Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A bit more contract editing

One of the things that haunted me as I was finishing up in my grad school lab was that not having somewhere to go would mean I am unemployed, and it seems like a slippery slope from unemployed to unemployable. Yes, any rational person would say that taking some time to get the first job out of college is pretty normal. But look around at this economy, I can't wait for something to just show up! I gotta work! This is what drove me to contract editing- I started out editing manuscripts, but that petered out after the event I was recruited for. A quick look on LinkedIn showed me that there were three major groups that are in constant need of editors:
Write Science Right
American Journal Experts

These companies tend to help improve the readability of manuscripts, especially coming from overseas. I liked this work, I got to learn about new things, and it didn't take long to get a feeling of accomplishment. But, it doesn't really feel like my own accomplishment. Telling someone about how you hate their writing is hardly a challenge. It's good to be able to make some quick cash, but even though I know there are those who do this work full time, I don't think I could.

But, it did open the door for me to do some text book editing at Words and Numbers, which I found via LinkedIn. (I'm under NDA with them as well, but I am pretty sure it's ok for me to say that much.) Although it is similar work, someone else wrote something, I try to help them improve it. There is an educational bent, which I feel better about (I want to use my science in service, not just to make money), and the added challenge of pedagogy. Those last 50 pages were all technically correct, but if I were going to teach it, what would I test on? If I were the student, what would I study?
This may allow me to do some writing with them in the future, which I am interested to try. For now, I don't feel like this is my calling, if for no other reason than I am constantly on the prowl for contracts, which feels conspicuously like being on the job market, which I don't love.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Volunteering pays off

I got invited to fly across the country to participate in a very exciting conference and workshop just because I have a Ph.D.  Well, that's not the only reason, but before I get into that, let's just around all giddy because Free Trip to NYC!  I love to travel, I love going to conferences and workshops and I figured my decision to "leave science" (as my old adviser calls it) would prevent me from doing these things- but fear not, fellow job hunters!  All kinds of fields have conferences.

The meeting I've been invited to is at the New York Hall of Science (NYSci), which is a very fun looking science museum/center.  I was invited by the folks I volunteer with there, who have done a lot of work on some cool programming, and they needed help presenting at this meeting.  And by "help" I mean NYSci has loads of science Ph.D.s on staff, and they wanted to bring some credibility, their own elbow patches as it were.  I must say, I am quite flattered that anyone would think to invite me anywhere to earn some credibility.  And the meeting itself sounds really great, it's about finding hands-on, dynamic ways to get students to engage in STEM.  I promise I'll track down some of these Ph.D.s and ask them about how they got their cool jobs- for you, my dear readers.

And how knows, maybe me too? Maybe STEM Outreach has more possibilities for me?  I am still trying to track down someone at the EdLab Group, which is a big outreach entity nearby to me.  I'd love to know what they are doing and if I could help.

But, moral of the story:Volunteer, you never know when it might earn you a trip to NYSci.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Trying to make this better- keeping busy

Job hunting blows.  There is no way around that, but I am trying to make some of the lame-ness of job hunting more bareable for myself so that when a good looking opportunity comes up, I won't be some desocialized, unhygienic hermit.  A big part I am missing from my routine is human interaction- so I've been making myself go to the library for a change of scene.  That helps a lot, actually.  It's not the same as having coworkers around, but there is a certain return of dignity when you get dressed for the world.

I also miss the dynamic atmosphere of my old job.  Job hunting feels pretty static these days.  To break up that monotony, I am starting to do some different types of editing.  I don't think this will be a long-lived contract, but having things that need to be done and then accomplishing them is a giant help for my rejection addled ego.  Which also reminds me to focus on doing things I can do, only stress about phone calls for people who will talk to me, make time to relax and actually enjoy things instead of just sitting in my PJs all day with a cup of the cheapest tea available.  Yesterday I went for a walk and kicked up some dry leaves- this won't solve my joblessness, but it made me willing to tackle it again when I got back.

This has been a very slow season for me, so I am feeling impatient and restless about the whole search.  But I've got some good things coming up that should keep me busy through at least part of January, by which point I hope things will look different.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My current focus is networking

It's that time of year where companies slow down on hiring, the people that work in them slow down on working and it seems like a tough time to be seeking out open positions.  Rather than frustrate myself, I am trying to position myself to be readily and quickly available for when things finally get back on track in late January, new budgets approved, new work load assessed and hopefully there will be a big demand in the Seattle markets for newly minted PhDs.  How am I going to get ready for that?  I am really focusing on networking for the rest of the month.  I want to meet people, remind the people that I know that I am still here actively looking for a job. 

This feels like I am hauling business cards everywhere, and I am hoping to fill up my calender with coffee and lunches and that sort of thing.  But, I am currently reading the Networking classic "Never Eat Alone" (Why did it take my so long to start reading this book?  It's good, practical advise about how to be professional, and build mutually beneficial professional relationships.  I think the mutually beneficial part is really important for this whole thing to work out- I want to be remembered fondly as that helpful person who remarkably doesn't have a job yet, rather than that desperate schmuck who is scheming for work.  So, I've offered to volunteer with my local Chapter of AWIS, I shared my annotated photo album from the algae workshop with the other participants and I am making a lot of Christmas cookies.  This seems to be working because I have been getting better responses- now we have something to talk about in emails, I have provided myself the opportunity to prove my professionalism without jumping straight into OMG I want to work!  It also is giving me more interesting things to spend my time of than combing the job boards and recrafting cover letters for positions I am a terrible fit for.  It made me feel like spending a few hours working on that Picasa album of an algae lab was really productive, and having ways to break up the monotony of guilt and worthlessness that accompany joblessness is almost as valuable as the relationships I'll be able to cultivate in this way. 

Anyway, hoping to meet and endear myself to lots of people in the next few weeks and then be in a better position to find job in January.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dealing with contracts on my CV

I am fortunate that while I am not working full time, I have been able to put together a couple short term or part time contracts that help to keep me busy, growing professionally and, to some extent, paid.  It's been insightful for me to navigate the process from signing a non-disclosure, to writing a contract and submitting invoices- heck, even getting my own business license to keep it all above board.  I would presume that jobs that want "industry experience" are looking for a certain sensitivity to these types of issues.  My current question then, is how do I display that I have done these things?  I've heard that "too much contracting" can look like a red flag to an employer- why did none of that turn into a full-time/permanent offer?  But should I list these things on my resume or CV?  and how?  Should this be on my LinkedIn profile- and if so, where?

I expect I'll be browsing my current connections for people who have done this type of work to see how they describe it and what works.  I think I may just need an additional title as "freelancer" or "Sole proprietor" to let some of that work fall into- but I am not sure it will be found, or be able to imply the breadth of the work I am doing (currently biofuels and education on separate contracts, hopefully more in the future).  I'd love some feedback, and I think that I'll probably play with a few iterations until I get something I like.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Workshops are good because....

I am at at UTex workshop at the Algae Collection this week.  As a grad student, I never attended a workshop and now I wish I had.  This workshop is great- and it isn't done yet.  Here are a couple reasons I am glad I came though:
-I am meeting some great people with really diverse algae applications in mind.
-I am collecting some great information and perspectives about the technical aspects of algae.
-I'm getting the opportunity to validate my interest in algae and biofuel, really get something on my CV about it.
-I've also got ideas for how to advance this interest (bioprospecting?), which will help me explore the field, and give me an excuse to keep in touch with my new contacts.
AND it's really fun AND algae are beautiful AND I am optimistic the future of algae in biofuels.  More on that tomorrow, after our exciting field trip.  That's another perk of a workshop.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Heading to UTEX Workshop

I have two major worries about not working for a long time, getting bored out of my mind, and letting my CV get too stale to be hired ever.  Fortunately, there are plenty of single cures for both problems.  The approach I am taking this week is to attend an Algae workshop put together by the University of Texas, Austin.  I'll learn about handling algae, their strain collection etc, and get some legit experience to back up my otherwise vague interest in the concept of algae for biofuels.  I am hoping I'll also meet some other interesting folks at the workshop, and I am VERY excited for the chance to hang out with one of my classmates for a couple days while I am at it.  I'm not sure if a two-day workshop can really fully alter my job hunting prospects, but it should improve my attitude about it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Finally made that meeting

Before I left Pittsburgh, my boss gave me the name of one professor at the UW he thought I should talk to about jobs out here.  Since I knew he gave me this name because they share an academic interest, not because the UW professor has great industry contacts or something, I was hesitant to talk to him.  If I walk in there, won't he try to convince me to post-doc?  I gave it a couple weeks, but really, I need to start meeting scientists here face to face and making contacts.  Fine, I'll go, he'll tell me some about some dudes who need post-docs, I'll thank him for his time and be done with it.  And it is about time I get to the UW campus, since that is a major employer here.

Although he started out with the usual advice (have you checked Amgen's careers site?), he actually discouraged me from trying to get an academic post-doc.  Money is tight, you'd probably need your own funding to get a position.  He did mention some training grants, but focused instead on who could help me identify small start-ups in the area that might need a post-doc.  He gave me the contact info for the Tech transfer people at UW and the Hutch- I supposed I could have found this on my own, but reaching out to them will mean more with his approval.  I'm really hoping to talk to these people, since that is a great source for new and emerging businesses that might take someone on at "post-doc" level in a capacity that would look like industry experience.  I sent out those emails, so wish me luck.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hello, I am a business owner

I live in Washington now, and some of the laws about business things are different here.  Actually, I don’t even know that for certain, I just have a better sense that people know and follow those rules.  Why?  When I mentioned that to kill time while job hunting, I was doing some contract work, someone asked me if I transferred my business license.  I laughed, “I don’t make enough to pay taxes on, so, I didn’t have one in PA.” “Oh, but in WA you need one if you make more than $600 a year or something.”  Really? I should look into that.  Whether or not I am actually going to make that much money in WA is yet to be determined, but I figured, what the heck- I want to prove I have business savvy? I’m getting a business license.  I mean, if I can.  Fortunately, Washington has some useful resources for making this an unintimindating process.  I managed to open a ‘sole proprietorship’ ‘doing business as (DBA)’ Sandlin Seguin.  Ok, $20 later, I am a business owner.  Is that the difference between entrepreneurs and the rest of us Schmucks?  I think there might be more to it, but I’ll keep you up to date. The nice lady at the state suggested I get a separate bank account for my “business,” in case there is liability at some point, it allows my personal and business finances to be distinguished.  Put that on my list of Things to Do before I make my millions.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Time Well Spent

The volunteer work and 'consulting' might seem like a distraction from the central issue of Finding a Job, but to me, they aren’t.  For starters, now that I am geographically limiting my search, there aren’t infinite jobs here.  I can apply to every job in the Greater Seattle Area and still have plenty of free time.  In fact, I think I may have.  And when I am not in the act of applying for jobs, it’s hard for me to feel like I am doing anything to resolve my situation.  Too much free time alone, and instead of focusing on a hobby or unpacking my house, I just feel guilty that I haven’t tried hard enough, or that I haven’t done anything that amounts to anything. Which is point two, doing things that other people value, even if they can only do it with words, really helps keep my spirits up.  Arguably, coming up with questions for an educational children’s game is maybe not the MOST important thing I could spend my time on- but it beats the heck out of squatting on twitter or endlessly searching LinkedIn.  And maybe I get a little experience out of it that someone will value on a job application, sweet.  But mostly I do it to stay sane.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Feast or Famine

It’s feast or famine here, people.  Monday was coffee with a REAL professional Scientist.  That was really good, he was encouraging about my prospects, about the market here in general, about my skills specifically.  And he told me, this is a good time to be job hunting, since this is the time of year budgets are set for the new year.  And that slowly sank in as, “Wait, I might not have a job until January?!” The whole reason this job hunting all day everything works is because I still believe that the next phone call is going to be an interview, or the next contact will help me get an offer.  Not that I have been very buoyant about this lately, but that left me completely deflated.  I grumbled a lot, and then started doing things I thought were ridiculous- responding to LinkedIn posts, calling recruiters who I’ve been trying to get in touch with for months, Googling networking events (weaseling my way into professional societies), I got a business license (more on THAT later)…. And just feeling sour about it.  “If I’m not gonna have a job until next year, why should I apply for jobs that I am a match for??  Why not jobs that are on my bus route or some other inane criteria?!”  I was not in a pleasant frame of mine.

And part of my desperation to DO something was because I’m traveling a fair bit in the next couple weeks.  I’ve got some family stuff this week, and next week I am going to an algae workshop.  That should make me feel like I’ve got lots going on, but instead I feel like I am spinning my wheels, not making as much progress as I ought to.  If I really wanted a job, I could have called every employer in King county by now.  Again, not helpful thinking.

I did manage to schedule a meeting for my consulting, which I thought I could mentally track as “not a total waste of time.”  No sooner did I arrive at my grandmother’s house than the phone started ringing.  “Quick meeting to schedule some volunteer work?” Sure, that will keep me busy for a week. Then the consulting meeting lasted ~2.5 hours, spanning everything from our big plans, to how business works.  Very productive.  My brain is full.  Then that recruiter finally called back, “Sure, I’ll send along my resume and CV.” And I finally checked my email, looks like I have a couple more applications to fill out.  Oh me. And that contract someone had open on LinkedIn that I said I would do (writing educational materials, what the heck?), yeah, she will pay me to do that.  In dollars?? Wow.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Meeting for coffee

One of the advantages of relocating to the Greater Seattle area is that I know people in this area, which is very good for networking.  In fact, one of the people I know in this area is the director of the Alumni Association at Western Washington University, where I launched my career as a scientist.  He is a very nice guy, and I knew once I got back here I should certainly be reconnecting with him primarily because he is a really nice guy I'd like to see more often, but also because people like that tend to know lots of people.  So I asked him, "Do you know anyone who might know something about the Seattle Biotech job market?" And he of course found a really friendly, professional scientist and fellow WWU Alumni of his acquaintance to connect me to.

This guy and I are going to meet for coffee.  I am hoping this can be a little more than just an informational interview- I know he isn't going to give me a job, but let's get down to brass tacks- who are the people at your company who makes these choices and what are they looking for right now?  And how do I make myself look like that?  It will be nice to talk with someone local about the job scene down here.  Yes, it is tough right now (MAJOR layoffs at Dendreon and Amgen recently), but there is a constant turnover of small start-ups.  Some work and get bought up, some fail, but that part of the scene is always in flux.  Anyway, I've felt comfortable with the "Let's meet for coffee" meeting before because I knew there was no unspoken offer waiting to be made.  This time, I want to be sure that this meeting at least results in ... something?  I think the best thing would be more contacts, and that seems fairly reasonable to ask of a friendly stranger, right?

Monday, November 21, 2011

I wrote a contractor contract

I am hoping to find some contract work to fill my time while I am working on job applications/waiting for the economy to improve (ha!).  This still seems like a vague aspiration to me.  I still have to find someone who needs me to do work and convince them to pay me for it, which is the central struggle of the job hunter. But there is a lower standard, contractors are less expensive (yup, because they make less, either in hourly rate or because there are no benefits), and aren't so long term.  I am just trying to color my CV with more industry-experience before I eventually crack and get a post-doc, so my standards are lower too.

I've got this one lingering lead for an equity based contract, and the nature of the small start-up means that for all our big plans to get things going, a contract has never actually appeared.  I was complaining to my brother about how I WANT to start this work, but I feel like I should wait until there is a real contract, but bringing it up hasn't seemed to help.  He suggested I write my own contract- which to me gets at the heart of why I want to take this contract even though there is no economic benefit; I have never seen a contract before.  Like most things in business, I am a complete novice, and need some immersion school.  Well, he sent me a link to a site with contract templates ( I used Rocket Lawyer, you can use them for a week free and create as many legal documents as you might forsee very easily, but there are other services out there).  I created a quick contract to formalize the nature of the "we work together" relationship that was left open broadly to renew or terminate in a couple months.  It made me feel really empowered to send off the email. "I look forward to working with you once you have signed my contract."

However, this does bring up a lot of other issues I have about this intermediate type of work.  Should I form my own business (for legal/tax reasons)?  If I actually make any money, how will I figure out who to pay my taxes too?  I formerly thought I would never want to deal with those things, and thought I would pursue a job where taxes and business entities were more clear cut, but I think having some professional independence may give me some flexibility in the types of positions I can accept and work I'll be able to do.  But will it make me more appealing as a candidate? Investigation to continue.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Being unemployed changed my attitude about work

It's been nearly a year since I applied for my first job, and at that time I had this panic about NEEDing to be BUSY for the sake of maintaining an unbroken line of productivity.  I've considered lots of different ways to deal with that anxiety, from terrible jobs to crazy ways to find jobs. Some of it has worked, some of it has made me realize I can't remember why I would go to such great lengths to secure a position that I would loathe so deeply.

It's hard to believe, but I've been looking for work full time for 2 1/2 months now. My attitude about it has changed a lot.  I don't feel panicked about finding a job, in part because I don't feel like I am wasting my time.  I have occasional contract work, I'm blogging, I've been volunteering and learning a lot. And all that made me realize (and this surprised me a lot), that I LIKE having work to do.  I read the Swiss Family Robinson recently, and one of the keys to their (fictional) happiness was that they were able to remain industrious, they didn't suffer from boredom and lack of purpose.  Volunteering provided me that; I can't tell you how often my supervisor would tell me, "You are a volunteer, you don't have to work so hard" "You can go home if you like." I know, but it's very liberating to be able to work exactly as much as I like- which ended up being closer to 20 hours a week, instead of the 8 I was scheduled for. 

I like to work for the sake of working, and I like to feel like I am making headway, progress or contributing to a greater good.  I knew that about myself before. But, I am in a better position, without a job, to get that satisfaction from other parts of my life.  Now I am much more willing to accept the money-in-exchange-for-effort type of jobs (ie, contract editing), simply because that doesn't detract anything from my personal life, and in fact, gives me a chance to find more fulfilling ways to seek out those things.

Now I have mixed feelings.  I think I am by nature someone who would like an all consuming and gratifying job that I could be passionate about.  (This was kind of a disappointment to realize). But I also might be able to accept a job that just provides money if it leaves me the time and energy to find something else to be passionate about.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

DARPA Post-doc?

I got offered a position as a post-doc working with one of my scientific mentors.  It's kinda a weird situation (aside from the fact that it is now across the country from where I live), because it is a DARPA funded project.  I don't know much about DARPA projects, except what he told me and this mostly lead to more questions.

For example, this grant is part of a big push right now at DARPA, but priorities change pretty quickly there.  This is why DARPA only provides funding for 6 months at a time.  In principle, the project is kinda earmarked to go for a couple years, but every 6 months that gets reassessed. Move across the country (again) for a job that might only be a couple months?  The reason he suggested this to me, aside from knowing it wasn't my long term plan to be tied to Pittsburgh, was the funding agency is very involved in the research.  The PIs are meant to meet/conference call with the Head of DARPA every month during funding- which might be a cool way to make some connections, right?  And, while this part freaked him out, I thought it was awesome: if there is a national emergency that requires cell biologist expertise, DARPA can insist you stop your research and instead perform work to address the new national priority.  I figure this isn't something they do often, and by the time there is a pandemic, I would feel much better doing work to find a cure then continuing on the basic science track.

So... I probably won't take this job back in my old department due to the aforementioned two-body problem. But... it does raise an interesting question, how much does DARPA pay it's post-docs?  DoD has deeper pockets than NIH or NSF without a doubt, but is the pay scale quite different? So far, I haven't been able to find any info on that, so let me know if this is something you've heard of.  If I get a straight answer from the guy who offered me the job, I promise I'll share.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Job ads make me cringe

I live in Kirkland, WA now.  This is a big change, and frankly a big distraction from the job hunt.  But I am here now, and settled enough to turn my focus back to finding some long term solution to my job situation.  Today, I applied for a part time job as a teller at Wells Fargo.  I can't really explain why, but it made me really happy to apply for a job where I met all the qualifications, would be a change of scene enough that I wouldn't be bored by the second day.  Having something to do part-time would make me feel much more confident about how long it is taking me to find something full-time.  But I think what really made me happy was the job ad wasn't too optimistic about who might qualify for this position.  Can you interact with people, keep track of cash and stand on your feet for most of the day? Then you can do this job.  Oh phew.

Then I went on to looking at more bio-relevant jobs.  Do you have a PhD, years of postdoc but still have retained your enthusiasm for tedious, high risk, low reward work?  Then throw your hat in the ring!  Are you an innovator, whose ideas are about to change the world and make our companies millions?  We'd like to talk to you.  I am recalling a cartoon that I can't find now that had two panels, the first, titled The Job, was an image of heaven.  The second, titled, The Candidate, showed a super hero flying through the air.  Below it read simply, Everyone Lies.  I know I need to get over this intimidation factor about positions.  They are always written to describe the Ideal Candidate, not necessary a candidate that would be acceptable for hiring. 

Regardless, I am back in the job market, ready to show my face and start making connections locally.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Back to being aggressive

Hunting down jobs is never ending.  I make myself be creative and aggressive about it, but I feel like I've been stuck in a rut lately.  Peruse some job boards, see what comes across twitter, ping the usual network contacts... my move has been distracting, but let's face it- I still need a job.  I have amassed the contact info for some HR types that I know I should reach out to, but I'm fumbling over what to say.  Someone told me you hire people sometimes.  Why not me? That seems lame, but I've been procrastinating on this for too long.  To get myself in the mood for some cold calling, I am trying to find some good Seattle contacts to at least have some meetings/phonecalls/interviews lined up for when I move there (in a week and a half!).

The LinkedIn job boards were giving me nothing, but I did notice that one agency, and one woman in particular was posting most of the jobs I was bothering to look at.  So, why not? I asked to connect, and she asked for my resume.  Cool, that's good confidence building.

But what do I say to these other people?  I got your contact info from someone I barely know and I'd really love it if you could give me a job, or at least tell me about jobs I should bother applying to. A friend suggested I say I am relocating, and want to get a sense of the job market and offer to have a meeting.  Face to face is SO much better than emails and phone calls, so hopefully this will work for a few people. But, if someone agrees to meet with me, what do we talk about?  Ugh.  I'll save that panic for when I have that problem.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What's in a business plan?

When I started asking around for advice about working for a start-up, everyone said "Look at the Business Plan." That's nice seeming advice, but considering my first experience with one is the one I am making a career choice on, I'm not sure if that actually puts me in a good position to judge.  Seriously, what is normally in one of these?

A business plan (esp for a company looking for investors, or anticipating growth), should include everything from the mission statement to the revenue streams and expected profitability timeline, and provide an indication that each of the major issues for the business have been considered and addressed.  There should be some indication that both the Market (who will buy what you have to sell?) and Finances (can you make it for less than you'll sell it? How much outlay is required to make it?) have been considered. For example, it might include the expected clients, or investors, predicted areas of growth or challenges.  In a science field (I'm clearly thinking about biofuels, but this holds true for biotech as well), these is probably some oblique reference to the whiz-bang science that is going to move the company forward.  If it doesn't sound believable, you should be able to get references about it.

The part that is a little confusing is that a business plan is normally written for investors, either the bank that will make a loan or venture capitalists.  As a result, everything is couched in the language of "Potential Success and Profits!" It's hard to look past the "uniquely qualified team," and their "cutting edge approach," despite their "deep understanding of market realities" to see if there is a good idea down there. And working for a start up might not be like a normal job, where you know if you show up and do your thing, you'll have some stability.  It's riskier, and as someone who doesn't like job hunting much, I want to be sure the job I take is one I'll still have in a few months.

I'm not really sure how one balances all that, frankly.

The one other think I have to add was this funny acronym, EBITDA- earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization which is a nice way of making earnings look as GIANT as possible, even  though that isn't a perfect reflection of the final take home.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Equity and other Business Jargon

I am currently pursuing a short term contract with a start-up. I will share with you the magic phrase that opened up this opportunity, and then try to explain why this is a double edged sword.  "I would consider working for equity."  My Dad told me to try this, so I blurted it out when asked about compensation, even though I don't really fully understand what it means.  Well, now it looks like I'll have the opportunity to learn.

The phone interview was really winding down in a "don't call us, we'll call you" kind of way, but I mentioned I'd like to tour this facility, and I'll be in the area for a while.  For some reason, this got the CEO interested again, but when I uttered those magic words, he said "You are getting gold stars for that answer."  Why?  As a start-up, I know that he has limited funds.  He is seeking investors, but it isn't clear that the money has arrived yet.  Working for equity is a delayed (and risky) promise of money.  That is, this privately help company will someday have a public offering of these shares (go public), and if the market has confidence in the business, the shares will increase in value.  Hooray!  However, if the company never gets enough investors to develop enough to go public, the shares don't really have value. Or the markets deems this a terrible business, the shares may loose value.  Many companies will offer partial equity to employees ("employee-owned"), as a way of helping them being equally invested in the success of the company.

This contract I am trying to get is a "high-risk" contract; it's 100% equity.  I'm hoping that a short term contract with a start-up will give me some business cred and help me get my foot in the door somewhere. It's giving me the opportunity to learn some of this business jargon I've never considered before.  I signed a non-disclosure agreement.  I am trying to figure out the difference between Founder's Shares and regular Shares.  I am trying to imagine how many shares there might be in one company, and what it means to spin-off the investment arm of the company.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In which I acknowledge my two-body problem

Some big changes are happening here.  Not because I've finally cracked the job hunt, but my husband did. Yes, it should come as no surprise that I am married to someone who also has great career prospects.  It was going to be very hard for me to find a job that would tempt him away from his professional life (NIH payscale? ha!), and it turned out this is a good time for him to seek a promotion. This is great news for us personally, but changes a lot of things for my job hunt.

We are moving across the country to the Seattle area.  I'm glad to be closer to my family, but months of job hunting have confirmed that Seattle doesn't have the strongest biotech market in the country.  However, being able to focus on a single place may help me to be more creative in my job hunt.  My problem lately has been trying to convince employers that not only do I have the skills they want, but I am such a phenomenal candidate, they should put up with me having to relocate.  I felt limited to apply only to positions that narrowly fit within my experience and education.  (And only those in an area it seemed likely there could be a second career.)  With luck, I can be a convincing candidate for a wider variety of jobs since that major barrier, geography, has been reduced.

Now I am trying to figure out how to focus my job hunt in one geographical location.  Now it should be easier to actually do face to face networking.  I'm looking forward to meeting the Washington Biotech Business Association, catching up with my alumni group and meeting old friends, both from college and high school, who resettled to that area. I can't say I know lots of people in the biotech industry there, but I am hoping to make the case that my education proves I can learn quickly, work on dynamic teams and deliver ambitious goals, be that in drug discovery or biofuel or science education or any other industry that is willing to consider me.

Monday, October 3, 2011

For fun- search terms that fail

My job search has been a derailed a little lately (more on that later), so rather than highlight the super productive things I've been doing, let me just tell you about the search terms I always think will land me my dream job.

I'm a virologist, so I always search for the variations of that term, virology works, virus doesn't.  It suggests computer science jobs.  And antiviral is pretty much a nonstarter, I have no interest in working for McAffee or Norton or any of those software companies.

I've also spent a lot of time looking for drugs (antiviral drugs).  Drug discovery and drug development work, but just "drugs" suggests a lot of jobs in the non-profit sector.  In drug counseling mostly.

And then sometimes I get frustrated wading through tech positions, and I'll just search for phd- don't do that.  There are scads of chem or computer science jobs that require a PhD and makes buckets of money.

I promise more on search terms that are working for me soon.  Much busy-ness here, I have 5 more papers to edit and am taking another "networking field trip," this time to WA.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Science Bloggers for Students

Although I am never sure who reads this blog, I'd like you all to know about a really exciting challenge I am participating in on the other blog I write for, Steel City Science. We are in a challenge with other science bloggers to raise funds for Donor's Choose, an organization that helps teachers get funds for projects in their classrooms.  If you are interested in supporting the needs of Pittsburgh's teachers, or really any science teachers anywhere, please follow this link and make a donation of any size to support the next generation of scientists.  We've got until Oct 22 to show the ChemBloggers that Pittsburgh is a city with a big heart.  Thanks for your generosity!

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Benefits of Volunteering

Volunteering gets a mixed wrap in the job hunt.  There is one school of that that volunteering can help you build contacts and experiences to bolster your resume, and another that if you volunteer too much, people will wonder why you never got offered a job. Before we get too far into this, I think volunteerism of any kind is great, and taking the time to give of yourself to others is fantastic, regardless of whether it helps your career.  But  if you want to use volunteering specifically to help your career in someway, you might want to be careful about how you proceed.

I am currently volunteering at our Science Center.  I wanted to find something to get me out of the house while I am otherwise a full time job hunter, so I looked for opportunities that would add to my skills, while taking advantage of my background.  The science center is great for that, they love that I am a Scientist, but I predominantly provide "customer service."  Trust me, this was nowhere else on my resume.  But there is a real shift in attitude when you aren't just feeding figures and data to your boss with candor, but instead trying to figure out how to make people enjoy themselves more.  I am liking it a lot.  I also get to meet some really cool people, and don't get me started on how awesome it is to play with the exhibits all day.  This is good fit for me, because as great as the experience is as a volunteer, I think that it is pretty clear why I am not ever going to get a job offer from them.

In addition, as a volunteer, I have a lot of flexibility.  The science center has lots of volunteers; there are old folks who like to sit by the door to greet people and give them maps, and there are high school kids who like to do the demos.  Personally, I spend half my day walking the exhibit floors, and half my day working with the Girls Math & Science Program.  Right now, I am developing a big event to help introduce girls to careers in Chemistry.  I'm working out some demos, I need to solve some problems with rooms, I've got a budget and expect 100 girls in 6 weeks.  Again, this is experience that I don't have on my resume- but as a grad student who has had to juggle the logistics of scheduling committee meetings, experiments and teaching, I feel I have the skills to succeed here.

While I feel my experience as a volunteer is adding to my resume, I'm not really that sure it is going to be the magic bullet that lands me a job somehow.  I don't think anyone should approach it as if it would be.  But it is making it much easier to keep up my enthusiasm and stay creative about my job hunt, so I still think it is worth the time I spend.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Networking- go meet some strangers!

I'm learning a lot of things about networking these days.  I'm trying to be clear about what I need (a job, preferably on the West Coast) and what I have to offer (great technical background, and a Ph.D. in molecular biology) to all kinds of people: people who can help, people I don't think can help but let me practice my spiel, people I don't know- ALL kinds of people.  Very rarely (um, not yet once?) has anyone said, OMG, really?  Because we've been totally looking for a molecular virologist/blogger to start ASAP!  And that's ok, I'm really not expecting job offers to show up at cocktail parties. 

That being said, there is something to getting out there and mingling.  This fantastic networking story came while I was visiting my brother in Austin TX.  Austin is about the only place in Texas I would consider living, it's fun and my brother is there, but... it is crazy hot, and us Alaskans melt.  When he dragged me out to a Roller Derby Party, I was certainly not thinking too hard about launching a career there.  But he mentioned to the stylish group of girls that I was here because I'm free for employment!  Anyone need a newly minted Ph.D.?  Which of course prompted our host to ask, what is your Ph.D. in?  And I said, sheepishly, because these grrls are all tough and I am clearly bringing the dork to the party scene, "Oh, molecular virology.  I've been doing drug discovery, so I thought I'd find a job in pharma..." Which prompted this Betty Paige look alike across the room to say, "You want a lab job?  Let me give you my card, Life Technologies is hiring..."  AND THEN later, when we were laughing about Roller Derby was the key to the Austin Biotech market, the girl I was sitting next to said, "Actually, I work for a firm that does educational science publications..."  And of course they hire occasional freelance/contractors.  Brilliant!  (I should probably mention that although my sister-in-law considers most of these girls to be friends, she knows them all by pseudonym, so it isn't surprising to not know what their day jobs are.)

If nothing else, this just proves that it was a good idea to get myself some business cards printed.