Author Archive

Basics of Job Search, Resumes&CVs, Interviewing&Negotiating

Big Picture Thoughts, Interviews, Job Search, Networking, Resumes 1 Comment »

Outline of talk to the grad students of the UW School of Pharmacy PORPP, May 6, 2011.  (Note: two additional pages of good information sources have been added, and if you were there and have further questions, please do feel free to call.)

Basics of Job Search, Resumes&CVs, Interviewing&Negotiating

Saving the “Academic Core”

Big Picture Thoughts, The Economy 1 Comment »

Last month, I wrote “Why Academics Need a Career Plan B (And Maybe Plan C)” for Job-Hunt, and unfortunately, it’s already time to update it. The University of California-Berkeley emailed everyone on campus this week that 280 more jobs have been eliminated, beyond the 500 already cut from the system. (It should be noted that nearly half are retirements and “voluntary” separations, but the salient point is that those jobs no longer exist.)

Apparently these cuts had been planned even before Governor Jerry Brown proposed another $500 million in cuts to the UC system. (Newspaper articles have stated that no jobs being cut came from faculty or campus police positions, nor were undergrad student jobs eliminated.)

But these cuts are merely part of a longer series – with more to come. Late in September last year, five sports programs were also cut at UCBerkeley: baseball, men’s rugby, men’s and women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse – with an expectation of saving $4 million a year. In November, tuition was raised to $50,649 (including fees and room/board) for out-of-state students – and this is after Berkeley had raised tuition 30% for 2009.

So far, most of the cuts have affected staff positions, rather than faculty, police and mental health counselors, and I assume that most colleges and universities are trying to “save the academic core” of the institution (a phrase I first heard in a university email from the then-President of the University of Washington, yet another institution affected by cuts by the local state legislature – and anticipating more.)

But at some point, in some states, at some institutions, the cuts will go into the bone and faculty will find themselves on the block, too. Best to start checking out the alternatives….

(If you’re looking for more depressing news on this dismal topic, search the Internet for UC Berkeley job cuts 2011, or university layoffs 2011, or …you get the picture, right?)

Non-Academic Employment Trending Up

The Economy No Comments »

A survey by CareerBuilder, one of the larger career/recruiting companies, reveals “stronger employment trends” in 2011, and it is echoed by a number of positive employment reports in various local Business Journals (see below).

While the figures are not extraordinary, with only 24% of employers surveyed saying they plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in 2011, they are at least on the up side for a change. Only 13% anticipate hiring part-time employees, but 34% plan to hire temporary and/or contract workers.

The top 10 “functional” areas (across all industries) for hiring are, in order:  sales, information technology, customer service, engineering, technology, administrative, business development, marketing, research/development and accounting/finance.

More employers in the West plan to hire in 2011 than those in the Northeast, followed by those in the central US and South.

Here are some of the positive articles I’ve seen recently, thanks to the Business Journal regional editions.

Be of good cheer in the New Year!

Help Get Resumes Through The Filters

Big Picture Thoughts, Job Search, Resumes No Comments »

NCEEA-Trends in Resumes & Cov lts

This was actually a presentation for the NCEEA Conference in Seattle, WA, in April of 2010.

Lower Expectations of Higher Education?

Big Picture Thoughts, Controversy No Comments »

In a blog post*  titled, “Some Higher Education Facts, Good and Bad,” Mike Mandel looks at the share of U.S. college grads with advanced degrees (rising to 35% by 2008), but he found that the percentage of doctoral degrees had decreased somewhat.  Looking a little farther, he found that the change in “real pay” to holders of doctorates had decreased (by 10%!!!!!) between 1999 and 2008.

Check out this graphic!

Furthermore, in the same time period, the real pay to those with professional degrees had decreased by approximately 3%.

The real pay of those with master’s degrees had increased by a mere not-quite 1% and those with bachelor’s degree had increased maybe a tad-bit more than 1%. (Despite what we’re told is a low current rate of inflation – that’s not much of an increase.)

And that’s not even counting what has happened to the economy since 2008.

In noting the decrease in percentage of PhDs being granted, he mentioned the “relative undesirability of the PhD.”  Uhhhmmm – it’s really hard to hear that phrase.  But, I guess I have to agree that advanced degrees seem not to be paying off in salary expectations – or, these days, in occupational stability either!

If these figures are accurate, here’s more reason to avoid incurring debt while you’re in grad school, even if you love being there. If you don’t love being there, but you’re accumulating debt because you expect to make big bucks in a stable job – is it maybe time to reconsider??

* Mike Mandel’s blog is at

Does Grad School Affect Personality – Adversely?

Controversy, Life in Grad School 2 Comments »

Here’s another article that SHOULD ignite some controversy – but I’m afraid the author may be right.  IS it normal for grad school to change otherwise normal, well-adjusted, functioning adults into paranoids?  DOES grad school change personalities (negatively)?

Is it possible to humanize grad school?

Freedom to Learn, by Carl Rogers, the great humanist-psychologist, was published in 1969. I can still remember my thrill when I read the chapter on what grad school COULD be like. He advocated positive support for all grad students once they were admitted. That meant treating them from the beginning like colleagues-t0-be, who could be mentored, and guided to become great learners and teachers.

What the article linked (above) assumes is that (paranoid) grad students are reacting to being treated like competitors-to-be, with suspicion, and being critiqued and tested continuously, at least until the degree is conferred (and after too, if they are seen then as competitors-for-real).

My take is that the way grad students are being treated is analogous to the way those suspected of having committed crimes are treated in much of the non-US world – guilty until proven innocent. Or, lacking until proven able – which, in grad school, is pretty serious as a suspected crime.

Carl Rogers did not subscribe to a survival-of-the-fittest model of graduate education. He assumed that every single one could produce great scholarship, and he invited teamwork-like collaboration among the members of the intellectual community to support grad students through their learning and transition, rather than making it an ordeal to be survived.

Since I read that chapter, quite a few years ago, I have wondered if there are any academic departments around the country following that enlightened model.  Please let me know if you have experience of one of them…..

Controversy in the Ivory Teapot

Controversy No Comments »

Check out this series of comments by the “intelligencia” when they opine about how many students should dance on the tip of an ivory tower (imagine the metaphor). Well, what the Chronicle folks actually asked was, “Are Too Many Students Going to College?”

The experts all seem to assume we’re talking about undergrads, but the question applies equally to graduate education, and I’d like to see a discussion of THAT. It might even raise the level of the verbal fisticuffs.

Why Should You Negotiate?

Interviews No Comments »

Build Your Professional Image When You Attend a Conference

Job Search, Networking 1 Comment »

(Part 2)

6. Network – think of it as “academic service networking.”

If you consider that your networking purpose is to help others – you will be far more remembered and contacted later than if you spend all your time talking about yourself.

If you think of research as being of service to others, networking can be re-framed as a pleasure. It then means talking to people about their research, offering to send them references that you think may relate to their work – and being generally interested in and helpful to others.

You’re not networking only into established networks of famous academics, you’re also connecting down the social ladder and establishing your own network. Taking younger students under your wing (small as it may be), will earn you thanks, trust and credibility that you can’t get any other way.

7. Before you arrive and while you’re at the conference, ask questions.

Use the opportunity to find the recent trends in the field and the funding situation, especially if you’re just starting in grad school. Most likely, some research areas are hot and others are cold. Know the difference before you decide on your thesis or dissertation topic.

Find out where your school stands in the pecking order of the discipline. What’s the competition like for academic jobs when you graduate? What do people in the field do outside of academics?

If non-academics attend the annual conference, how can you find them to ask questions? You may want to stay in touch with them if you’re planning for future non-academic work. Your world may be constrained back in grad school and these contacts may represent a lifeline, or at least another perspective of life beyond the walls of academe.

If you haven’t yet, try to discover your discipline’s place in the universe. Get an idea of your own relative place in the pecking order too (and check again at next year’s conference – seeing progress is its own reward).

8. Socialize with your peers from other geographic areas.

They may be your future colleagues and competitors for academic jobs.  Find out what they’re doing in the field and be aware of the potential for collaboration, especially with the ones who “click” with you.

Even if some of these individuals may be potential competitors, get to know them because you can’t contrast your own strengths with theirs if you don’t know them.

9. Set a goal of meeting at least 10 new people.

It’s a natural urge to hang around with familiar faces, but conferences are held to find out what colleagues are doing and to have a chance to discuss and exchange ideas. The more people you know (who are doing work you’re interested in), the more potential there is to publish joint papers with them. When you see that potential, suggest a collaboration.

This point is even more important for those looking to work beyond traditional academics, and in fields emphasizing cross-disciplinary work. Both industry and cross-disciplinary grantors look for a track record in teamwork, a trait that academics have generally not emphasized.

10. Have a good time.

Conferences are part of your professional work, but being able to combine pleasure with the focus makes the work itself more pleasurable. And you may be able to develop relationships with geographically distant researchers that will be both productive and pleasurable for many years.

Build Your Professional Image When You Attend a Conference

Job Search, Networking 3 Comments »

(Part 1)

Do you want to be remembered

  • •    with a chuckle – as that goofy guy who criticized the main speaker’s research design – while standing next to her?
  • •    with a questioning frown – as the shadow-woman who walked behind her advisor and was never seen to say a word to anyone?
  • •    with a frown – as the arrogant fool who endlessly told everyone what he was researching – but never even asked anyone else’s name?

Attending conferences while you’re in grad school can be seen as a waste of time or as an overdue reward for the hours of partying you gave up to study. But other conference participants (including those who may be able to hire you in a year or two) will form an opinion of you no matter what.

A little awareness can not only save you grief later, it can give you a head start on the right kind of visibility and credibility that upholds and extends your developing professional image.

Naturally, your goal will be somewhat different if you’re a recent grad student vs. ready to graduate. In either case, you are training to be a professional. Act the part, even if you have to pretend.

1. Decide what you want to know and accomplish before you go – and you’ll accomplish more.

Before you leave for the conference, especially if you’re new to the field, get an overview of who’s doing what and where they are. Know the names (and faces) you should recognize before you find yourself criticizing the work of a person – who you later find was standing next to you.

2. Get involved – and you’ll be remembered.

Especially if you’re not presenting a talk or poster session, volunteer to help.
(If you’re tight on funding, volunteer to the organizers several months ahead. You may be able to negotiate a discounted registration fee.)

Or, volunteer to help at the registration desk or in one of the hospitality suites a few hours before things get started, or when it’s really busy.

If the conference is in your home city, offer to staff an information booth at registration and help with directions and things for visitors to do/see while in town.

At the very least, take an ownership attitude and initiate conversations and introduce people who seem not to know each other.

A friend of mine says she looks for people who stand quietly in the background at receptions. She introduces herself and asks them what interesting things they’ve been doing. Several years ago, she met a guy who had been in a meeting with the President (of the United States) the previous week.

3. Schedule your conference time for maximum efficiency.

Review the conference program as soon as you get it and make yourself a schedule of where you want to be every hour – the important talks, your “free” time and who you want to connect with, including the receptions and parties where you can mingle informally with the “names” in the field.

4. Take business cards so you can present yourself as a professional.

Having business cards does not mean that you’ll be passing them out like a sales rep.

The real goal is to make it easy to be found later – and to avoid having to tear scraps of paper off your note pad to write your contact information when someone wants to stay in touch with you. You are training to be a professional – why not act like one?

5. Prime your mentor or advisor to introduce you.

You need to become known in the field, and even though you are you are still your advisor’s potential product at this point, you can ride that reputation until you are able to produce your own. Decide who you need to know, and who needs to know you.

Consider who is doing the work that’s most interesting to you, or related to yours, and either get introduced, or introduce yourself. This is especially important when you’re presenting posters and papers.