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.