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Beyond the Lab and the Launch

Beyond the Lab and the Launch

Author:  Gabrielle Bauer

Explore these ideas, insights, and tips to help you live your best life, both on and off the job.

INTRODUCTION

To stay sharp and to grow within the biotech industry, you need to look beyond the daily routine, to set goals, and to make connections. When you reach a fork in the road, you need strategies to help you choose your next steps with confidence. You also can’t ignore the rest of your life. No matter how inspiring you find your work in the life sciences, time away from the lab or the boardroom can help you maintain your zest for working and for living.

This backgrounder aims to inspire you to live more purposefully and creatively, at work and beyond. Use the ideas and tips below as a starting point, adapting them to your unique style and circumstances. Follow the links to dive more deeply into a topic, and keep an eye out for our blog and events for further insights into the science life.

CAREER JOURNEY

A successful career journey includes both making and changing plans. While perseverance can get you through many rough spots, you also need to know when to cut your losses and regroup. Consider these approaches to help you chart your course.

Boosting Your Goal IQ

“I want to be successful in five years” may be an admirable goal, but it’s not a smart one. Smart goals are:

  • Specific: To zero in on your goal, try answering the five W questions: What do you want to accomplish? Why is the goal important? Who does it involve? Where is it located? Which resources does it require? ●
  • Measurable: How will you know when you’ve reached your goal or are partway there? Measuring your progress can help you maintain your excitement about approaching your goal. If your goal will take months or years to accomplish, break it down into steps that end with clear milestones.
  • Achievable: By all means dream big, but make sure your goal matches your interests, aspirations, and aptitudes. The best goals are those that stretch your abilities without exceeding them. A word of caution: avoid setting goals that depend on someone else’s actions, like “getting promoted to medical director.” If that’s what you want, reframe your goal to something like “acquire the training and skills to be considered for a medical director position.”
  • Relevant: The goal has to mean something to you. If it doesn’t align with your values and other life goals, it will lose its appeal. You know your goal is relevant if you can answer yes to the questions: Does the goal seem worthwhile? Is this the right time for it? Am I the right person to pursue it? Does it make sense in the current business environment?
  • Time-bound: A time-bound goal has a deadline. If you decide to pursue an advanced degree in bioinformatics, you can set your deadline at (for example) three years from now. You can also set deadlines for completing prerequisites, if needed, and for applying to bioinformatics programs.

While you’re working on SMART goals, take the opportunity to step back and consider your long-term career trajectory. Dorie Clark, a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University, suggests you begin by clarifying where you don’t want to go. “Get clear on what you don’t want, and then take steps to avoid that,” she writes in the Harvard Business Review. “It’s much easier to identify things you know you dislike, rather than ideating about a hypothetical future.” Perhaps the pandemic years have made you realize that you don’t want to spend all your time in an office environment. Or perhaps it’s the opposite: you’ve learned that working from home doesn’t do it for you. Or you’ve realized that you don’t want to spend the rest of your career in a laboratory or on the road.

Next, flip the exercise around and make a list of scenarios that instinctively appeal to you. Maybe the entrepreneurial lifestyle calls to you, and you can picture yourself launching a boutique skincare company with a small lineup of clinically active products. Maybe you’re an avid hiker and you’d like to live closer to the mountains. Such “visioning” exercises will keep your long-term aspirations alive in your head, so you’ll be ready to turn them into SMART goals when the right time comes.

The Biggest Decision

If you’ve recently completed your schooling, you’re probably staring down the scientist’s biggest fork in the road: academia or industry? Or maybe you’ve already made your choice, travelled some distance down that path, and are now wondering if you should backtrack and take the other road.

It never hurts to lay out the pros and cons of either choice, as we’ve done here. For extra inspiration, check out videos such as this one, targeted to scientists and engineers.

Pro and Cons Chart of Academia and Industry

When reviewing such lists, be sure to check in with yourself. Are you listening to your inner promptings, or are you trying to please a colleague or professor sitting on our shoulder? If that’s the case, refocus your thoughts on your own mental picture of yourself—the only picture that counts. Nobody knows you as well as you do, and what works for your mentor won’t necessarily line up with your needs.

Finding Your Career Sweet Spot

Ever heard of Ikigai? This Japanese path-finding exercise, which roughly translates to “reason for being,” can help you zero in on a career path that speaks to your heart and your mind. As illustrated below, Ikigai invites you to ask four questions:

  1. What do I love?
  2. What am I good at?
  3. What can I get paid for?
  4. What does the world need?

Once you’ve answered the questions, see where they overlap: that’s your ikigai, or career sweet spot. For example, if you love biology, you’ve always been good at drawing, you’re comfortable around computers, and you’ve noticed many new digital health communications companies popping up, you may find your sweet spot as a digital medical illustrator.

The Ikigai Intersection

Venn diagram of Ikigai

Tweaking Your Career Path

If you’ve hit a mental wall in your career, you’re certainly not alone. By age 50, the average person has held 12 different jobs in search of the right fit. People change not only jobs, but careers: in 2016 alone, about 6.2 million workers left their roles for work in a different field. If you recognize yourself in these signs, it may be time for a change.

  • You’ve lost your mojo: You don’t feel connected to your job and you have trouble faking enthusiasm. You’re underperforming and letting deadlines slip past you.
  • You don’t feel like you’re making a difference: Your role doesn’t play to your greatest strengths, and you don’t feel your accomplishments make the world a better place.
  • Your job is affecting your personal life: You come home exhausted, you take out your frustrations on those who live with you, or your body shows signs of chronic stress, such as headaches or digestive problems.
  • You fantasize about a new job or career: You feel jealous of your friends’ careers or find yourself browsing job boards. When people ask you what you do, you don’t take pride in the answer.
  • You dread going to work: This clue needs no further elaboration. If you feel this way consistently, it’s time to look elsewhere.

Perhaps you don’t need to step out of the life sciences field, but to find a new career under its large umbrella. If your job as a lab technician doesn’t fulfill the performer in you, maybe a biology teacher will do the trick. Or if you enjoy working on science projects but feel like an outsider in the lab, you could find your groove as a regulatory writer. Don’t ever think of such lateral moves as steps backward: success is measured in personal fulfillment, not in a CV.

CONNECTIONS

The life sciences are as much about people as products. Whether you’re looking for a new job, want advice on writing research grants, or simply enjoy picking colleagues’ brains, you don’t have to be the life of the party to make meaningful connections. You just need to show up where your tribe hangs out.

Go to Industry Events

If you’re in job-hunting mode, networking will take you farther than just about any other strategy. It’s your ticket to the hidden job market—the 70% of jobs that never get advertised to the public. Not just that, but networking jumpstarts 85% of all job offers.

Start by making the most of industry events. The biopharma world runs on a continuous cycle of conferences and summits, many of which include after-hours networking sessions. Even if you feel tired after a long day, resist the temptation to skip them. Designed to help people relax and unwind, these events are networking gold: when people feel relaxed, they connect more easily and organically.

Which brings us to the big networking takeaway: focus on building relationships, rather than making transactions. It’s unlikely that your new connection has a job lined up for you, and a direct appeal may turn them off at this stage. Remember that both of you share the same goal: to build a network of people who can help each other over the course of your careers.

Within a day or two of making a connection, send a quick follow-up note. Avoid making a specific request: instead, thank your contact for the chance to chat and tell them you hope to speak more in the future. Next time you sign up for a conference, ask them if they plan to attend and can meet up with you.

In some cases, a connection may lie dormant for a while before coming back to life again—and sometimes the spark just isn’t there. If you feel you’re forcing it, step back and accept that not all connections will stick. Like many things in life, networking requires a mix of persistence, patience, and rolling with the punches.

Get Social

Whether you love or merely tolerate social media, it’s a networking channel you can’t afford to ignore. Start with LinkedIn, recognized as a top choice for career networking. Make sure your own LinkedIn profile stays up to date, and post articles of interest to your network every few days. Join LinkedIn groups devoted to your area and become an active participant. Also engage on LinkedIn with people you’ve met at live events. Request a connection, comment on their content, and share articles that may interest them.

Hop on Twitter to get industry news and discover movers and shakers in your area. As with LinkedIn, engage with the colleagues you meet on Twitter: follow them, comment on their posts, and retweet blog posts and articles they’ve posted.

At the same time, avoid relying exclusively on social media to build your network. As Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, points out, “Sometimes social media tricks us into believing we have a strong connection with someone when, in fact, that connection only exists in that single plane of existence.” When an opportunity presents itself, Clark suggests taking the conversation off-line. “If you notice that your friend was just promoted or had some other success, celebrate her win by giving her a call or sending her a note.”

Want to volunteer? Do it strategically.
Strategic volunteering means choosing volunteering roles based on the skills you have and those you’d like to acquire. Yes, it’s calculated—and that’s a good thing. For example, if you’d like to boost your project management or business communication skills, consider volunteering for a hospital foundation. Want a crack at leadership or policymaking? Volunteer for a committee in a science organization. For the biggest bang in human contact, help out at a major conference.

Stepping Away From Toxic Relationships
Building your network doesn’t just mean making connections: it means severing those connections that cause more harm than good. If you sense that a colleague or friend is trying to sabotage your career, you could well be right. Not everyone has your back. Attitudes and behaviors like these should set off your alarm bells:

  • Failing to offer encouragement when you clearly need it
  • Questioning whether you’re qualified for a job you have in mind
  • Revealing personal information about you to other colleagues or on social media

If the saboteur is someone you know well, a candid conversation may lead her to mend his ways, but don’t count on it. Sometimes your best course of action is to cut your losses, ideally before the tension escalates to animosity. If you keep getting sabotaging vibes from a friend or associate, step away without guilt. As the saying goes, life’s too short.

And what if the problem lies with your whole working environment? By no means rare, toxic work cultures can sap your performance and your spirit. Signs of workplace toxicity include lack of transparency around projects, passive-aggressive communication, and cliques within departments. If this describes your workplace, consider taking your concerns to someone in the human resources department (assuming your organization has one). A mediated group discussion could help people reflect on their contributions to the bad vibe—and realize that they’re being watched. If nothing changes, look for opportunities to move to a different department, or even a different branch. And update your resume, just in case.

LIFE BALANCE

Balance doesn’t look the same for everyone. To achieve a work-life balance that leaves you fulfilled, you need to know what you value most, both at work and elsewhere, and work toward it. If flexible work hours and creative control top your list, share these priorities with recruiters and hiring managers when you consider new biotech roles. Of course, flexibility works both ways: don’t automatically reject opportunities that meet most but not all of your criteria. Small details can be negotiated, either now or down the line.

Avoiding Burnout

As a rule, life science professionals bring a lot of passion to their work. There’s nothing wrong with working hard—or even to devote most of your waking hours to your work—except when your focus on work strains your personal life or starts affecting your health. A hyper-focus on work also puts you at risk of job burnout—a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that erodes your job satisfaction and even your personal identity. Symptoms of burnout also include lack of energy, poor concentration, and physical symptoms such as headaches or digestive problems.

While not (yet) a medical diagnosis, burnout is recognized by leading medical publishers such as the Mayo Clinic and WebMD. If you’re heading toward burnout, you need to insert a braking mechanism into your working life, even if it feels forced at first. Some burnout-busting ideas to consider:

  • Keep one day per week free of meetings
  • Designate certain hours of the evening off-limits for viewing and sending emails
  • Schedule outside time into your day: go for a walk, sit by a lake, or stroll through a botanical garden
  • Schedule activities with family and friends
  • Show up for family meetings and emergencies
  • Plan day trips to nearby towns or hiking trails

Attitude Adjustment: the Joy of Gratitude

Appreciating the blessings in your life doesn’t just feel good: practicing gratitude can improve your sleep and emotional regulation and protect you from stress and burnout. To get the full benefits of the practice, list a few blessings every day in a gratitude journal (or electronic file), post them on a gratitude mood board, or drop them into a gratitude jar. Don’t limit the blessings to big-ticket items such as a promotion or new friendship: the cherry tree you saw down the street or the joke you exchanged with the cashier count, too.

Recharging Your Batteries

In biotech and elsewhere, many jobs involve long periods of physical inactivity and engagement with screens. Over time, this workstyle can drain your energy and lead to health problems. If you recognize yourself in some of these habits, try the science-backed antidotes listed below.

Graphic chart of Stressor and Solution

For a more potent reboot, take that vacation you’ve been putting off. If you’re like four out of 10 Americans, you didn’t take all your vacation days last year. Don’t be that “hero”—today’s employers certainly don’t expect it of you. Successful biotech companies recognize the restorative power of a vacation and encourage their employees to take time off.

In addition to recharging your batteries, vacations can give you a new perspective on your life, including your career trajectory. If crowded airports are not your thing, book a week at a cottage or a campsite nearby.

Holiday Mindset

Official holidays may not coincide with your vacation time, but they offer a further opportunity to disconnect from work pressures and stressors. When the next statutory holiday or holiday season rolls around, take the opportunity to reflect on your career accomplishments and challenges over the past months. Reach out to someone you haven’t seen in a while, whether a colleague or simply a friend. If it’s alone time you crave most, enjoy some guilt-free hours with a hardcover book—or surround yourself with the natural world.

Keeping the Juices Flowing

Have you ever pondered a problem for hours on end, glued to your screen or notepad, and then hit upon the solution after you’ve stepped away to weed your garden or walk around the block? We’ve all had this experience, and psychologists say it’s no accident. As behavioral psychologist Susan Weinschenck explains in a Psychology Today article, “if you keep your prefrontal cortex too focused on the ‘task at hand’ then it can’t go searching for interesting combinations of information you have stored in memory. When you take a break (the garden, the walk, the shower, the dishes) then your PFC is freed up to go searching and combining.”

To stay creative, you need to expose your brain to a variety of stimuli. Different creative activities stimulate different parts of the brain, contributing to its plasticity over the lifespan. For example, exercise increases growth factors that help the brain form new neural connections, and meditation helps preserve the aging brain. Completing a puzzle or playing a word game doesn’t just help you relax: it’s brain juice. To get the most from the activity, choose the right level of challenge—a bit of a stretch, but not too much—whether it’s the cryptic crossword or the daily brain teaser in your newspaper.

PARTING THOUGHTS

We hope you have found some inspiration in these ideas and will apply them to your own life. Feel free to pop back here to remind yourself of your goals and progress. If you’re wondering whether to accept or decline an offer, or whether to reinvent yourself entirely, keep your focus on your must-haves and your deal breakers. The fine points can always be negotiated. If you’re honest with yourself and with your recruiter, you’ll get what you need. Ω

Resume Writing for Life Scientists

Resume Writing for Life Scientists

Author: Cliff Mintz
Looking for a new job can be an overwhelming and daunting experience. A vital first step in any job search is the creation of a carefully constructed and well-crafted resume or curriculum vitae (CV). While there are clear distinctions between resumes and CVs—the former is a one-to-two-page document whereas a CV has no page limit—the CV is the preferred document for life scientists. This is mainly because the shortened resume format doesn’t provide scientists with enough space to adequately explain their training, accomplishments and research interests to prospective employers. However, for non-scientists jobs like administrative assistants, pharmaceutical operators, and data entry professional resumes are preferred.

Too often, inexperienced job seekers will hastily craft resumes without paying much attention to format, style, content or grammar; and then wonder why they are not landing job interviews. The purpose of this article is to provide some advice and tips to help life scientists improve their resume writing skills. The terms resume and CV will be used interchangeably; but most of my remarks are mainly directed at crafting CVs.

Formatting and Writing Tips

Open, uncluttered and less densely-written CVs are visually appealing and more likely to be read by hiring managers. This is because these individuals scan hundreds (sometimes thousands) of resumes daily and unless an applicant’s qualifications, skill sets and

personal attributes “jump off the paper”—and are easily discerned in 60 second or less—the likelihood of a face-to-face job interview is remote.

Short descriptive and succinctly-crafted phrases are the best way for employers to quickly ascertain whether a job applicant is qualified (bullets are option). Avoid using paragraphs because they are dense and sometimes difficult for hiring managers to navigate and interpret.

Finally, powerful, action-oriented verbs and adjectives tend to evoke strong, positive impressions. The use of action verbs and superlative suggest that a job applicant is confident, self assured and has a “can do” attitude. Unfortunately, scientists usually don’t excel in this area but it is essential to be successful in a job search.

Constructing a CV

Generally speaking, there can be as many as eight different sections for a CV.

1. Summary of Qualifications

The Summary of Qualifications or candidate profile is the first section of a CV that a hiring manager will see. It represents the best opportunity for a candidate to convince a prospective employer that she/he may be the right person for the “job” It should not be longer than 4 to 5 lines and must be peppered with key words (gleaned from job ads). Many organizations use software programs to screen CVs for key words and if they are absent the likelihood of employment for a job candidate is low.

2. Professional Experience

The Professional Experience section lists a candidate’s work experiences in reverse chronological order (most recent to past). Three to four short descriptive phrases that detail a candidate’s professional experiences while holding each position is generally sufficient.

3. Professional Activities

Professional activities include things that are related but not part of a person’s official job responsibilities. Examples include, consulting, editorial duties, committee memberships etc.

4. Education

Education credentials generally begin with the lowest degree first (associate or bachelor) and end with the most advanced degree or educational experience, e.g. postdoctoral fellowships or professional school. The name and location of the institution that awarded the degree and major area of study ought to be listed with each entry (Fig 1). PhD and masters’ theses title or a brief description of a research project (postdoctoral fellows) may also be included. It is perfectly reasonable to list the names of PhD mentors or postdoctoral advisors associated with PhD and postdoctoral training.

It is not necessary to list the dates that degrees were awarded. While this may not be a bad thing for entry level employees, it may hinder more experienced job seekers from securing new positions because of age discrimination.

5. Award & Honors

Awards and honors include any official recognition for outstanding service or accomplishments and include dean’s list, travel awards, scholarships etc.

6. Professional Affiliations

Membership in professional societies, organizations or clubs should be listed in a separate section entitled Society Membership and Professional Affiliations (Fig. 1).

7. Other Skills

When appropriate, it is okay to list (in a separate section) any extracurricular activities or specialized skills related to the job that may increase a candidate’s competitiveness.

8. Publications

All of a candidate’s authored publications should be listed on the last page of a CV in the in this section. Usually, this section is divided into three subsections: 1) Peer-reviewed papers; 2) Chapters, Books and Reviews; and 3) Oral and Poster Presentations (Fig. 1). Early career scientists need not include all of the categories if they lack the appropriate publications. Likewise, midcareer scientists may consider not listing oral and poster presentations. Publications ought to be numbered and it is appropriate to list papers that are “in press.” Manuscripts that are submitted should not be included.

As a rule of thumb, never send references to prospective employers unless they specifically ask for them. Simply indicate on the resume (usually immediately before the publications section; Fig 1) that references are “available upon request.” However, for most academic jobs it is customary for an applicant to send references at part of the original application package. For industrial jobs, references are generally not requested unless an employer is interested in moving forward with a possible job offer.

Tailoring a Resume

To be competitive, job candidates must routinely tweak and modify their resumes to meet individual job requirements. One convenient way to tailor a CV to a specific job, is to read the job ads created for the opportunity. Employers always list the skills, qualifications and experience that will be required by the successful applicant (typically what is mentioned first is most important). Once identified, a resume ought to be modified with keywords to show that a candidate possesses all or most of the job qualifications and requirements.

Finally, keeping a resume current is vitally important. Resumes that are not fully up-to-date may suggest that a candidate is lazy or not interested in a particular job. Also, some job opportunities may appear quickly and the time required to update an out-of-date resume may prevent a candidate from competing for a job.

Managing Job Interview Questions

Managing Job Interview Questions

Author: Cliff Mintz

There are countless interview question anecdotes and horror stories on the Internet. Moreover, urban legend suggests that jobseekers should expect to be asked “off-the-wall” or ridiculous questions during face-to-face job interviews. While this may occur during some interviews, generally speaking, interviewer questions are usually carefully crafted and intentionally designed to offer insights into a prospective employee’s capabilities and future on-the-job performance. To that point, it is important to point out that an invitation to participate in a face-to-face interview typically means that a job candidate possesses the requisite knowledge and technical skills to perform a particular job function. That said, the real intent of a face-to-face interview is to determine whether a prospective job candidate has the personality/ temperament to fit in and excel in an organization’s existing work environment or culture. Therefore, it is imperative that job candidates anticipate and prepare for possible interview questions before taking part in face-to-face job interviews.

Although it is difficult to pinpoint exactly which questions will be asked during face-to-face interviews, jobseekers are likely to be asked some variations of the following questions.

1. Describe how you overcame a particularly disappointing time in your life

2. What are your greatest achievements?

3. Why are you looking for a new job?

4. Why are you interested in this company and not our competitors?

5. What are your strengths?

6. What are your weaknesses?

7. What can you offer this company/organization?

8. Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?

It is apparent that none of these questions has anything to do with a prospective employee’s technical or job-related competencies or capabilities. They are intentionally designed and asked to help to gauge a jobseeker’s self awareness, interpersonal communication skills and the ability to think quickly on his/her feet. While some job seekers may not take these questions seriously—usually those who don’t get job offers—appropriate responses to them could mean the difference between a job offer and unemployment. Therefore, it is vitally important for jobseekers to carefully think about possible responses to these questions before upcoming face-to-face interviews. To that end, it is not unreasonable to write or “script” appropriate responses to these questions in advance of scheduled interviews. While this may seem unreasonable or overly excessive to some job seekers, experienced hiring managers can easily determine a job candidate’s level of interest in a particular job based on his/her answers to these questions.

It is important to point out that there is no “right” or “wrong” answer to any of these questions. However, it is important to be selective with the responses that are offered—especially when asked about weaknesses. For example, a would-be customer service representative may recognize that he/she—like many other customer service representatives—has trouble dealing with unhappy or angry customers. Because dealing with unhappy or angry customers is part of a customer service representative’s job, it is probably not a good idea to mention it when asked about possible weaknesses. Instead, choose a weakness that can possibly be viewed as a strength related to a particular job. For example, while being a “pushy” person may be off-putting or viewed as a weakness by many, it may be a highly desirable trait for salespersons. In other words, be selective and strategic when identifying possible weaknesses to hiring managers. More important, be certain to identify possible weaknesses that are work related rather than personal in nature.

Further, when answering interview questions, be careful not to divulge more information than is necessary or required. Answer questions as openly and honestly as possible but keep responses short, to the point and do not overly embellish or improvise responses. Job candidates who improvise responses generally do not know the answer to a question and tend to drone on to cover up their lack of knowledge. If you don’t know an answer or cannot think of a good response to a question, sometimes it is better to say “I don’t know” or ask the interviewer for help with the question. Asking for help, signals to the interviewer that a job candidate, if hired, would not hesitate to ask his/her superior for help to solve a potentially deleterious or pressing problem for the organization.

Although most of the questions asked during a face-to-face interview are asked by an interviewer, job candidates are expected to have questions too! This shows a prospective employer that a candidate has prepared for the interview and is seriously interested in the company or organization that he/she may join. By asking questions, job candidates let interviewers know that they have done their “homework” and would likely entertain a job offer if proffered by the company or organization.

Finally, there is universal agreement among recruiters and career development professionals that being prepared for face-to-face interviews helps to reduce stress, improves interview performance and increases the likelihood of job offers!

Why Professionalism Matters More Than Performance

Why Professionalism Matters More Than Performance

Author: Jason Burns

The article below is written by Sci.bio’s technology partner, Jason Burns of Kortivity. This piece really resonates with us at Sci.bio, as professionalism and customer service are our top KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).

Myth: Good performance is enough to create a successful career. Variations of this myth include: your work speaks for itself, and results matter most.

Yes, your performance and results matter. They are necessary ingredients for career success, but they aren’t enough. They aren’t even the most important.

Professionalism matters more.

What does Professionalism even mean?

The term professionalism may conjure up images of a person in a suit with a briefcase full of TPS reports, swiping their key card at 7:30am to beat everyone to the 8am meeting.

But that’s not what it is. A surfer whose job is to hang out on the beach waiting for the next righteous barrel can show more professionalism than an office worker.

Professionalism, in any industry, simply means that you treat others with respect, value people’s time, keep your commitments, and act with integrity.

Professionalism is essential to career success.

How can you practice Professionalism?

  1. Show up on time. Showing up on time to meetings, lunches, phone calls, video chats, and appointments shows that you respect others and value their time. Of course, you can’t always control your circumstances. If you’re going to be late, let the other parties know. When you do arrive, be ready. If you find yourself perpetually late, allow for more time between appointments, leave earlier, or change the habits that make you late.
  2. Maintain a professional image. Many modern workplaces have adopted more casual dress codes, offer remote work options, and encourage employees to be authentic. None of this should compromise your professional image. Dress appropriately for your situation, use respectful language, maintain eye contact, and actively listen regardless of where you are.
  3. Be present. Get rid of distractions. Put your phone or watch on “do not disturb” and do not check messages while you’re in a meeting with others. Checking messages, looking around, or allowing your phone or watch to buzz over and over doesn’t make you look important, it makes you look unprofessional. If you’re too busy to be present in a meeting, you should reschedule it for another time.
  4. Show integrity. Be accountable for your actions, take pride in your work, admit when you’ve made a mistake, and commit to fixing it.
  5. Take ownership. Don’t ask questions you could easily look up. Think of possible solutions to a problem before you present it. Don’t turn in unfinished or sloppy work. Be honest with yourself and others about your capabilities and timeline.
  6. Treat others the way you like to be treated. If you don’t like waiting on people when they’re late, not being listened to, sending emails or voicemails that don’t get a response, or being let down when you’re counting on someone, don’t do it to other people. Following this rule takes care of 95 percent of being professional.

Why does Professionalism matter more than performance?

  1. It’s rare. Unfortunately, professionalism is becoming increasingly harder to find among job candidates. Especially in entry level positions, many people can do the work. Finding someone who will show up on time, treat others with respect, be present, take initiative, and act with integrity is much harder. But in the long run, it matters more. Professionalism is an attitude and a mindset. Performance requires skills and training that are easier to teach.
  2. It’s transferable. Professionalism matters in every job, across every industry, in every location. Your performance and results may vary based on your tenure, position, and outside factors, but you can maintain professionalism in everything you do. It follows you throughout your career and sets you up for success.
  3. It’s memorable. A truth (often attributed to Maya Angelou): “People will forget what you said. They’ll forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.” Your professionalism or lack thereof in any work situation is more memorable than how you performed. Because it’s about treating yourself and others with respect. It communicates that they matter, and what you’re doing matters to you.

Your performance and results pale in comparison to your professionalism. Failing with professionalism will serve you better than succeeding without it. Your level of professionalism builds credibility, trust, and relationships or damages them. Great performances don’t require professionalism, great careers do.

 

Beyond the Interview: Negotiating A Job Offer

Beyond the Interview: Negotiating A Job Offer

Author: Cliff Mintz

One of the trickiest parts of the job seeking process is negotiating an employment offer if one is extended. Generally speaking, there is a lot of anxiety, trepidation and misinformation surrounding the entire job negotiation process. This is because jobseekers, for the most part, spend much of their energy and focus on researching would be employers, resume writing, and preparing for face-to-face interviews. Little or no attention is paid to the art of negotiating an actual job offer. To that point, the following article is intended to demystify the job offer negotiation process.

Perhaps THE MOST important aspect of the job offer negotiation process is starting salaries. While many people tend to downplay its importance, at the end of the day, it is always about money. And, there is no reason why a jobseeker ought not try to get the best possible salary from a prospective employer. Therefore, it is incumbent upon jobseekers to gather as much salary intelligence about a possible position before the interview and after an offer is extended. Websites like Salary.com, Glassdoor.com and PayScale.com, which list salary ranges based on industry and geography, are a great place to start. However, because these are self-reporting websites, a better option may be to talk with employees working at the company that extended the offer or with others who work for its competitors.

Other things to consider besides salaries include healthcare benefits, vacation time, financial benefits, bonus structure and corporate culture. However, most of these benefits are standardized for new entry level employees so there is little to negotiation that can take place surrounding them. This means that salary is perhaps the only place where real negotiation can take place.

Let me give you an example. Your research suggests that a person with your job title at a particular company ought to make between $70,000 to $75,000 per year as a starting salary. Your would-be employer makes you an offer with a starting salary of $70,000. If you think $70,000 is a fair salary—then take the offer. However, you likely may be “leaving money on the table” For this reason, I advise persons who receive an initial job offer to not immediately accept it!

In the above example, I would make a counter offer of $75,000 as a starting salary. Once the company receives and considers the counter offer, several things can happen. First, the company can simply say no to your counteroffer (they will not rescind the original offer as urban legend suggests simply because you are asking for a higher starting salary). Second, the company may agree to the $75,000 as a starting salary. Third, more often than not, the company is likely to counteroffer with a starting salary of $72,000 or there about. This is because companies spend a lot of time, effort and money to get to the point to extend an offer to the “right fit” candidate. The prospect of starting the job search process all over again or settling for the “second best” candidate is usually not a viable option for most employers. Put simply, the company wants you and will in good faith negotiate a deal to induce you to join them.

Finally, negotiating a job offer as a jobseeker can be very emotional and stressful. Perhaps the best way to avoid the stress is to work with a professional recruiter during your job search. If you work with a recruiter, he/she not you, will negotiate the offer if one is extended.