve ball. Or, in your nervousness or desire to make all your practiced points, you may in fact miss the point. I’ve seen people going off on tangents that may be interesting enough, but it  showed me they weren’t really listening. Listen carefully and be right there in the moment – and not racing ahead to your answer or thinking of next questions. It’s probably the best thing you can do for yourself in an interview. (Other than bathing.) Of course, if there is a related key strength you want to tell them about, there may be a way to fit that into your answer, as long as you don’t go on and on. But first…answer the question.
  • Don’t wear perfume or cologne. I hope I don’t need to explain this, but if I do…first, some people find perfumes or colognes offensive – worse yet, some people may be allergic.  They don’t belong in an interview…except maybe (once again tastefully done) if you are interviewing at the company that makes the product, I guess. Once again, bathing / showering will pretty much do the trick here.
  • Don’t go heavy on the make-up. (To be gender neutral, this goes for men or women.) The closer to natural you look, the more the real you can shine through.  To be candid, I have to admit now I haven’t used make-up for years, but if you do use it, artfully applied it can be a real asset. But too much and too bold…well, some employers will see it as a sign that you are more about looks and surface things than business. This general “don’t” can be adapted to how you dress, of course.
  • No gum, no candy – nothing in your mouth except teeth (hopefully) and other nature-given stuff.  You’re there to speak and listen – without anything else going on in there. Once again, you want to show you are about the business and not your own comfort or habits. I recently read that maybe you should even think twice about bringing your own coffee. (I’m not sure about that one – unless your choice of coffee sends the wrong message.   If anyone read that article, I’d love the link.) Of course, if you’re offered coffee, tea or water, by all means feel free to accept. I myself do bring a bottle of water with me and I believe it has never hurt, but I’m open to hearing otherwise if someone wants to chime in here.  Oh…and while you probably shouldn’t bring much of anything in with you (other than anything the employer requested), one thing you SHOULD remember to bring is a few copies of your resume, just in case. (I read some people even bring their relatives with them…ewww. Again I would love the link.)
  • Don’t listen to your iPod, play video games, make cell phone calls, etc. while waiting to be interviewed. Take care of all that before you come in the door of the building.  Or, if you really need to make IMPORTANT calls while you wait, ask if you may use a private area to do so. Just like with dating, impressions form quickly. Watching someone dial a bunch of friends or play video games while waiting, leaves the impression the person will be doing that during their workday too. Since you are there to present yourself as a capable, serious candidate, start your presentation from the moment you walk in.  Impressions you leave can last well beyond the day of the interview. And you never know whom you run into on the elevator or even as you enter the building.  After the interview, maintain your best interview attitude until you are away from the building.

If you think banking upon your professionally prepared CV and academic qualifications can help you bag your dream job, think again. While am impressive CV has fetched you an interview call, but it is how you perform in the interview that will decide your fate.

While it is important to prepare well for the job interview by doing research about the company, its profile, your expected role, one must know what not to say in a job interview.

  1. How much will I be paid: Never ask a company about your salary in the first round of interview as it does not make a good impression on employers. If money is discussed, it is up to the interviewer from the company to broach that subject. If they ask you how much money you want, have a range of pay packages to give them and not a specific amount. But it is better to research how much the job you want really pays in your town or state and then come up with a range of a yearly salary to request.
  2. What does your company make (or do)? A job candidate must research the company for which they want to work before going into a job interview with them. If you appear blank when asked about the company’s profile, your prospective employer will not have a good impression of you. Search about the company on the Internet and read as much as you can about it and take notes.
  3. Don’t use slangs or phrases in your job interview: Avoid using words like jerk, and, cool, wanna. Interview is not a casual conversation with friends in a lounge. It is a formal conversation which requires good English and communication skills. Using slang in the interview would make you look non-serious and unprofessional.
  4. Never bad-mouthing your employer or boss: If you say things like my previous boss was a jerk or there was lot of office politics, you may be perceived as immature, unable to handle work pressure or be discreet. Saying derogatory things about him/her will reflect on you.
  5. Don’t talk too much: When asked about yourself, don’t tell your life story as it will lead your employers to perceive you as immature. You should just stick to your academic qualifications, previous work experience and any other added skills or achievements. Do not go into details or tell your personal problems.
  6. In five years, I see myself on a boat in Hawaii. When a company is asking “Where do you see yourself in five years, they want to judge your long time goals. If you give answers like vacationing in Hawaii or cruising around the globe, it will have your employers questioning your sincerity. When interviewers ask you about long-term goals, they want an answer that relates to the company or commitment towards it.
  7. Sorry, I don’t know how to do that: Rather than admitting that you don’t have a specific skill or knowledge about a particular software, stress that you’re a fast learner and are excited about the possibility of acquiring new skills. Most companies would rather hire an enthusiastic, smart person who needs to be trained than someone who already has the required skills but isn’t as eager to learn.
  8. I have no weakness: When prospective employers ask you about your weakness, they expect you to be honest or at least have some kind of answer. If you say you don’t have any, the interviewer will believe that you are lying or that you are not thinking or being biased. You can say that you don’t like to waste time on small talk.
  9. Avoid saying unnecessary lies and stop exaggerating: Don’t lie! You’ll be found out, and you’ll regret it. Lies like I was offered a job with so and so company with 3 times this amount or I have done the highest number of sales in my current company, such things can always be found out. Hence, you must never exaggerate.
  10. What benefits does your company offer: This is a definite no, no as no one likes to hire selfish people. They want to know why they should hire you. Stress the contributions you can make. Tell them about how your efforts helped previous employers. Don’t start asking about raises, bonuses, and promotions right away. They hate it when you ask them “What can you do for me?”