Posts Tagged ‘experience’

PhD’s at the Crossroads: Career Counseling and Coaching for a New Direction

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

MCDA Newsletter – April, 2019

Universities are producing PhDs in record numbers in all disciplines. It’s exciting to have all this brain power!  We have phenomenal technologies and research coming from university labs, while our PhDs are being groomed to continue their research and teaching. Yet, according to Nature, while the number of academic PhDs has jumped by 150%, the number of tenured and other full-time faculty positions has declined. Full-time professorship positions are being replaced with much cheaper part-time, adjunct, and contract professorship positions. (Yes, Universities are businesses, too.)

What’s happening to our most highly educated people?

In the US, many end up with entry-level jobs and never catch-up to their potential earnings. Others tap their independence and courage to start their own businesses. Yet others land lucrative roles in business, non-profits and public service.

  • For PhDs in the field of English there are more teaching jobs overseas. Across the entire discipline, creative writing is the only field in which aggregate job postings has doubled over the past 20 years.
  • Many in the STEM fields complete their degree in the US and return to their home countries.
  • In 13 European countries PhDs in social sciences and humanities increase their wages by moving to a different country.  “The long way to professorship in Germany and the relatively low income of German academic staff makes leaving the university after the PhD a good option,” says Thorsten Wilhelmy, who studies doctoral education for the German Council of Science and Humanities in Cologne..

So what’s a newly minted PhD to do?

How many post docs can they afford? When they cannot find another academic job how do they handle the ‘disloyalty’ to their mentors/professors?  Some of these clients have invested in their PhD as their second career; others have never been outside of academia.

My interest in this population has come from working with clients in a variety of fields from astrophysics to psychology to theater. Working with this population has taken me back to my grad school roots in career counseling and career development theories. Several years ago I co-authored CareerScope for American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and worked with of several cohorts of up to 70 non-tenured PhDs who were hungry for a sense of direction.

Typically a client comes to me wanting help with a CV or wanting some guidance on job search. (Sound familiar?) As you have already deduced, a major part of helping these clients lies in helping them translate their highest academic qualification in American education into transferable skills that are valued by employers. Our role as career counselors and coaches is to help them see that a PhD is not just as the mastery of a discipline, but also training of the mind.

A key question about a resume or CV is, “Who is the intended audience?” This starts the critical conversation about their job search and career goals. A simple question or two that probe their reasons for their academic research can illuminate a whole new way of thinking for them. When I help them explore their original reasons for pursuing their studies, there’s often a “mission” deeply embedded that can drive their career direction.

With these clients we see the gap between the academic and the business mindset. To be able to speak the language of business on their resume and in their next job, they need an overview of how basic business works. They don’t need another degree, but often prefer the comfort of taking online courses. Using this knowledge we can help them map their expertise and related skill into how they can be problem solvers for an organization. (The initiative to learn the business is a plus when interviewing). We can explore their desire to continue (or not) to grow their bench skills.

Many of my PhD clients aren’t familiar with the world of work and thus, spend entirely too much time looking at job boards. We can help them use their analytical skills and natural curiosity to explore the world of work. I love to hear, “You’ve changed my entire way of thinking!” “I never would have considered these options!” We look at five different role options and determine which one(s) are best for them now and in the future. This helps in re-inventing their professional identity that builds upon their academic achievements.

To address the demand of jobs for grads, universities are filling their career portals with interviews of alums telling their stories and advice for other PhD job seekers. Many portals offer a structured approach (aka protocol) for job search activities. Similar portals are found with professional associations, federal agencies, and large non-profits. CareerOnestop has professional association links.

A number of enterprising PhDs have used their own experiences to form membership communities to help PhDs find lucrative work outside of academia. They not only offer job search skills, but also connections and introductions to the variety of career paths others are on.

I invite you to join in this discussion on May 16th 2019 at 12:00pm EDT in the webinar; PhD’s at the Crossroads: Career Counseling and Coaching for a New Direction. My goal is to validate what you are doing well with your PhD clients, provide a different lens for working with this population and to share resources for both you and your clients. (NCBB CEUs eligible). Register today while there are still spots left! A recording will be available afterwards.

Career Conversation-Why am I doing This?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

Chances are you’ve asked yourself this question when the going got rough at work.

What were you thinking!?

Really. What were you thinking when you were excited about this job? Spend a few minutes recalling what is appealing to you.  List those things that are  still present.  Do you still have the opportunities to learn new things (even about how to handle challenges)?  Are you proud of what you’ve done so far? Has it made a difference for others by providing information, ensuring compliance, solving a problem, etc?

You’ll likely slide into ruminating about the things that are not so appealing or thwarting your efforts. Such as, having trouble getting buy-in on a no-brainer improvement? Waiting on decisions or information from others?  Consider how those challenges are part of making any kind of change. These challenges are part of everyone’s work.  Despite all the ‘Yes, but…,” is there something inside you that says, “this is what you were meant to do?”

Does the thought of quitting make you feel panicked or at peace?

Are you doing this for the recognition you hope to get as a result? If you are never recognized for this work, would you still be happy?

Yes, we are compelled to manage the rough spots because I need the paycheck. When I think about these questions, it helps me re-boot by remembering what I love about my work.  My answers help put into perspective the daily frustrations that interrupt the good things I’m contributing.  Perhaps they can help get you through this rough patch.

Career Conversations on Social Media

Monday, November 6th, 2017

Most of us know what not to post on our social media accounts.  More than 69% of employers have rejected some applicants on the basis of what they found. Even when not in job search mode, we can manage our professional reputation (aka Brand) by what we share.

Match your postings to your online goals for networking. (You do have those, right?) For some it is to get a new job. But for many it is to find collaborators, allies, new ideas or resources. Others can share insights and projects.

Here are a few things to share – provided it is not proprietary information (check your organization’s social media policy!)

If you are in job search mode:
  • ASK for
    • Connections to people who work at your target organizations.  Most new hires come from internal referrals. Once connected, ask for insights about working there and advice for a new hire.
    • Opinions and experiences around a topic or task that you care about. Share your own to provide a baseline for the conversation.
  • RESPOND to
    • Questions in your groups and forums. Its a great platform to share your knowledge.  Willingness to share speaks volumes to employers more than claiming the credential.
    • Connection requests with a cordial and sincere desire to collaborate.
If you are managing your professional brand
  • Share resources you’ve found helpful and ask for others’ experiences with them.
  • Ask for a resource to help you on your project. Remember to follow-up with appreciation and, more importantly, what happened when you used the resource.  We all want to know the story ends.
  • Tell a short story about an experience where you learned something or had an unexpected good result. Tell us about why you were involved, what problem/obstacle you faced, what steps you took and how it resolved. We like to hear your experiences with volunteer projects as well as work.
  • Follow experts and add your insights to their posts. We love to hear when you are inspired by something.

Take your Career Conversations online by engaging with others to get both a broader and deeper understanding of what can lead to your success!

Career Conversations – 7 Tips for Managers

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

By definition, in most organizations managers are expected to develop people as well as get ‘the work’ done.

I can hear all the reasons why this is not a priority for you. The most common reason is lack of time; the urgency of the work takes precedent over long-term productivity. Do managers with high turn-over attract suspicion? I cringe when I hear,”I finally have my employees working like a well-oiled machine; I don’t want to mess with that?” Why do your employees have to “learn it the hard way, like I did?”

Or maybe you just don’t know how.

Career Conversations happen as you share your insights, offer constructive suggestions, helping people think about next steps in the project or work. Career Conversations don’t have to have formal time booked on your calendar. Some of the best ones occur walking between meetings, in the kitchen or an informal phone check-in if your team works virtually.

What’s in it for you to develop  your staff?

The investment of time and genuine interest in developing others pays off in both tangible and intangible ways. Staff development criteria may be a part of evaluating the managers’ performance. Is there an expectation (or even incentives) to provide well-trained talent to other parts of your organization?

Many managers talk about the pride they feel in seeing employees grow and be successful.

Bottom line: If you don’t offer development opportunities, your staff will find someone who will. That’s not the kind of turnover you want.

Here’s what you can do:

Check your assumptions. Do you want to be known as someone who grows and develops the best talent in your organization or someone who circles the wagons and fights to maintain turf (staff). Don’t get complacent with your staff.  Expect and encourage turn-over due to better job fit, new opportunities, etc. Everyone, not just Millennials, are hungry for training, career advancement and opportunities for growth. Keep your eye open for new talent and be ready to replace those that move on in their careers.

Help them connect the dots. Nothing is more important than doing work that matters. Rekindle the emotional connection [pride] that employees have with your company. Hold “trend” discussions to align individual goals with reality of your workplace, your profession and industry environment. Tell the stories about the people that make your business tick,. Remind them of the purpose your department serves. How does your organization make money or get funding? What deals are in the works? How are the economics of the organization evolving? Keep your team educated about ongoing business developments to directly improve their engagement and performance. The more resources you can give employees on how your company functions, the more loyal they’re likely to be.

Be a champion.  Develop your reputation as someone who offers opportunities rather than holding people back. Stay alert to opportunities where someone on your team could contribute or learn, and be willing to loan them out. They’ll return with valuable knowledge and relationships that can support your team. And if they move on, they will thank you. If you haven’t already, offer cross-training within your team to fill gaps.

Provide daily development opportunities. Use a micro-learning approach with employees’ everyday work. For example: Make mundane tasks into a game. Encourage and show them how to discover answers on their own and praise them when they do. Start or end your weekly meetings with anything they’ve learned to improve the task, their approach to it, about the impact of their work, relationships with others or developing competencies that your organization values.

Develop each person individually. Too many employees get trained on things they don’t need, and fail to get the skills that will actually make them more productive. Assess each persons’ needs and provide targeted, relevant content, instead of one-size-fits-all training. People learn in different ways, so offer hands-on (discovery) as well as ‘read the manual’ options.

Use a coaching style to develop their thinking skills and become smarter. When they come to you with a problem, help them think through the logic to discover the best solutions. This will show them how to approach similar problems in the future, hopefully saving time for you.

Be available, but don’t hover. Set expectations and boundaries, provide resources then get out of the way.

PS – You can have your own career conversations with your peers and boss. Let me know what works for you!

Career Conversations: Exploration and Visibility

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

In my last blog I wrote about creating a bridge to career conversations with your manager. Another bridge is for conversations with others in your organization or outside of your current profession.

A common reaction I hear is, “My boss will think that I”m being disloyal!”

In some organizations the silo walls between projects or functional areas are like a castle fortress. There are turfs and budgets to defend, as well as talent to keep. So you may need to tread carefully, but not silently. Let your manager know you are exploring to broaden your perspective to be more valuable to her. What you don’t want is for your manager to hear from someone else and think you are sneaking around behind her back. You will be having conversations that should enhance both your own and her value to the organization.

“How do I do that?”

There are lots of ways – create your strategy which may include:

  • Exploring how everything works and is related in your organization. Pay attention to which departments are key to your own department’s success. Take the initiative to ask for a short conversation to understand their perspectives.
  • Look at what’s working smoothly. Offer a sincere compliment and specific observation to start the conversation. Then ask about how this success has evolved.  From these conversations you can discern valuable  skills and abilities to develop.
  • Get a broader picture of your organization. Review an organization directory to identify key people. Attend open events/meetings to meet these people.
    1. Introduce yourself including where you work. In one sentence explain that you are interested in learning more about the organization.
    2. Ask for a brief description of their area and then how they see how your two departments or projects are interconnected.
    3. Ask what skills and talents are most helpful in their areas.
    4. Prepare to briefly explain how your role supports the project or organization. Share the skills and talents you most like to develop and use.
  • When attending an All Hands meeting, sit beside someone you don’t know and politely start a conversation to include as many of steps 1-4 as is appropriate.

These are just a few ways to jump start your thinking.  Most importantly, is to step out of your comfort zone and away from your computer. You don’t know if you don’t ask.

Bridges to Career Conversations

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

DSCN2151Career conversation can happen anytime and be about so much more than how to get a promotion. But I often hear people say they can’t initiate them without hitting a wall.

If your  manager doesn’t seem warm to the conversation…

  1. What’s your history with similar conversations? Is it always about more money or a promotion? Its good to let her know you want these, but  don’t wear it out.
  2.  Is your current work performance top notch?  If not, then the conversation needs to be about how to better use your skills, strengths or work processes so you can excel.
  3. What’s your timing? Pay attention to the issues and dynamics of the day.
  4. Would you be thought of disloyal?
  5. What is your goal of these conversations? You should have a plan, even if it is primarily exploration right now.

No matter what the barrier seems to be, you must consider what’s in it for her? Why would she want to help you to outgrow your current job?  Some organizations, but not enough, have staff development goals to meet. Generally your growth is not a high priority unless your organization tracks and measures talent development.  Your manager’s #1 priority is to get the work done, meeting/exceeding her own goals.

4 career conversation starters are:

  1. Am I doing everything you need me to do to meet your goals?
  2. How else can I help?
  3. What could I learn (software, process, procedure) that would help you focus on other things?
  4. Propose what you want to learn and outline how it could improve, streamline and achieve dept/organization goal.

In my next blog, I’ll explore starting career conversations with others, not your manager.

What are other barriers to your career conversations?

Translate Your Resume: Show How You Make a Difference

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

To all my scientist, engineering and IT people – your resume needs translation! Your CV needs to showcase how your work makes a difference! No longer will just a list of technical qualifications be enough.

If you want to take your passion to the next level, do you know what that next level is?  Is it a technical, management or policy path? Each of these requires a resume that showcases you for that purpose, not just a list of your technical knowledge.

Talk with people in the role you aspire to fill. Find out what their daily grind is like. Ask what they like most about it. Ask what they wish they knew in hindsight as well as any advice.  You can then fill out your resume with your relevant experience for that role.

Link the work you do to the larger goal or mission of your organization.  Briefly answer, “Why was this important?” Tell the problem you were solving and, if necessary why that problem mattered.  Include who benefited from your work. Rather than listing your activities or duties, connect the dots for how your knowledge and work is valuable to the new employer’s projects and initiatives.

In the day-to-day grind, its easy to forget the bigger picture of our work. I was talking with an engineer that designed and built fuel systems.  He didn’t think it was very important. But he had redesigned and worked with a team that built a system for a satellite which now collects climate data that is used by hundreds of organizations around the world.

Every job is created for a reason. Ask yourself, “What would happen if I didn’t do [fill in your work]?”  Many of us are a lynch pin for projects and can lose sight of our contributions. Describe how what you did and the way you did it accomplished a project or task.

Remember that your resume may be read by three entities – a software system, a layperson to your field (Human Resources) and hiring manager. Use the vocabulary and acronyms that are common to your field, but not just to your current employer.

What may be every1or2deerday work for you, may seem like magic to others!

 

Do You Deserve a Raise?

Friday, August 28th, 2015

Last October I posted Ask for a Raise the Right Way  with good tips and infographic.  dollar-sign

You absolutely must do your homework to effectively leverage your value to your employer.  Start with your accomplishments – the stand out things you did this year.  But go further. Update your inventory of the  knowledge and skills you use to accomplish your assignments. Then, add what you did that was different than others and made it successful, quicker, cheaper, sustainable. Add all quantifiable results. Do this for every task. Now, go back over the list and mark which skills or knowledge you’ve acquired in the last year.  Show in quantifiable detail how you’ve overcome extenuating circumstances to achieve measurable results. That is what you want to discuss for a raise – how you’ve increased your value to your employer.

Know your organization’s policy and process for giving raises. Yes, there are exceptions, but it helps to know the basics.

Have a reality check conversation with your mentor and two other knowledgeable people about the percentage increase you can ask for without being laughed at. What is your organization’s current business environment? What is this year’s average salary increase?

Have you noticed all of this is about the organization, not about your personal financial needs?

Discuss with your boss how your work contributes to the organization’s growth. Talk about how your work helps your boss attain her goals. Alignment is key. It helps you focus and work on the high priority things.

If your boss hasn’t already offered you the raise, ask for it.  Make no assumptions.  You don’t know if you don’t ask!

You just had a Career Conversation

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

Were you paying attention?

Not all career conversations are directly about you and getting ahead.  Getting personal feedback is great, but it is only one aspect of career conversations. Career Conversations come from many sources, not just bosses and mentors. They may be hiding in meetings and other conversations.

If you just had a hallway conversation about someone leaving or moving to another position, THAT was a Career Conversation. Note where they went and what gap that leaves. If the role is already back-filled, note what skills and expertise was selected. Another Career Conversation could be your follow-up with the perspn who moved.

Did you just leave a meeting about a persistent problem your department or a customer is facing? Add that to your journal of career impact information. Do you see a trend developing? Do you see a skill that you can offer (or that you need to acquire) to be part of the solution? And THAT was a Career Conversation, too.

We need many different sources and views to continuously manage our careers. In addition to the daily and on-going work we do, we need to pay attention to the business of the organization and the public served via budgets, customer needs, regulations and issues such as hacking, climate and demographics that effect how and where we work.

These make for fascinating and on-going Career Conversations. You can discover new tracks and ways to do what matters most.

Career Conversations, part 4 – Raise Your Hand

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

handsOne of the most effective career conversation you can have is asking to do something for your boss.

When my boss was sharing some of the company’s plans for re-structuring, we could see that there was a big piece missing (aka “opportunity”) in managing the transition. Turf protection was high and we knew that getting support would be difficult. Often these discussions end with a shaking of the head and an “oh well” sense of defeat. My boss was already overloaded. Knowing it was a risky endeavor I asked, “Could I take a shot at it?”  Incredulously he asked, “Why?” I had nearly hit the top of my job level and thought this could be a way to break through. At worst, it could be a great story to share at future job interviews. And I truly had a deep desire to do it. With his support, I was able to quickly do the due diligence, build the business case, offer a solution to the President and Council and roll out a successful change management initiative.

Encourage your boss to delegate more of her projects or tasks. Ask to attend meetings in her place. Perhaps she will be willing to share you with other leaders in the organization for a few hours a week to work on a project or add your expertise.  These will help to develop your leadership capability, visibility and relationships. Remember the WWIFYB (What’s In It For Your Boss): It shows her ability to develop her staff, her teamwork and you can make her look good.

Does a planning meeting for another meeting sound dull? It is ripe with opportunity! Consider who will be attending the big meeting. If it is decision-makers and thought leaders, just being in the room is valuable.  Does a speaker need someone to advance the slides during the talk? Raise your hand. You’ll get a ring-side seat at the discussions, hear the questions and learn what’s is important and not important to these influencers.

If you don’t ask, others won’t know that you are interested.