ACS Career Fair
Aug19

ACS Career Fair

Just a quick note to remind you that next week, Aug 22-26 is the ACS fall meeting in Boston. The ACS Career Fair is Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. If you're planning on participating, here's a pdf list of the workshops being held. Some of the grad students in my department have attended a few of these before, and say that the preparing a resume and  mock interview sessions were the most helpful. I personally have never been to an ACS Career Fair, but I will be attending this one. So I'm going to try to cover a few of these too, and give you the run-down. Look for that next week. Also if you're going, be sure to participate in the C&E News blog t-shirt contest thing. You could win a $50 VISA gift card for wearing your nifty shirt in the exhibit hall next Monday and Tuesday. Plus after the meeting, you can wear it out hiking in the woods and not be shot by hunters! It's a win-win. I already posted my key word (coughcoughRIGHTHEREcough), so that leaves you with only five more to find. Happy...

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Learning from rejection
Aug17

Learning from rejection

I am a first-class reject. Really. I’ve been turned down by some genuinely excellent people. A few weeks ago, I got a rejection letter about a job I had applied for a bit back. It was very nice and polite. And I really appreciated it because they let me know they had hired someone else. Many companies don’t do that. So even though I didn’t get the job, I was left feeling kind of warm and fuzzy. I didn't actually interview for the job, so I didn't respond to say thank you (like you should if you get an interview). But if you do interview and get turned down, should that be the end of the post-rejection conversation? Not if you want to turn it into a positive experience, said Liane Gould, Manager for ACS Career Services. “You can ask the interviewer about how you could have done better,” she said. Specifically, they might give you feedback about your skill set, and how you might become more attractive to a potential employer. This isn’t going to help too much with that current application, but who knows? Another job might open up soon. Or a similar company might be looking for a similar employee. The point is, you can learn a lot from getting denied. And let's face it: all of us will be rejects at one time or another. (I am speaking only of the job market, not your personal life.) In the current market, it's likely that your "no" pile can easily trip into the double digits, depending on how many jobs you apply for. I know this from personal experience. In my first post, I alluded to my Summer of No, in which I got rejected from every writing internship I applied for. I won’t lie--it was painful. There was a particularly cruel week when I got two rejections a day, three days in a row. That left me feeling...well, you can probably imagine. I was pretty low. But somewhere in those self-pitying days, my attitude began to turn. Getting another writing internship is pretty important to my future career, yes, but I was still healthy, still happily married, and (for the time being) still able to put food on the table and make my mortgage payments. Besides, am I not a chemistry grad student? I've tackled some pretty major setbacks during my time in the lab. And even though it's sometimes taken me a long time (read: years) to solve some seriously tough problems, I've always won. I've always gotten stuff to work. So this getting turned down repeatedly stuff? This I could handle, and maybe...

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Fortune, fame, and writing gigs
Jun02

Fortune, fame, and writing gigs

Pick two! Then throw those both out and pick writing gigs, since that's what you'll get as a science writer, my particular flavor of alternative chemistry career. But how did I choose that? As usual. By wandering. It's often difficult, later, to exactly pin down when your life began to go astray. Not so in my case. December 2005.  Screwing around on the internet instead of working, I came upon this article in NatureJobs about science writing. I had always planned on being a research chemist, but this really resonated with me. Trumpets blared. The ceiling opened, and a blinding ray of light shoneth downeth upon me-ith. A deep voice intoned, "And she shall be a science writer, for now and forever after!" That was about it, really. One of the links at the end of that article was for the AAAS Mass Media fellowship, which I thought sounded like it was made for me. So I applied! Aaaand I didn't get it. More googling when I should have been working told me that there was a science writing class at my university, so I emailed the prof and asked what I should do. She said get clips. So I did by writing columns for the campus paper. Then I applied for the AAAS fellowship again in 2008 and this time I got it. I was very excited. See how screwing around on the internet is so useful? Do it lots! My internship was at the Orange County Register in southern California, which was fun and hard and frustrating and exciting. When I came back to school, I took that science writing class from the prof who gave me advice. Turns out she was the very nice and accomplished S. Holly Stocking, whom I later helped write a book about science writing. Then I also started freelancing, first at an alumi magazine, then some book reviews, then the local NPR station, then news at more mainstream places. I applied for a bunch more writing internships this summer (aka Leigh's season of no) and got turned down for all of them. But I did talk to a few of the editors to see how I could do better and am gearing up for another round of applications for the fall. Plus I get to write this blog, which is good. A success story? No. A work in progress. And as you may have noticed, science writing isn't something that you just fall into. You have to really want to do it. You have to prepared to be rejected, take a lot of criticism (sometimes editing, sometimes not), be very persistent,...

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