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Career science careers

Setting Goals at Your Current Job

What do you want to achieve at your current position?

It hit me while I was celebrating my birthdayπŸŽ‚ recently, that I assumed I am working towards my goals, my team’s goals, and my employer’s. But wait a minute, what were my goals?

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Career science careers Uncategorized

Internship as a Bridge

Spending years in academia can be likened to growing up in a castle on an island for years. You knew everything about the castle, which was on this seemingly wonderful island, but you had no idea that an even more wonderful world existed beyond the island. You grew up thinking that you were going to win the heart of the beautiful princess, marry her, and eventually be the king’s trusted successor. That was until one day you realized that you had no chance with the princess and therefore would never be the prince nor the king of this kingdom. When reality hit, it became clear that instead of your fantasy, you were destined to be a servant to the royal family forever if you chose to stay on this island. There was really no space for you on the island but you had ambitions, passions and desire to live a fulfilling life. Finally, you decided to leave the island to find new fertile lands to build your own empire. But wait a minute. Where exactly is the bridge? What do you mean there is no bridge to get to the other side?

Let me go straight to the point: academia is the castle island and an internship is your bridge.

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Career science careers Uncategorized

Ways to Work a Conference

Most of us in the workforce will have many opportunities to attend professional conferences. They are quite costly, and if done right, attending a conference will be nothing less than exhausting. So, why do it? Wait, aren’t they just paid vacation?

If you think that conferences are a waste of time and that you are better off hunching over your desk, working harder than ever, and not fake-smiling at some strangers, I urge you to reconsider your perspective, open up your mind, and read on.

Remember networking? Attending conferences is one effective way to network, especially when you have a specific purpose to reach a great number of people, in a very short time. Let’s say your paper has just appeared in a prestigious journal; it would be one of the best time to attend a conference. In academic science, a conference is a place where you can promote your papers and your findings, which may lead to more citations, future collaborations, or your next job. In industry, each trade has its own suite of conferences where people gather to learn from each other, get the latest info on market trends, and most importantly, make deals.

Whatever your role or the goal is, we have to be well prepared for conferences to make the investment worth the trip. In other words, we have to work the conference and get the best out of the opportunity! This is especially crucial if you are job hunting or new in the field.

PRE-CONFERENCE

Typically, conferences are held annually, so most of us would already know if we would be attending a conference a few months ahead of time. After taking care of registration and travel details, what is next?

The weeks that lead up to the conference are crucial. During these few weeks, you should get your hands on the attendee list and study it as much as you can. Why? First, you want to know who the movers and shakers are, so that when you see them at the conference, which is very likely, you would be able to make a connection and have a conversation. Take an example, if you want to get a job at Your Favorite Company (YFC), then find out who the representatives from YFC are, as well as how you would be able to add value to YFC, so that when you bump into these guys, you can nonchalantly say, “oh hello, Dr. Arthur, I admire YFC’s mission and this is why.” The preparation will allow you to seize the two minutes you have with Dr. Arthur and present your elevator pitch. The goal is to make an impression (we are aiming for a good, memorable one here) and make a connection.

On the contrary, imagine a scenario where you did not prepare an elevator pitch nor do your homework. You would run into Dr. Arthur at the cocktail line, stand silently for two minutes, and catch a glimpse of his name tag as he walks away. You would have lost a valuable chance to make a connection.

If possible, I would also make arrangements for meetings before arriving at the conference. I typically try to schedule coffee or breakfast appointments early in the morning, before the chaos of conference hits. Alternatively, I would also schedule dinner appointments with people whom I have business to discuss.

DURING THE CONFERENCE

Go early and stay late. Why? You want to increase your chances of bumping into opportunities. It is as simple as that.

The window of opportunity before the conference day starts is golden. Wake up early! Make yourself available to opportunities to meet new people! Coincidentally, I have met many big shots at such golden hours. Often times, these so-called big shots would show up early to breakfast either because they are savvy networkers or that their entire day is booked. It is a great time to mingle before the chaos hits.

During the chaos: embrace it! I attended the National Postdoc Association conference in Washington DC a few years ago. In the first keynote session, most of the attendees were sitting in the audience. The moment the keynote presentation ended, the few hundred attendees, who were eager postdocs in the job market with hungry eyes, stood up at once and rushed to the exhibition hall, where hiring companies set up booths. When I gained my composure and arrived at the exhibition hall, all the booths were swamped and had very long lines. I immediately beat myself up for not acting fast enough to get to the front of a line. The obvious choice left seemed to waste no more time and get into at least one line as quickly as possible. Since I thought I already blew my chance, I decided to walk around instead and survey all the booths, knowing that the lines were growing. Turns out, while I was surveying the hall, I found an opportunity to listen in at a booth where the representative of an editing service company welcomed me into the conversation. That conversation eventually led to a job opportunity where I advanced to the final round of the interview process for a position in a new branch in Shanghai, China. Even though I did not get the job, I learned a valuable lesson. ClichΓ©d but true: look outside the box. Don’t go head-on into the competition. Opportunities are not always obvious.

Another important detail that seems trivial — always have your business cards handy. At conferences, I would stuff a few cards in the name tag holder or my coat pocket. You want to be able to slip a business card out smoothly without digging through five compartments of your purse (or man-purse). Worse, sometimes you would be in the middle of eating or drinking when the need for business card exchanges happen. In any case, the cards need to be easily accessible.

POST-CONFERENCE

We are exhausted by the time the conference is over, especially those of us who are introverts. We are drained. But we survived the conference. We are done, right? No.

I can’t decide which is more important, the pre-, during, or post-conference; they are equally important and part of the same package.

After the conference, or even during the conference, following up with the contacts you have made is crucial to cement the relationship. Sometimes, it is a LinkedIn invite, sometimes it is sharing a paper, or whatever follow-up that is relevant to the conversation. Know that it is a small world. You might run into these individuals again in the near future. It is also part of being friends. Yes, being friends. Networking is making friends at work and in the industry. Friends help each other out, share information, and keep up the relationship.

WHAT CONFERENCES TO ATTEND?

Knowing the importance of conferences, you might have an impulse to run to every conference you can find. However, it is best to choose the conferences strategically.

If you are looking for a job in a particular field, go to the trade shows or the conference where most people in the field attend. Before you register for a conference, clearly define your goals and the purpose of the conference. All the best!

Share your experience with me.
Email me at: askjuneanything@gmail.com

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Career science careers Uncategorized

Want a new job? Then devote 30 minutes a day.

Career transition is a process and not a switch. The process takes an average of two years, mathematically and anecdotally. Why so long? That is because ya need time to research your new dream job, figure out what you are lacking, develop the necessary new skill sets, and start hunting until you get it. Quite intimidating, eh? Well, of course it is intimidating if you’re looking at it at the starting point and you do not having a plan.

Why 30 Minutes?

Simply because the 30-minute-a-day approach works. Job hunting can be as demanding as a full-time job. It is easy to end up spending countless hours, aimlessly. It is quite like a black hole of time. The question is — would the time spent pay off?

A few years ago, when it was time for me to look — and get — a real job, I was slaving away at the lab, toiling with gels (for electrophoresis) and feeding fruit flies. I was at a bit of a loss, honestly. All my waking hours were devoted to my research project then, productively or not. I wanted to scream: “I don’t have time for this!” As an example, I would end up spending many hours perfecting a resume and then be hit by panic and histeria when I suddenly realized that I had not given thought to my research project in those few hours. However, it also became clear that if I didn’t make time, I might be trapped in the postdoc loop, forever. I struggled with the conflict between my commitment to my research project and finding a real job. I found that the many hours spent on job searching never seemed enough, not to mention the long waiting period after sending an email or a job application. It was out of control. I needed a management plan!

Since this was more a marathon than a sprint, I decided that I’d take the slow and steady approach. I started to set aside regular chunks of time, where I would promise myself to stop when the said time chunk is over. After some trial and error, 30-minute chunks seemed to work very well so I decided to get out of bed earlier, start my day 30 minutes earlier everyday, and spend those 30 minutes casting nets, screening job listings, perusing LinkedIn profiles and polishing my resume. 30 minutes every day. I started to see results shortly after. Besides, with a plan and clearly defined time for job hunting, I also experienced less anxiety and more productivity.

Items to work on during these daily 30-minute sessions:

1) RESUME

The most important, but unfortunately not sufficient, item is your resume. Always keep it up to date and ready to employ at any given time. If you think that you already have a perfect resume, pause and ask yourself if there is any room for improvement. The answer is most likely a YES!

Resumes are not static documents. On the contrary, they need to be updated regularly or every time you make an accomplishment, big or small. For example, you submitted a manuscript for peer review publication, you attempted a successful new assay, or you gave a talk at a conference, update your resume! Add these accomplishments to your resume if they would strengthen your case as a job candidate. Use impactful keywords that properly describe your skill sets.

More importantly, resumes are a way to propose to your future employers that you have what it takes to solve their problems. Know that when companies hire, it isn’t because they like having employees, nor are they merely cultivating talents. They are cultivating talents to DO something for the company or solve a problem in the company. If they are hiring “because the team is growing,” then they are attempting to recruit extra labor (or talent may sound more attractive) to overcome the problem of lacking labor. In your resume, identify the problems that the companies face, and provide remedies or describe how you specifically would tackle those problems, in a better, cheaper and more effective way. This would be music to your hiring committee’s ears.

I have to emphasize: Resumes need to be free of any spelling mistakes or glaring grammatical errors. It has to be as flawless as it can be.

2) COVER LETTER

Make them customized and flawless. Craft your cover letter to sing to the tunes of the hiring manager. Do a little research on the companies in the industry or find out more about the people who have been hired into the positions you are pursuing. And remember what I said about solving problems for your future employers? The same applies here. Tell the hiring manager why he or she should take a chance on you. (See resume section above.)

3) SCREENING JOB LISTINGS

With the advent of Indeed, LinkedIn and the like, it is very easy to get access to job listings today. No more newspaper clippings or flipping through magazines to find a few job ads. Subscribing to job listings and notifications with targeted keywords is so easy that now the problem is getting through them all. This could potentially be another item in job hunting that is a huge time suck. Setting aside consistent 30-minute windows can help you chip away the listserv icebergs.

4) NETWORKING

It is an absolute myth that networking equals sipping cocktails in a room full of strangers. If that is what you thought networking was, get it out of your head.

Use these 30-minute windows to browse LinkedIn profiles and look for individuals whom you want and need to know. When you see someone having your dream job, or somebody you would want to learn from, reach out to them. Send them emails or messages. Set up coffee dates. Ask for informational interviews. Now, we are networking.

5) ACQUIRING NEW SKILLS

What got you here won’t get you there (the title of Marshall Goldsmith’s book, published in 2007). From your investigation or informational interviews, you may discover certifications that you ought to have in order to get to your dream job. Or, you have decided to put your analytical skills and research training into data science, which means you need to enroll in a data science boot camp. Or that you need to put together a portfolio of writing samples to apply for your dream science writing job. In fact, there are always new skills to learn that will benefit you now and in the future. Spend 30 minutes a day to learn and improve yourself.

6) RESEARCH

As a scientist, you should already be excellent in research. I need not belabor the point and just encourage you to spend time studying the industry and your future employers. The more you know, the stronger you are as a job candidate.

***

In fact, the 30-minute daily approach can be applied beyond job search. When you get your dream job, make sure to continuously strive for betterment and reflect on your journey. Always question if you are heading in the right direction. Spend 30 minutes daily to achieve better and greater things, constantly.

All the best!

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Career science careers

CV and Resume

What is the difference between a CV and a resume?

CV = Literally, your professional life story 

Resume = One-page highlight of your best qualities that are relevant to the job you are applying

I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”  ~ Mark Twain



Curriculum vitae (CV) means course of life in Latin, i.e. your professional life story. There is no page limit, but it still needs to be error-free, concise and formatted well. It is a showcase of your scholarship and accomplishments. This is where you list all your published papers, grants, awards and everything else.

Graduate students and especially postdocs are familiar with CVs. Postdocs, by definition, are likely to already have a CV; you use CVs to apply to postdoc positions. However, CVs are not for job applications outside of academia in general, which sometimes would also include industry postdoc positions. 

If this is the first time you write a resume, I’m almost certain that you should go for a one-pager. Some may argue that a two-page resume is acceptable if you have many accomplishments, but unless you are going for senior positions with ten years of experience in the field, keep it to one page! It does not matter how much you have accomplished, you would still be able to distill it down to one page if you spend enough time working on it. The one-page of goodness should also be error-free, concise and formatted well.

You might come across people who would boast and declare that they have just sent out a good 500 resumes a week, or any three-digit numbers in a very short amount of time. Even though it is still possible to strike an interview with such a shot-gun approach, it is certainly not the most productive way. To get the best possible return, you should spend time investigating the position and the organization, and customizing your resume in a targeted way. The key is always to connect your skills and capabilities to the employers’ needs. Tell the resume reviewers how you can solve their problems. 

Now, let’s think about your audience. Resumes are usually first screened either by algorithm or HR staff. Once the resumes make it through the first filter, they make their way to the hiring manager or supervisors. Taking all that into account, your resume needs to have the right keywords to appeal to the algorithm, the right flavor that would appeal to HR department, and ultimately describing the right skills that the hiring managers are looking for. When you are working on your resume, always stop and ask yourself how the resume would look to all your audience at all the different stages. 

Whether you need a CV or a resume, it is best to have both ready to employ at any given time. You never know when opportunities would come knocking. So, update your CVs and resumes whenever you have new accomplishments. If nothing else, it feels great and cultivates self confidence. Ain’t that right?

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Career Uncategorized

Ask June Anything… About Career Development!

I want to help YOU find the best opportunities, create the most fulfilling career, and be the BEST version of YOU, so that YOU will make the most contribution to the society.

ABOUT ME: I have a Ph.D. in Genetics and struggled with finding my career path initially. With hard work, persistence and an open mind, I eagerly learned and have gained new skills that allow me to enjoy a fulfilling career, outside of the conventional path in academia. I have benefited from much help and guidance from incredible mentors throughout the years. Now, my goal is to share what I have learned and help YOU create your own path.

Let’s do it together!

 

Sincerely,

June