Tag Archives: jobs

Advice for Successful Career Decisions

I give students a lot of unsolicited advice.  I talk to both graduate students and undergraduates, and they are mostly worried about the same things:

  • Did I make the right choice when I decided to study ____?
  • Will I get a good job?  Is *this* job (graduate program/major/whatever) the one for me?

I actually have a mathematical formula that I use to help people figure out when they are in the right major or the right job, or if a career change is a good idea.  And I’m going to give it to you, for free, because you read my blog, and are, Post hoc ergo prompter hoc ipso facto, cool.


puppy!Here it is.

Job = Puppy

Yep. A job is like a puppy.  When you first get a job (or start a degree program), it’s wonderful and cool. Here, look –>

Doesn’t that make you smile?

Puppies are awesome. And if you have an actual puppy, you realize that puppies also have some downsides. Like…..poop.

There is no such thing as a poopless puppy.
There is also no such thing as a job with no shitty tasks.

The trick is to find a job that maximizes what I call the cute to poop ratio.

In other words, the quantity

recipe for happinessmust be greater than one.

If  the cute of your job is overwhelmed by the poop–it’s time to start looking for a new job.

I’ve made some really radical career changes–including walking away from a tenure-track faculty position.  Each time it was because the amount of poop in the job became overwhelming, and drowned out all the fun and cute elements.

Obviously, right now is not the easiest time to be starting a career, or make a career change.  Other things can modify this equation; health care benefits, for example, can turn a negative cute : poop ratio into a positive for me, at least in the short term.  If you are someone just starting out on your career path, taking a job that is not exactly what you want may also balance out, so you can get your foot in the door and start building a resume.

Just don’t stay in a job where the crap piles up around you and you are miserable longer than you have to be.
Life is short.  There has to be a balance.

Where should I look for a Job?

One of the most common questions I get from students around this time of year is “Where should I look for a job?”

The question they actually are asking is “where ONLINE should I look for a job?”, and it’s the wrong question.  The vast majority of jobs for students are filled informally, without a search.

I always have extra work, and when I manage to have money + work that needs to be done, I usually tend to hire people I know–either a good past student, or someone recommended by a friend.

For full-time jobs, the question is a bit more relevant, but still, applying online doesn’t yield the results that using your network of contacts will.  If I happen to know someone involved in a search, and I send them a copy of your recommendation letter directly….yeah, that immediately moves your resume up to the top of the pile.

So, before I give you my list of places online to look at:  Let me ask, what is the ratio of time you are spending pasting your resume online to the amount of time spent chatting with your friends and professional contacts about where you want to go?

My favorite places to look for Ecological/Environmental type jobs:

Two other things to try:

  1. There are a lot of new job indexes that basically work by harvesting other websites. Indeed.com is a good example of that type of service.
  2. Don’t forget to look at local university and state websites! While the funding may be shaky long term, for those starting out in the job market, there are usually lots of opportunities.

Have I missed an important resource? Please suggest it in the comments!
[Note: I will be especially harsh on spammers for this post–if you are suggesting a link, it needs to relate specifically to finding job postings in environmental science/conservation]

First Impressions

I can’t tell you how much first impressions count when I have a posted position open, and I get calls from candidates.  Many of them seem to have missed learning some of the basic rules of job hunting. As a service, I provide them here:

Rule 1: Do your homework.
If the job posting has an address, a business name, and our website on it, look on a map. Use Teh Google.

Please do not call me and ask where our organization is located,  or what we do.  You should already have read/researched enough to figure that out when you call–or at least have some idea!  Cluelessness: never a good first impression.

Rule 2: Never. Never. EVER. Say bad things about your previous supervisors.
Most people know that they shouldn’t do this in an interview, but it seems like outside that setting they forget it’s still a no-no.  Don’t blame your past failure in a job on a past boss that was “jealous” or say your expertise was stifled.  There are nicer ways to say that.

“The job wasn’t a good match for me.” “I felt like I needed new challenges.”

Yes, I will know what you are implying, but it shows you know enough to at least not blame others for what happened. No one has a perfect job situation, ever. However, if all of your past bosses had issues…perhaps they are not the problem?

Rule 3: Relax! But, don’t relax.
This is one of the things that makes interviewing so hard.  You don’t want to appear so uptight and over-caffeinated that you can’t function. You also don’t want to relax so much you are tempted to make remarks that might, say, disparage your previous boss, tell me you may have a drinking problem, or let me know you think Obama’s birth certificate is a fake.

An interview is NOT a conversation. It is a sales meeting.  You need to sell me your product–YOU.  What are your strengths? Why are you a good match? Identify those core messages before you call me.

I don’t like talking on the phone, so I’m pretty sympathetic to an awkward science type that blunders around a little. I actually write down notes when I’m making an important phone call, so I know my lines. But help me out here with a little homework, K?