Career column

Career column archive

Issue 12/20 No colloquium

An Online application training. Together we put ourselves in the entertaining scenario of being interviewed for a position that we absolutely do not want to have. ?How can we screw this up really?? I ask the group.

"At the moment everything is virtual, there are a number of pitfalls," Franziska snorts. ?Camera or face too high or too deep, you immediately look like Hannibal Lecter or like a single large nostril!? The common laughter generates further ideas. ?Start negative, end negative, a classic for spoiling all conversations with pleasure!? Is the next idea. Interjections like "Scolding about the Deutsche Bahn at the start, then about the weather when saying goodbye" follow. "Long and super-specific monologues like in the doctoral lecture", "Neither eye contact nor smile" and "Asking about the availability of asparagus dishes in the canteen" fly through the virtual space.

I introduce the second part: ?After five minutes we are almost finished with this exercise. Now all we have to do is turn all your ideas into positive ones and organize them, and we're done with our rules and tips. ?After a short time, we have summarized the most important key points:

A friendly small talk to greet you, nothing bothers you in this phase more than focusing on problems. Very often you are allowed to speak freely at first, the request is "Tell us about yourself". A brief outline of your motivation is required here, you do not need to spread your entire life and suffering.

You can foresee most of the questions. When it comes to motivational questions, you should be able to explain why you got from A to B on your résumé. You can look up standard questions on the Internet and practice for yourself or with friends. If you are asked about your strengths, for example, self-praise is not required; just put the facts on the table and let the other side evaluate it. Questions about weaknesses, on the other hand, are about how you deal with them and whether you dare to admit them

Ideally, interviews are friendly, professional and targeted interviews. All you need to prepare is a little time and a little rest.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 11/20 preparation is possible

In a career seminar, I announce that we are going into the subject of job interviews. "Cool, the most unfair format since the introduction of gladiatorial fights," bursts out Pepijn. "Thanks for the hint. How do you come to your judgment? ?I follow up. ?It's very simple,? he snorts into his microphone, ?they can search through my résumé as they wish, ask my references and thus prepare for the interview. On the other hand, I only find general places on their homepage. "

At the job interview, usually the first personal meeting between employers and applicants, both sides want to be well prepared and thus make a positive impression. There are a number of options for applicants to find out more about the other side than is superficially visible.

A simple search on the Internet provides the first information. Of course, the company's website contains marketing texts, but it still provides key points for further searches, such as products or company history. Texts such as scientific publications or patents of the employer are more exciting. And finally: What do the press and analysts write about the company?

You can view economic data at most companies. Depending on the type of company, companies have to publish figures with different levels of detail, which provide insight into financial accounting even without a financial statement. For example, if the company is invested in a tax haven, you can recalibrate "Our values" on the company website. If the profit margin is low, the company may lack momentum - you will get little money for your ideas. A high profit margin could mean quarterly results are more important than long-term planning or the health of the workforce.

The best source of information are experts. Ask people who have already worked for the employer or in the same industry. If you can find such contacts through your network, the chances of success are good. You gain insights that usually go far beyond self-portrayal on the Internet.

?Well, so that I can prepare myself, the gladiator doesn't have to go into the arena naked. But many of the questions that are then asked are ambiguous. I can't see through that, ?comments Pepijn. "We'll look at that next," I conclude and pause.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 10/20 From salary to contract negotiations

In a seminar on job interviews, we open the last part: salary negotiations. We worked out the basics quickly. In the chemical industry, the starting salaries are fairly uniform: Most large employers pay the generous chemical tariff, the smaller ones are almost without exception 15 to 20 percent lower. You can use this as a guide when researching your market value. You ask questions, study salary comparisons and add five to ten percent to your market value, that is your salary expectation. You have to pay attention to two details. The first: Salary comparisons sometimes contain bonuses, sometimes not, those of the GDCh are always all-inclusive.

The second detail concerns the target salary. I ask the audience whether they say a number or an interval. "An interval, I read it like that," replies Sofie. I reply: "If you say 65,000 to 70,000, I, as an employer, would not even notice the higher number, but rather you would bargain down from 65,000 to my target mark."

You should never let a company pay you with air and love; however, negotiations are not just about salary. Here is an example from one of my salary negotiations during a promotion: My management responsibility has been expanded to include a production team in three-shift operation. My employment contract originally didn't mention night work, but I wouldn't let my team down in an emergency. But I didn't want to give my employer this concession. In addition, I wished for one day a week in the home office, the flexibility and the saved travel time seemed attractive to me. Both elements individually were a small concession for each side from which the other could benefit.

So look at your salary negotiations - ideally together with your negotiating partner - what could be valuable for both sides. The possibilities range from bonuses to training or flexibility in all its forms. Ideally, both sides first put ideas on the table without committing to each other. Then you can combine these elements until you reach a good situation. In this case, salary negotiation is too narrow a term, think better of contract negotiations.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 09/20 Only jobs for specialists?

Franz is dissolved. His partner has an offer for her dream job in the Netherlands up her sleeve. Both of them want to avoid long-distance relationships. Franz would like to move abroad for a longer period of time, but he is struggling with his applications - after many hours of research he has not found a single job offer for organic organic chemists like him: "In the Netherlands I only ever see jobs for polymer chemists or biotechnologists."

The other participants in the career seminar sit up in their office chairs and stare at their webcams. You seem to sympathize with Franz or are curious whether there is a solution for his case. ?Who the hell needs polymer chemist?? Says Brian, a Canadian postdoc. He's probably the most extroverted person I've ever met. "You know, Franz, you can learn the hard skills."

Brian is right. We can acquire technical knowledge quickly, that's what defines us scientists. While there are some positions that require very specific and difficult to learn skills from day one, these are exceptions. What we do not learn so easily are the soft skills; It takes more than one course to turn someone who takes orders into a leader. It becomes even more difficult when personality traits are missing. In these cases, both applicants and employers should keep their hands off cooperation.

Why is it so difficult for scientists to assess their suitability for a position not only through their technical specialization? It's up to the training. We were brought up at universities in an environment in which purely technical skills are the only success factor. After years of study, we are conditioned to do so. For this reason, Franz sees himself first and foremost as a bio-organic chemist and not as a scientist who has a wide range of transferable skills. You can acquire these at different research objects.

?The scientific subject is only one criterion among several. Don't limit your career options, ?I add. ?Just apply!? Concludes Brian.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 07-08 / 20 competition and cooperation

A short debate on networking in a PhD course. Half of the participants should defend the thesis ?Networking outside of my specialist area is a waste of time?, while the other half argue against it. When we leave the debate format after a few minutes, our own opinions are given the floor. Raffael wants to quickly draw a line: ?It's clear. The closer people work on our topic, the more it pays to maintain contact. ?Approving nod in the room.

I don't want to close the subject anytime soon. ?Purely in terms of intensity, that makes sense.? I draw concentric circles, with ourselves in the center, our own specialization around us in the first circle, then the other natural sciences in the second circle, and then other subject areas further out. I agree with the group that network intensity drops when we look at subject areas that are further removed from our own. ?What activities would you strive for in the respective circles?? I ask the group. I can literally read on their faces that the same thought is forming everywhere: ?Networking.? Finally, Theresa, an inorganic scientist who has just started her doctorate, answers: ?With the inner circle, I have to be careful not to close myself gossip, because that's where the competition sits. ?This comment changes the attitude of the other participants from defensive to pensive. ?We are mostly assessed by those in the inner circle, in selection committees or during the peer review of our applications or publications,? adds Raffael. After a few more reports, we get a differentiated picture.

We should of course maintain contact with people from our own specialist area. We are judged by them, we can get advice from well-disposed people and have to think tactically when it comes to competitors.

From a network perspective, the second group has particularly interesting people to offer: our cooperation partners. I know that from my own doctorate. My doctoral supervisor's working group was really good at chemically treating DNA. Another group from the same specialty couldn't have offered us much. Cooperations became worthwhile when our molecules fell into the hands of physicists, doctors or biologists.

Philipp Gramlich,

Heft 06/20 Online und Offline

Die Covid-19-Pandemie zwingt uns zu Experimenten. So schmerzhaft diese Phase sein mag, sie bietet die Chance, Gewohnheiten zu hinterfragen. Man hört immer wieder Stimmen, die sagen: „Online kann nur eine Notlösung sein.“ Doch ein Zurück wird es nicht geben. Wer sich in eine scheinbare Vor-Corona-Idylle zurücksehnt, verkennt, wie stark die Krise in das Leben aller eingreift und wie sich in den nächsten Monaten Abläufe verändern werden. 

Zeitsprung: Wir schreiben das Jahr 2030. Die Coronakrise und damit der Lockdown zogen sich über Jahre, einen Impfstoff gab es erst 2024. Wir haben gelernt, uns selbst zu den komplexesten Themen in Telekonferenzen auszutauschen. Die Technik dafür erhielt einen Schub. „Für eine einzelne Besprechung in Mannschaftsstärke nach China fliegen? Das ist ja so 2019.“ Die Zeit und Energie für Anreise und Jetlag lassen sich besser nutzen, von Umweltaspekten ganz zu schweigen.

Ähnlich sieht es in der Lehre aus. Die ersten Gehversuche 2020 erscheinen in der Rückschau fast schon tragikomisch, die Internetleitungen wurden mit Aufzeichnungen von Vorlesungen vor leerem Hörsaal und verwackelten Videos verstopft. Als der Lockdown im Jahr 2025 beendet wurde, war die Lehre um viele Instrumente reicher. Gruppengröße, Lernvorlieben sowie private und berufliche Umstände können nun bei jeder Veranstaltung analysiert und berücksichtigt werden, sodass für jeden einzelnen Fall eine fein abgestimmte Mischung aus Präsenz-und Online-Inhalten möglich ist. Teilnehmende mit Pflege-Verpflichtungen? Dann kombinieren wir Abend-Webinare mit kompakten Präsenzveranstaltungen am Vormittag. Ein internationales Team soll sich zu einer mehrtägigen Veranstaltung treffen, um persönliche Kontakte aufzubauen? Dann bietet sich ein kompakter Workshop an einem Ort an, vorbereitet durch Online-Inhalte. Ohne den Zwang durch die Pandemie -wären wir wohl nie so weit gekommen. Zwei volle Tage in einem Seminarraum verbringen, bloß weil die Trainerin von weit her anreisen muss? Das kommt uns jetzt genauso veraltet vor wie einst der Vortrag auf Latein.

Selbstverständlich kann Online nicht alle Elemente persönlicher Interaktion abbilden. Aber Präsenzveranstaltungen können auch nicht alle Vorzüge von Online abbilden: darunter zeitliche und räumliche Flexibilität und die Möglichkeit, im eigenen Tempo zu reflektieren.

Philipp Gramlich,

Heft 04/20 Ehrlich und kritisch

Die Masterstudentin Vanessa hat ein Angebot einer Pharmafirma, dort ihre Abschlussarbeit anzufertigen. Außer wertvollen Erfahrungen erhofft sie sich dadurch insgeheim den Sprung in die Industrie auch ohne Promotion. Sie würde den Elfenbeinturm lieber heute als morgen verlassen, um die Welt da draußen zu erkunden. Die Entscheidung fällt ihr schwer. Daher unterhält sie sich mit ihrer Kommilitonin Tina. 
„Was genau würde denn passieren, wenn du die Stelle zur Masterarbeit annehmen würdest?“, erkundigt sich Tina. „Meine Profs wären sauer. Sie wollen das nicht,“ meint Vanessa. „Sie denken, ihnen werden nach fünf Jahren harter Betreuungsarbeit die Leute abgeworben.“ Tina muss schmunzeln, der Begriff Frondienst schießt ihr durch den Kopf. „Und, juckt dich das?“, fragt sie. „Es würde sich unangenehm anfühlen. Ich will keine verbrannte Erde zurücklassen“, antwortet Vanessa. „Ob du das durchziehst oder nicht, ist deine Entscheidung“, sagt Tina. „Professoren haben keinen Anspruch drauf, dass du jahrelang bei ihnen arbeitest. Das wäre ein Weg, der nicht zu dir passt.“ Vanessa atmet durch. Mit dem Vertrag des Unternehmens würde der Einfluss der Universität und der Hochschullehrer über sie schwinden. Und sie täte damit nichts Verbotenes.
 Vanessa nahm das Angebot für eine Masterarbeit in der Industrie an und erhielt im Anschluss eine Fest-anstellung. Mittlerweile ist sie – ohne Promotion – 
zur Teamleiterin aufgestiegen.

Egal, ob Sie vor schwierigen Entscheidungen mit einer Mentorin, einer Kollegin oder Ihrem besten Freund sprechen – damit diese Gespräche Denkprozesse in Ihnen auslösen, brauchen Ihre Gesprächspartner keine herausragenden Kompetenzen oder Qualifikationen, sondern nur zwei Eigenschaften: Ehrlichkeit und die Fähigkeit, den Status Quo kritisch in Frage zu stellen. So wie Tina mit ihrer entscheidenden Frage „Juckt Dich das?“ Solche Gespräche helfen, eine klare Sicht auf eine emotional aufgeladene Situation zu bekommen.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 03/20 certificates and references

In a career seminar, we discuss the last part in résumés: references. ?My boss and I will serve as a template for the War of the Roses 2 film if this continues. Since he is in charge of my doctorate, I have to include him as a reference, right? ?Asks Jeff. ?You are not obliged,? I reply. ?However, you have to be prepared for a question about this gap in the interview. But what also protects you: Your application recipients may under no circumstances contact your current employer without your knowledge. "

In Germany employers rarely ask references, although they can be helpful. I've heard about this several times from employers: ?The references are handpicked. When I ask, 'Is that a good applicant?', The only answer is: 'Of course'. That is pointless. ?But that is a problem of the questioning technique, not of the references themselves. Open-ended questions would be more informative, for example: "What distinguishes the candidate?" From the answer, an employer could determine whether the hymn of praise fits the relevant position - or whether something is being praised that is irrelevant for the position.
Applicants should inform those they wish to include as a reference and tell them which position they are aiming for. In this way, contact persons are prepared and old contacts can be maintained in this way.
Letters of reference appear less useful, as it is not always clear to the recipient who wrote them.
Caution is also advised when it comes to job references: A job reference must be formulated benevolently, which means that numerous clauses have become established. It is not always certain whether both sides understand the wording correctly. As a result, this document withers into a diligent task. Nevertheless, you must ensure that there is no formal error and that all tasks and competencies are listed and weighted. It is therefore advisable for both sides to have the certificate checked by a service provider, a professional association or a trade union. This way, you can avoid it having hidden swipes against you - intentionally or not.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 02/20 What to do with the aborted doctorate?

In a seminar for doctoral candidates, we discuss how strong and weak parts of the CV can be presented. After discussing how we can put the many stations in Elizabeta's career in the best light, Gregor grumbles: "I think I have the exact counterpart to all the glamorous experiences." Twelve pairs of eyes focus on him. Your owners can't wait to find out what put such an eyesore on their résumé. "Aborted doctorate," he adds. ?Do I just leave a gap and hope that nobody notices? Or do I write bluntly: Job loser who couldn't get along with his doctoral supervisor? ?Uncertain giggles are mixed with nods. Nobody envies him having to include something like that on his résumé.
The same Gregor had sparked hearty laughter only half an hour earlier. It was still about the differences between university and industry. He had leaned back, stroked his beard and let us know, ?The most important thing I find is the timeline. In industry everything is determined by strict project management. At the university, time passes in, shall we say, geological dimensions. Projects run until death do you part. "

Most industrial employers are satisfied with their PhD employees. When problems arise, the complaints are always the same: In the rarest of cases, there is a lack of scientific qualification. Rather, companies criticize the lack of adaptability to the other culture and to the way the industry works. From this point of view, a discontinued doctorate can even be viewed positively. When projects go badly, a number of skills are required. Biting through is one of them, as anyone who has a PhD shows. Gregor also shows that he can make an unpleasant decision in a tricky situation - a highly relevant skill for a job in industry, where the pace is different than at the university.

Of course, you should never speak negatively about former employers. However, there are many reasons why an employment relationship can become unproductive. That's why you don't have to hide bumpy spots on your resume. Simply describe what you did, why you made the decision, and what you learned from it.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 01/20 Decide: first if, then how

Geert looks terrible. His hair stands on end, the dark circles speak volumes. "Thanks for puking myself up," he growls into the phone. What he's been through in the past few days is often a justification for higher executive salaries: the stress of dealing with unpleasant decisions. The decision that Geert has been putting off for days could hardly be more difficult. One of his employees took breaks for hours and recorded them as working time, a breach of trust. Her time recording showed that she had tested the fraud gradually over months. And now Geert doesn't know how to react. What makes things so difficult: She has children to look after, the family depends on their income.
Before Geert can hang up, he hears the voice of his school friend on the line again: ?Is there a chance that you can ever trust her again?? ?No!? Geert shoots, his voice almost cracks. His friend hangs up without further comment.

We often put unpleasant decisions on the back burner. But there they do not dissolve in favor, but rather undermine our credibility and cause further conflicts. Rationally, most people would agree that we should make decisions quickly once we have enough facts. Why do we so seldom act on these principles?
"If I can never trust her again, then further cooperation is pointless," Geert thinks. Actually, he doesn't see himself as a cold-hearted superior. But his co-worker was the one who risked her job. Finally, Geert prepares the termination without notice with the HR department, he has sufficient evidence.

Do it like Geert and disassemble the decision: First he decided whether he should end the collaboration. His friend's question gave him the answer. Then he had to find peace that he wouldn't change that decision anymore. After the whether comes the how in the second step. The task now is to find the least bad solution.
If we do not separate these two parts of the decision, the all-too-difficult how overshadows the whether. We don't even want to imagine how uncomfortable the situation would be, so let's postpone the decision.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 12/19 Social Media

In a seminar on self-marketing we discuss the use of social media. The discussion that flares up immediately could make you sweat on your forehead. But after just two statements, the field is defined. ¬Clara, a spirited postdoctoral fellow, snorted straight away: ?It might be a nice pastime, like feeding ducks or watching Netflix. Professionally, however, that has not helped anyone. Or do you think that the Novartis HR department is just waiting for the most brilliant post of the month to fill vacancies? ?Sven takes the gauntlet to all course participants who have already clicked a like button more than three times in their life . ?I don't want to sound precocious,? he begins in a schoolmaster's tone, ?but if you just bury yourself in the laboratory and then think that non-specialist HR professionals can read your brilliance on your twelfth publication, you're wrong.? He floods the room with one Flood of Anglicisms, all of which are terribly important in his eyes: visibility, traffic, likes and shares. He concludes - completely neutral, of course - that everyone should know for themselves which century they would like to live in.

?Although your opinions couldn't be further apart, you are both right,? I sum up.
In one thing, all social media have the same structure: In order to achieve network effects, as many people as possible have to move around in them, as writers, readers, likers or shareholders. It is irrelevant for the success of the network whether the exchange is substantial or superficial. It is difficult to determine whether we will achieve something with our efforts or just bored a few people pressing a Like button. That is why we trust all too easily - and with the friendly support of the providers - on substitute metrics such as the likes and shares that are supposed to display traffic and visibility. We are happy about it and, in the worst case, get addicted to it, although there may not be any real interest behind it - just noise, no signal.
Private social media are for entertainment, nothing else. This should not be mixed up with professional matters. Professional networks are helpful for maintaining distant contacts or for looking specifically for people with a question. If you like to collect, you can do so with stamps, likes or shares. Professionally, it doesn't take anything away.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 11/19 What does mobility mean?

In a seminar for postdocs, we will discuss whether it makes sense for Dirk to work towards an Emmy Noether scholarship for junior research group leaders. ?To do this, I have to have international experience, and I can't imagine that at the moment. I don't want to have to repot my children multiple times, ?he objects. His formulation makes the rest of the group smile, but I also see worried looks that reveal that he is not alone with his concerns. "Yes, you need experience from an international environment, but it is not necessarily a stay abroad," I put into perspective. Even in the Emmy Noether Program, with its strict selection, the criteria for international experience have been expanded: Applicants can also prove this through cooperation or an international work environment. Of course, it is hard work to face the competition with stays abroad, especially with the appointment committees, which are usually not very flexible. So try to describe what you learned, how you spent your work days, and how those experiences changed the way you work.

What is behind the demand for international experience? The science organizations want to promote cosmopolitan minds who draw inspiration from multiple sources. They should not only know how things are going at their home institute, but also be able to understand the situation of their future employees from abroad.

The science organizations have taken a sensible step to soften the tough criterion of staying abroad. This is a positive sign in times of increasingly diverse young people's résumés. After all, who guarantees that research in a postdoc bubble will broaden the horizon? In this phase you are sometimes not involved in what is happening at the institute and then you don't get much of how this organization works. Many laboratory-obsessed postdocs only notice the change of whereabouts because the bag soup no longer comes from Sainsbury, but from Carrefour; the learning effect is low. Whether you grow in international experience depends on how you spend your postdoc.

And maybe the broadening of the intellectual horizon can be thought of further? Why shouldn't science organizations also positively evaluate sources of inspiration such as several years of industry experience?

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 10/19 stories, not novels

In a career seminar, part of the job interview. After an introduction to telling interesting stories, we try to apply what we have learned to the standard entry: "Please tell us something about yourself." What we hear during the first few attempts sounds like well-worded articles from Angewandte Chemie Titles such as ?Synthesis and analysis of my life so far as well as application to the case study 'Working at chemical company X'? or ?A logical derivation of personal suitability for the position.? If inductive proof had been the topic, it could have been sleek. In a conversation with a HR manager, however, it says: Missing topic.

"It was only in the very last sentence that you let us know why you were here," I comment. ?Put yourself in the shoes of the other side. After ten semesters of business psychology, I would think at this point: 'The fluff on my jacket should be brushed off again. Yawn! ' "

If you are asked to tell about yourself in an interview, the person you are interviewing expects a rich story, but not proof or a novel. For a proof you need the unconditional logic that you have to build up piece by piece until you can finally exclaim: ?Quot erat demonstrandum!? In a novel you set up a kind of stage, design a very long arc of tension, which you then at the climax , towards the end of the story, resolve: "It was the gardener, he killed the grandmother!"

An interview also follows a logic, and you should certainly generate curiosity. But for this you have to reverse the arc of suspense from the novel. Let your audience know right from the start why it will be worth following your explanations. Immediately establish the connection between your vita and the employer. Only then do you provide the details that underpin your information. You don't need to retell your résumé, the HR managers have already read it. Then you play the ball back to the person you are talking to. This will get you in the conversation flow and out of the novel or evidence corner.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 09/19 A successful doctorate

?Which of you has a doctorate plan?? I ask in the round of a time management seminar. Eleven doctoral students look at me as if I had asked them when the last UFO landed on their campus. ?A schedule of what should happen in the next three years,? I add. "Oh, I have something like that," says Marius. ?I created a long-term research plan with my supervisor. Every six months there is an official meeting to discuss progress and set goals. ?? A good start! Does the plan include anything other than research? ?I ask. "No. What else?"

"How do you define a successful doctorate? What do you have to achieve in the next few years so that your doctorate is not a waste of time? ?I reply. ?A couple of publications, ideally in high-impact journals,? Marius replies. ?And a well-written doctoral thesis,? Anna adds. The rest of the group nods. I ask: ?Nothing else?? Silence. "So that means: If you have a first authorship in Angewandte Chemie and write an intellectually breathtaking doctoral thesis, was it a successful doctorate?"

The supervisors of these doctoral students would probably agree. After all, the doctoral students support their Career with their publications, and they need the doctoral thesis for their degree. I would define a successful doctorate as follows: Afterwards you can be employed and the process has not driven you crazy.

?Which of you is pursuing an academic career?? I ask. Only Anna hesitantly raises her hand. "No one else?"

The other ten shake their heads.

In the academic world, publications make you employable. No question. Outside of the ivory tower, however, hardly anyone is interested in this or in your dissertation. Employers want to see skills, professional development, and your energy. If your doctorate is all about publications, then you are not promoting your employability. Of course, your research comes first during your doctorate, but it is not the only thing. Your doctoral plan should also include things like soft skills courses, vacation academies, conferences, and public relations. And finally: employment alone is of no use to you if you end your doctorate in a mentally and physically shattered state - vacation, sports and social contacts should be part of your plan.

Karin Bodewitz,

Issue 07-08 / 19 Don't think 8–8–8

?I cannot imagine that these professions are family-friendly,? says Maya, a doctoral student. She already said in our women and Career seminar that she would like to start a family in the next few years. I watch how she is making room for children who do not yet exist: With a thick pen, she crosses out the options ?advice?, ?university career? and ?sales? on her worksheet. But instead of asking them whether it is certain that they and their partner can have children at all, I interject: ?What exactly is a family-friendly job for you?? ?One that doesn't require me to travel, at least not several times a month . And ideally with flexible working hours. ?? Is traveling unfriendly to families? ?I ask. "Of course!" Blurts out another participant who looks at me as if this is the most ridiculous question in decades. ?You can't even put your children to bed yourself,? Maya adds.

?Maybe it's not so bad if you don't put the kids to bed every night,? I reply. ?Your partner then has bedtime story and kisses to himself. And you can sleep through the night and enjoy an uninterrupted dinner. "

This seminar is no exception. When it comes to Career , discussions often go in a similar direction. We put entire professions aside because we think we cannot be successful in them and take care of our families at the same time. The reason for our rejection is mostly that we elevate the perfect work-life balance, the magical 8?8?8, to the mantra, ie eight hours of work, sleep and private life. But maintaining that balance every day is unattainable, and that is perfectly normal. At times, work dominates, you have deadlines or a business trip. At other times, personal life carries more weight, such as when your son has a dance tournament or when you have to go home early during school holidays.

Think about how much time and weight you want to give to each part in your life. Your own balance should come out of it, over a longer period of time. That this will be the case every single day is unrealistic. Better enjoy the variety.

Karin Bodewitz,

Issue 06/19 How to turn and turn it

In an applicants seminar, I propose a change of perspective: the participants should not just look at the application documents and comment, but first work like HR managers - under time pressure: You have exactly three minutes per application and should then answer a questionnaire about the applicants. After five of these three-minute short analyzes, the faces clearly show signs of fatigue. One groans: "You can always quickly tick the box" Strong in science ", but if you want to know more, you have to search for a long time."

Together we analyze the application documents and find the same samples over and over again. For example with a participant who is applying for a position in science communication. ?You completed a Master of Journalism as a second degree. Where does that say? ?I ask her. ?I want my résumé to be in reverse chronological order. And I finished my master?s degree four years ago. ?It is therefore in the lower half of the first page. "If you want to hide something, where would you do it?" I ask her. She has to smile and points to exactly this point in the résumé.

In most application documents, the sections ?work experience? and ?training? take up a lot of space. Often the readers have to fight their way through long and redundant lists of skills at each station and yet do not really find out what makes you stand out as an applicant. "Postdoc: Organic Synthesis ... Doctorate: Organic Synthesis ... Master's Thesis: Organic Synthesis ..." Usually there are still the cryptic titles of the theses and the names of the supervisors, which only say something to absolute experts.

So keep the descriptions of the career short: Briefly describe tasks and successes. That is enough and is more meaningful.

In order to highlight the real treasures, there is a "Highlights" or "Profile" section, which you put at the top of the first page directly in front of the career. That can be four to five key words or bullet points that are particularly relevant from your readers' point of view. Make sure that you use summary formulations to avoid redundancies with the cover letter and the main part of the résumé. This frees you from the shackles of chronology.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 05/19 The application paradox

The course in a career seminar is divided into two small groups. Both receive a set of cards. One group receives the set with typical application strategies, from ?respond to job posting? to ?submit work sample?. The set for the other group shows how employers like to receive applications, such as ?speculative application? and ?hire an intern?.

Each team works on a ranking of the preferred paths of application and recruiting. When the time for the exercise is up, we put the two rankings next to each other, and it doesn't take long before sounds of astonishment can be heard: ?They're exactly opposite,? says postdoc Steffi.

As a matter of fact. The list of the team of applicants goes from the top position "Reply to job advertisement" to "Submit work sample" to "Direct contact (for example, do an internship)". On the employer's side, it is at the top: ?Hire internal candidates (intern)?, while ?Posting a position / receiving speculative application? is right at the bottom.

?What was your goal in the respective ranking, according to which did you optimize?? I ask the group. Soumitra, one of the ?employers?, speaks up. ?If I have a good intern, I know that she will also be good in a permanent position. The risk is lower. ?? What risk? ?I investigate. ?Well, hiring someone who leaves quickly or who doesn't fit the job, that costs a lot of money,? he explains. ?And on the applicant side, what was your goal here?? I ask the other group. ?I want a job quickly that should fit well. I filter the advertisements according to my preferences, ?explains Emöke for the applicant site. "It's faster than doing an internship first."

Welcome to the application paradox. Employers and applicants have different goals: applicants minimize the time required, employers make wrong decisions. This explains exactly why, from the applicant's point of view, it is worthwhile to seek contact with a few, well-chosen employers at an early stage, for example through collaborations, one-on-one interviews, internships or summer schools. The mass application, in which only a section of the cover letter is adapted, says nothing for employers about whether applicants are able and willing to get involved in the work. Employers want to minimize their risk. Help them do this.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 04/19 Research Funds from Industry

In a seminar for post-doctoral candidates and junior professors, we discuss the topic of funding. After we deal with the usual suspects, I ask if anyone has been looking for industrial funds as well. Fred, who is preparing for his first appeal, reflexively replies, ?No. I can't imagine myself being clamped as an extended workbench. Then I can work for them right away - and earn more! "

I start with this prejudice: "You have to ask each source of money whether it suits you and your research and whether you are supported or exploited." She had reported that her grantor dropped her like a hot potato when a competing group published on her subject. You can encounter tough conditions anywhere, even at foundations or associations.

?You have to look carefully at all sources of money, whether public or private.? The arguments that industrial funds are somehow dirty and could damage your integrity as a researcher are considered outdated. Raising third-party funding is a critical appointment criterion, and as long as you do good research, it doesn't matter where the money comes from. With a diverse portfolio of sources of money, you can score points in the appointment process.

When you raise industrial funds, however, you are dealing with a partner who has complex self-interests. Check in advance whether your freedom of research is restricted. Can you still publish, and if so, what are the restrictions? With whom and how can you share your results and ideas? Question the motives of your partners: Are you interesting for industry because your PhD students are cheaper than permanent employees in industry? Or is it about developing a commercially relevant application from your research?

After a lively discussion, I add: ?You should also keep the development of your doctoral students and postdocs in mind.? Perhaps some would like to switch to industry. For them, industrial cooperation would be a great experience, their market value would increase. And that in turn gave you, as a group leader, the reputation that you care about the future of your doctoral students and that you have a network outside the university.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 03/19 Show, don't tell

In a seminar on self-marketing I ask the group: ?Do natural scientists tend to slice up?? The question evokes completely different answers. On the one hand, the homo scientiae is often introverted and tries to shine more by working at the laboratory bench than by self-expression. This is especially true of younger scientists. On the other hand, studies on the development of personality traits over the course of a scientist's life show that established researchers can tend to behave in a dominant manner. How do we find the right measure? How do we prevent ourselves from being sold below value as wallflowers or from alienating our environment through dominant behavior?

In my seminars, after this opening question, the discussion usually moves in the direction of compromise, so also in this case: "Then I just have to apply a little thicker, right?" That doesn't seem to be the optimal solution, rather the lowest common denominator between two extremes. You still act as a boor, but only a little. ?Why don't you do it like in science?? I ask back, ?Why don't you let the facts speak for themselves and leave the evaluation to your counterpart? Then you are in a good position without having to lapse into self-praise. "

If you put enough time into your preparation, you are sure to find past experiences that you would like to share. "Show, don't tell" is the tip that you can apply to many situations in terms of self-expression, be it in cover letters, job interviews or during the coffee break at a conference. Tell the facts and let the other person come to the conclusions. This is self-expression without showing off. Let's say you want to convey in an interview that you have organizational skills. If you've organized an international conference, you don't need self-praise or superlatives to look good. Tell about the challenges you mastered. In other words, show the data. Your listeners will then find out by themselves that you have organizational skills.

But you have to mention your experiences, otherwise you will wither away in the wallflower corner.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 02/19 Blind Spots

In a seminar we discuss careers: ?Jennifer had to write around a hundred applications for her first position. After 18 months on the job, she switched to another employer without any effort. Why was it so much easier? ?Asks a doctoral student. In fact, starting your career is much more difficult than the steps afterwards. This is partly due to our own behavior: after leaving the ivory tower, we network more actively and strategically. In addition, there is a broader view of career options. But why does our market value increase in the eyes of employers when we have industrial experience? We have often asked ourselves and our seminar participants this question and come up with four skills that we do not or hardly learn at the university:

Quality management (QM): Universities mostly work without a formal QM system, whereas almost all industrial companies do so. You can already attend courses on quality management at the university and thereby indicate that you know what you are getting yourself into. Or you can establish - with a sure instinct - your own QM light system in your work group.

Leadership experience: Typically, university graduates have never been on top of another person in an organization chart. But also giving seminars, instructing research interns or leading a scout group are leadership experiences, often very complex ones. If you have to explain to a group of ten year olds that they have to pitch the tents before they can jump into the lake, then you cannot hide behind your position or cut a bonus, then you have to convince. And sell that accordingly in the application.

Commercial Thinking: Show that you can handle money, for example by offering your boss help with managing the laboratory budget.

Understanding with laypeople: At the university you will deal with colleagues from all over the world. And yet you live in a bubble, a brain-bubble. You can easily spend months just with PhD students or postdocs. In industry, you have to talk to customers, employees, supervisors, and others who don't understand your jargon. You may find time to present your work to laypeople. When interviewing, you shouldn't inundate the other person with jargon and details.

You cannot get to know all aspects of industry experience during your studies. But you can be aware of the gaps, dig for experiences in your past, and try to fill in some of the gaps.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 01/19 Supply and Demand

?So you are already in the middle of the application phase. That's a great case study for us, "I say to the participant in a career seminar and ask how he works. ?Well, completely normal,? he replies. ?I know some companies from hearsay or career fairs, or because we are their customers. I look around on their homepage, I also rummage in job exchanges and have polished up my résumé. And if I see something interesting, then I simply apply. ?Nodding now and then in the room. But the rattling off of such an obvious process does not tear anyone off their feet. "So, were you successful?" I probed. ?I have sent 35 applications and so far have only received one invitation for an interview. But no offer came out. "

What the participant is telling here is indeed the standard procedure for applying. And also the main reason why it takes so long for many graduates to get a job. It is usually not due to the specialist knowledge, nor to the application documents, but the simple economic principle of supply and demand. Those who choose standard routes are not alone there. And where there are a lot of people, it is more difficult to stand out.

?I'm not sure what else should I do?? Says the participant.
When looking for a job, we lapse into automatisms: We apply to employers who look familiar to us, to places that we know or that are known to be attractive. We limit ourselves to activities that we know we can do - after completing our doctorate, this is research. And these are exactly the three dimensions with which we can make our lives easier: We could look for smaller organizations, not exclude lesser-known places and get to know the whole range of positions for which we could be used. If you get stuck with your application, then see where you can best start. If, for example, after a detailed look into your inner workings, you find that you cannot live far from the metropolises and that you are really only happy in research, then you still have the adjusting screw to look around at the smaller companies.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 11/18 visibility, credibility and only then profit

Standing reception at a conference. While I kept my eyes open for interlocutors, I watched a doctoral student confidently walk up to a professor who was standing alone at the bar. "May I introduce myself?" Were her first words as she held out her hand to him. During the handshake, she gave her name and institute. The professor replied with a smile and listened carefully. The name of her doctor's mother seemed to leave the interlocutor only question marks on the forehead, the research area was not mentioned. "I have already read many of your publications, and your work interests me very much," the doctoral student continued without saying what it was that fascinated her so much. The professor was still smiling, not knowing which way the conversation was going. ?I'm going to finish my doctorate in the next few months and would like to know if there is a postdoc position available in your laboratory?? The listener's forehead frowned. His curiosity immediately gave way to a reflex to flee. "Unfortunately not at the moment, but you are welcome to keep an eye out for jobs on my homepage." The doctoral student seemed to have an inkling of what that meant.

The conversation was instructive to me. Good networking usually has three phases: 1. Visibility, 2. Credibility and 3. Profit. So first you have to be seen, you have to somehow stand out from a crowd. There are many ways to do this, for example with a presentation or, as the doctoral student did, by introducing yourself. This should be followed by a phase in which you underline your credibility: the person you are talking to should perceive you as professional and interesting. Depending on the origin of the interviewees and the situation, this phase lasts differently - sometimes years. Only after this phase can you move on to the final phase and focus on the goal of your conversation. Now you can inquire about vacancies or suggest a collaboration. If we aim for profit too quickly, we are simply annoying. If, on the other hand, we omit phase 3 and hope that we will be discovered, then we are caught in the sleeping beauty trap. The doctoral candidate's success might have been greater if she had thought about phase 2.

Karin Bodewits,

Issue 10/18 Please activate airplane mode

?Now we know what is important in our life. Now let's look at what is unimportant and just distracts us, ?I say after the lunch break in a time management seminar. The group quickly came up with a respectable list: perfectionism, unnecessary inquiries, loud conversations in the office ... The undisputed front-runner on all hit lists: smartphones and e-mails. "How often do you check this news?" I ask. ?I am notified by a beep and then take a look,? says one participant, while the others nod silently.

She is no exception. In my seminars, I often meet PhD students who are addicted to their smartphones. They know that the constant beeping of WhatsApp messages, e-mails and their fear of missing something (Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) syndrome) have a negative effect on their work performance. It distracts, robs them of energy and is boring - despite all the activity it causes. Some users are on the verge of burnout and long for the digital withdrawal treatment, but simply don't know how to do it.

I show them examples of brain damage caused by social media and compare their behavior with classic conditioning like that of Pavlov's dogs. This comparison helps some to see how nonsensical their behavior is, but not everyone. ?Put your smartphone in silent mode,? I suggest, but for many even this step is unthinkable. "I make my lunch appointments via WhatsApp, the others expect me to answer immediately," one participant said indignantly. ?They are nice colleagues,? I say ironically. She replies: ?Why then? I expect the same when I write something. "

Many bosses are not much different from the employees, only the medium changes from WhatsApp to e-mail. ?Why don't you set yourself up a fixed time at which you work on your e-mails every day,? I suggest, ?switch off your e-mail program for the rest of the time. Then you have much more concentrated time. ?That is impossible, one participant says, her boss communicates via e-mail, and in urgent cases she has to respond immediately. ?How often does that happen?? I want to know. "Maybe every two weeks, but then it's really urgent." "Then he just has to call."

Every interruption distracts from work. As the boss, I would consider partially banning social media in the workplace and introducing a few hours of flight mode. You could call these promotional # prohibited hours. But then set a good example and do not send e-mails at unchristian times or monologue unannounced in the laboratory. At some point we managed to ban alcohol and cigarettes from the laboratories. Maybe it's time to let smartphones follow suit.

Karin Bodewits,

Issue 06/18 "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

"Anyone who has visions should see a doctor." Do you apply Helmut Schmidt's dictum to your own career planning, or do you follow the typical advice of personnel consultants and develop a great vision for your own Career ? Is it a must, or at least a plus, if the answer to the standard question ?Where do you see yourself in five years?? Comes off the gun?

I discussed this with a college friend who was frustrated with his last interview. ?The HR manager naturally asked where I would like to be in five years. Total nonsense, nobody knows. I told her that I wanted to keep this open so I wasn't too inflexible when opportunities arise. I could see on her face that the answer wasn't good. "

How much vision you develop for your career planning is certainly a subjective question. Here are some thoughts beyond HR orthodoxy:

Tim Minchin, Australian speaker and comedian, calls on us to live out ?micro-ambitions?, to fully engage with what is going on in front of our noses. He warns that the really big dreams displace the small, shiny treasures in the corner of our eyes. The American psychologist John Krumboltz uses the term "Planned Happenstance". He describes an attitude of mind in which we should positively expect the unforeseen in life. This increases the likelihood of chance encounters. A rigid career plan stands in the way of this strategy.

So if you tend to live the day, just ask yourself about your motivation: If fear and shyness of making decisions shimmer through, then you should reconsider your approach. If, on the other hand, you consciously embrace the unknown, then you now know the technical term for it and no longer have to justify yourself.

However, planning is by no means pointless. Concrete goals or extensive visions can increase motivation and focus. Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg describes her approach in such a way that she definitely has long-term goals, but does not pursue them rigidly. She wants to know how she will manage the next 18 months and allows the longer-term goals to come.

How tightly or loosely you approach your own career planning should suit you, not traditional dogmas. After all, you have to live with your choices. Only you know whether boredom or insecurity hurts you more and how important excitement or stability are to you. So set goals and watch out for the unforeseen as it suits you.

Philipp Gramlich,

Issue 03/18 Landing on your feet

?I've been stuck in postdocs for five years, never more than one-year contracts. I'm tired of it and now I finally want to have a secure job, I finally want to be able to plan my life at least a little bit. ?The seminar participant doesn't even seem angry, rather exhausted. I can understand their feelings. She had always given everything, always listened to well-intentioned advice and now feels at a dead end. At the same time, I recall a conversation with a professor who, in his mid-40s, voluntarily gave up his permanent and well-paid position as head of department in the pharmaceutical industry in order to set up his own work group at the university. I asked him if he wasn't afraid of what would come after the end of his contract. Without arrogance, but with sober certainty, he replied: ?I have never thought about security. I always had the feeling that I could get another job at any time. ?We all want to work independently, without stumbling between unemployment and precarious employment. The professor's motto, however, was different from ?Security?; employability was important to him. While security is measured in civil servant status and contract terms, he was guided by the question: ?Will I land on my feet if something goes wrong?? That sounds less like control and fear to me, but rather forward-looking. In the seminars, the graduates often ask what the safest positions in the private sector are. ?Family-run medium-sized company, world market leader in a sustainable niche market.? I don't want to be a spoilsport, but I add a few thoughts: ?It is quite possible that you can work for such an employer, contrary to the trend of the times, until you retire. But do you want that? What if the patriarch is ninety years old and paralyzes the whole business with his grandiose but outdated ideas? What if you just get bored? ?I asked the seminar participant in the alleged postdoc dead end whether safety was her main drive. In general, I advise you to focus on what fulfills your job. Then, if you don't fail to develop yourself, you can be confident that you will land on your feet in an awkward position.

Issue 01/18 How to end a conversation: the exit strategy

I ring the doorbell of an old school friend. When he opens it, he is holding a phone in front of his stomach, not his ear. He silently signals to me to come in and makes an apologetic gesture because he can't give me his full attention yet. After a few minutes of telephone conversation in which he only buzzes ?Hm? into the receiver while he is making a coffee, he abruptly breaks off the conversation with the words: ?Cool, Jürgen, that we talked again. I'll see you in two weeks. Ciao. "

"That was a strange conversation," I say. ?Yeah, Jürgen talks like a waterfall and doesn't even notice if someone is listening to him. But you can't get rid of him either. Once I even put the phone down and took a shower. "
What might make us smile in private life can turn into a time waster at work. We quickly gossip about a valuable coffee break at a conference.

Many of us find it difficult to start a conversation, but breaking it off is sometimes no less difficult, but far less discussed: How can you break free from such verbal clutches without appearing rude or using lazy excuses?

Think about your exit strategy. During phone calls, it is typically a sensibly placed and intoned ?so?, which most people in this country understand as a sign of the end.

Business cards may be exchanged during a conference . If you had an interesting conversation but now want to look around, or you have simply run out of topics, then there is no reason to persist in this situation. Just say, ?Thank you very much, it was very nice that we could talk to each other. Hopefully we'll see each other again soon. ?You can use this moment to exchange business cards - to stay in contact, but also to underline the signal to leave. Only make promises if you will actually keep them. And ignore the nonsensical urge to use excuses. There is a limit to the number of toilet breaks you can take at a conference. Philipp Gramlich, p.gramlich @

Issue 12/17 The verdict has been pronounced

In the seminar I ask for a volunteer for an ?honest interview?. I shake her hand with the busy attitude of a managing director. ?It's nice that I can get to know you today, Ms. Müller. You can submit your travel expenses to the HR department. You will hear from us within the next two weeks. Goodbye. ?Departure of the managing director. Uncertain laughter in the seminar room, confused looks.

?Apart from the fact that it irritates the applicant, the interview would be no worse than most. First impressions count, and we're scientists just like everyone else. ?I summarize a study in which interviewers came to almost the same verdict on applicants as test subjects who had only seen the first two seconds of the interview on video. What happens after these first two seconds seems to have little effect on the outcome of the conversation. Our brain seeks confirmation of the hasty first judgment, and humans make this on a very thin basis. Perhaps the applicant reminds the interlocutor of his sister, perhaps her demeanor is really stunning, or it simply corresponds to what the interlocutor imagines as a production manager.

For you as an applicant, we can only learn from this that the first impression has to be right. A friendly demeanor, well-groomed appearance - that's all you can do in these crucial seconds. In the application process, you not only have to be fit in your specialist field, but also have an intuitive command of everyday psychology.

You yourself are not free from prejudices either, nobody is. But we can fight against letting it cloud our judgment. Let's take the interview as an example: If you - as an applicant - just have a chat, then that might be nice, but no data collection. An interview that is at least partially structured, on the other hand, helps to focus on the facts.

In working life we often have to make objective judgments. We should strive to organize our work in such a way that the set of our small and large prejudices does not determine the outcome. Philipp Gramlich, p.gramlich @

Issue 09/17 Conference for winners

In a seminar we discuss networking at conferences. ?Has the investment paid off?? I ask. ?What do you mean?? ?Well, you had to fly to Finland, you stayed at a hotel, couldn't work at the institute during that time, and the conference costs.? ?You can't put that into numbers.? It's not easy , but that's not pointless: Imagine you are a team leader in the private sector. And you bear all the costs, not split between travel allowance, scholarship and the work group. You would then ask yourself: were all these costs well invested? Would you do it again? A conference can be overwhelming: Hundreds of scientists, many of them world-famous, bustle through events, exchange ideas, and present. The typical reflex for a conference newcomer is to withdraw, to spend the coffee breaks with colleagues from the home university and to stand by the poster in the hope that no critical questions arise. As understandable as this behavior is, the chances of missing out are great. Ask yourself: Did you read the program through your network glasses before your last visit to the conference? Did you seek feedback on your work? Did you dare to ask questions? Have you spent time outside of your colleagues' protection cocoon? Did you keep up new contacts after the conference and send out the article you shared? As is often the case with this topic, the objection comes: "I am quite introverted, I feel uncomfortable in such situations." In fact, many network tips sound as if they were conceived for a world of extroverts. But introverts are no worse networkers at conferences. Just replace quantity with quality and look for few but meaningful contacts. In a world full of self-expression, you can rely on your qualities as a listener and questioner. ?I was at a conference with two colleagues,? reports one participant, ?We met at agreed times to exchange experiences and relax. The rest of the time we had a competition to see who would make the most interesting contacts. ?? And who won? ?I ask. Your answer: ?Well, we all.? BB Philipp Gramlich, p.gramlich @

Issue 05/17 The termination agreement

Interview with a doctorate in chemistry, who presented her employer with a termination agreement: ?I went to the appraisal interview in good spirits because I thought that I could finally change departments. That's what I asked. ?It was completely unprepared for her that the employer was interested in more than that: he wanted to get rid of her. It was said that it would no longer be the first choice not only for the department, but for the entire company. A termination agreement reads well at first. Often one is released from work immediately and still receives a few monthly salaries without having to work for it. There are, however, pitfalls. ?The lawyer, whom I immediately consulted, warned me. Accepting a termination agreement means that I will quit as an employee. ?This means that the person concerned does not receive any unemployment benefit for the first few months, the severance payment is considered a salary, so it is taxable, and you have to pay for health insurance entirely yourself. In most cases it is better for an employee to be given notice. However, it is not easy for an employer to get rid of an employee who has a permanent contract. ?Employees have to do what they are supposed to, and do it as well as they can? is a bon mot among labor lawyers. That is why employers usually offer a termination agreement, exert more or less gentle pressure to sign and then try to agree on the terms of termination if necessary. Occasionally, employers sweeten a termination agreement with a job reference with top marks, but both employers and employees should refrain from doing this. It is dangerous for employers to lie blatantly, but the next employer of the terminated employee can sue. And for the recipient of the termination agreement it should be clear that a 1.0 job reference will ring alarm bells for the reader and ask: ?Was it really that good, or was that part of a termination agreement?? I asked how mine was The interviewee ran: ?You have been released for three days so that you can talk to a lawyer. That sounds fair, doesn't it? ?? On the one hand, it did, but I was also told in no uncertain terms that I had no future in the company. But I still want to achieve something and not sit out my work life. Besides, I'm not good at dealing with negative pressure. ?She signed and received a severance payment, but had a new job before the end of the notice period.
A termination agreement is not a golden handshake, not even a silver one. It is the beginning of a complex process and a path that you should not go alone. The first point of contact is the works council, and a specialist lawyer should manage your communication with the employer. Friends and relatives are responsible for mental stress and frustration, but not colleagues and superiors. Philipp Gramlich, p.gramlich @

Issue 04/17 Strategic Networking

We scientists like to equate networks with nepotism. Sure, who wants to buck at university for ten years only to be praised for their first job by their father's friend? And ?strategic networking? sounds like you want to use all your friends and acquaintances for your own purposes. But is that really the case? Or are we just refusing to step out of our comfort zone in order to bask complacent in our own pseudo-integrity?

Coaching talk with a postdoc who wants to make the leap into industry. He received the doctoral position through the recommendation of the supervisor of his master's thesis, for the postdoc he received a tip from an old friend. "You are a great networker," I state. He: ?Oh, actually not, they were both coincidences.? ?Are you actively doing something for your network?? ?No, actually nothing.? And that's how it was even when I digged deeper: no meetings, alumni get-togethers , Fairs or conferences were on the program, unless it was explicitly sent by his professors. "In both cases you were very successful in finding a job with your network," I object, "that should play a role in your strategy for your third position."

For us straight-forward thinking scientists, the job search is often a linear process: identify interesting employers and job advertisements, apply and then hope for success. However, only a relatively small number of positions are awarded in this way. Networking plays a role in almost all efforts, often even a central one.

What does good networking look like? Establish and maintain contacts with appropriate breadth and depth. The question that you should keep in mind: "How can I support Ms. X, who I have just met?" If you have a concern yourself, it will be easier for you to express it. With a little preparation and creativity, you can easily identify mutually beneficial situations and potentially get access to information that is difficult to access. You could ask, ?You did your doctorate with Professor Y.? She holds an endowed professorship from Z-Pharma, doesn't she? ?And then you mention, for example, that you are looking for an interview partner for the university magazine:? We would like to write about how the working environment in pharmaceutical companies has changed. Do you know someone from your former work group who might be interested in such a conversation? ?And you already have a source of first-hand information and can not only write an article, but also write a targeted application for Z-Pharma. Philipp Gramlich, p.gramlich @

Issue 11/16 The application timing

A recent letter to the editor in this magazine stated that a chemist with a good network only had to write his application ?pro forma?. Whether you write your applications pro forma or seriously, the question always arises: When should a chemist start writing applications? For larger companies, it usually takes several months between submitting the application and the first working day. In smaller companies, where you often only have one round of interviews directly with the management, it can sometimes go faster. If the employer is running out of time, for example if the predecessor leaves the company, your entry cannot be fast enough. Can you apply too early? Some graduates seem to have the luxury of having an offer up their sleeve before they even take the final exam. In many cases, you can join without a doctorate, you will soon be lulled into the deceptive certainty that you can do without it and do without it entirely. Perhaps the employer values the title after all, and three rounds of promotion later you will find that you are always in the second row. If you then apply to another employer, you will find it difficult to explain the near doctorate. And the exam itself becomes a hurdle, because after a while you no longer have a home advantage in terms of topics or personal contact with your alma mater. So choose the timing so that if you get a quick offer you will experience positive pressure to complete your doctorate, but do not run the risk of postponing the exam for years. Start applying for larger employers six to nine months, and for smaller employers three to six months before you want to start work. When are you applying too late? Precisely when you've been out of work longer than you want, or when you're starting a convenience postdoc.
Do you not have enough time for applications towards the end of your doctorate? Then you see the situation as wrong. Even if your supervisor is pushing you, you have to make room for applications: if you take your exam later, that is better for you than if you are unemployed during this time. Take advantage of the offers at universities, companies and job fairs to refine your application documents. Apply for summer schools and workshops at larger companies - in the event of success, in addition to all the other advantages, you will have the reliable feedback that your application documents will withstand a selection process. Philipp Gramlich, p.gramlich @

Issue 9/16 age or academic age

In my office I find the application documents of an academic in her early 40s. The application package feels heavy, 22 pages. When I read that it is an ?application for a W3 professorship?, I know why. Fortunately, there is a table of contents, so I can see at first glance what is in store for me. For two years she has been unsuccessfully applying for professorships and group leader positions. As an example, we have included the advertisement for a position in which she was not even invited for an interview, although in her opinion she would have been the perfect candidate. I go straight to point 7, the list of publications - still the most important criterion in science. 13 articles, including 8 first authorship. The really big journals like Nature or Science are not included, but she has published in well-respected journals. I turn back to ?Training and Academic Career?: She started her doctorate in 2000. 13 publications in 16 years, that's probably too thin for a W3 professorship, I think to myself, maybe even the reason that your application is rejected. Then I start to work my way through the document. On page 5 I come across ?Maternity protection and parental leave?. She was on maternity leave for her two children for ten months. In small print I find a footnote: ?I have been working part-time since 2007 (67.5%)?. I do the math: 16 years minus 20 months minus 32.5%. Your academic age is therefore not 16, but only 11 years. So the number of 13 publications sounds very different. But which employer takes the trouble to do the math and laboriously to gather this information from very long documents? I read on and get stuck with "third-party funding". Here too: For twelve years since the end of the doctorate it is very little; if you take seven academic years as a basis, it is respectable. I comment on her résumé: ?In your case, you should mention your academic output for each academic year on the first page of the document and write it clearly on the list of publications. In addition, you need to mention whether you want to work full-time or part-time as a professor. Your future employer really wants to know this information, but unfortunately I can't find it anywhere. ?The major scientific organizations have decided to use academic age (i.e. the years of active research) and not biological age (i.e. years of life) as the basis for assessing scientific excellence to use. This should help to compensate for breaks in the vita, such as parental leave. This is a major change in the rules. However, applicants should not let the appeal committees search for such facts. It should be held right under their noses. That is not intrusive, but helpful for both sides. Karin Bodewitz,

Issue 07/08/16 Pregnancy: Don't ask. Don't tell.

I had a young lady in coaching who had just submitted her master's thesis when she got pregnant. She didn't have a job yet, but her résumé was impressive. She was also highly motivated and had the infrastructure to combine motherhood and Career . ?A year at home? No, that wouldn't be for me, "she said firmly," I want to and can go back to work right after maternity leave. "She knew that she needed a job that she could return to. I advised her to apply normally and not to report about the pregnancy too early. "The legal framework allows you to remain silent until after the contract is signed, as long as you have the infrastructure to actually fill the position," I informed her. ?In spite of your pregnancy, an offer cannot be withdrawn from you.? The person I spoke to found it appropriate to put the cards on the table after the conversation, but before signing the contract.

She applied for a job at a university and was immediately invited. During the conversation the professor asked some general questions, but was at least as interested in her private life. She limited her responses to information relevant to the job and made no mention of her pregnancy.

A few days later she found an email from the professor in her mailbox. ?I am delighted to be able to offer you the position. When exactly could you start? "She didn't think twice and picked up the phone:" I'm very happy about your job offer, but I would like to mention that I am pregnant. But I have ... "" I can no longer offer you the position like that, "he interrupted and added:" But I don't take it offense. " How do we organize the work? ?To which he replied:? You can always inquire about new positions on the chair's website. ?That ended the conversation.

The professor lacked fundamental knowledge of labor law. However, it is dangerous, as a group leader, not to deal with the law relating to employment and cooperation with employees. Otherwise it can happen that a court hearing interrupts the scientific work.

The professor was lucky because the applicant had other plans than arguing in court. There she could have successfully sued for her position, the Maternity Protection Act and the General Equal Treatment Act are clear here. A good-humored boss would not have been included in the package.

Karin Bodewits, k.bodewits @

Issue 05/16 The woman with the ratchet

I'm sitting at the kitchen table with two friends, both team leaders. We talk about the applications they are processing. Blues echoes from the speakers. An applicant recommended this music to my friend this morning. "You talked to her about hobbies?" I ask. ?Always, that is the most interesting part of the interview,? she says, ?I see the professional qualification in the résumé. I can look at the person behind it in the hobbies. ?That's true, I think, but I object:? In many cases, I think it's better to leave the hobbies out of the résumé entirely. ?Geocaching, making jam, baking marble cakes - everything nice and good. But even if such activities do not raise concerns about the risk of injury in the HR department, I see no reason to share them with the world. Both agree with me. Hobbies on a resume are a difficult subject. I recently discussed their résumés with scientists. All but one had listed their hobbies and I advised almost all of them to take them out. The exception was a competitive swimmer who even belonged to the national team. "Keep inside. Competitive sports, top grades at university and a doctorate say a lot about your personality. ?The doctoral candidate, who hadn't written her hobbies on her résumé, spoke up:? I also do sports on a national level, but I have myself decided against mentioning it in the résumé. ?When asked, she said that she was a marksman. One of my friends at the kitchen table asks what I advised the participant. ?I would probably mention sport shooting. As the recipient of the application, I would then invite her, no matter how well qualified she is. Out of curiosity alone. ?? Definitely, ?agrees my friend. "I want to know who the woman with the gun is." A résumé should not only show that you are the right person for the position, but also arouse interest in you. What makes you interesting as a future colleague? Hobbies can be exactly what makes you stand out from the crowd. You can use it to highlight something special that would otherwise remain hidden. With the Sagittarius, for example, you only noticed at second glance how much determination and determination there was in her personal contact - qualities that she can point out with her hobby. But it can just as easily reveal more about you than you would like. Karin Bodewits,

Issue 04/16 A typical trap

A banner at the research institute announces the ?Career day for young scientists?, which is to take place a few days later. Young scientists have put together a great program: Speakers from pharmaceutical giants, biotech companies, Patent Law and a start-up will be there. When a doctoral student from my ?Women and Career? seminar reported in the late afternoon that she had organized this meeting, I was surprised that she was only now talking about it. I had already mentioned this career day several times during our seminar: as a prime example of an event where you can establish contacts outside of the university and get business cards. Organizing such an event is also a great opportunity to enrich your CV. Perhaps the PhD student did not think it appropriate to mention that she is the organizer herself. Interested, I ask her which of the speakers she would announce and whether she would have selected them at random or preferred potential employers. "I will not moderate the lectures, I am not a good speaker," she says. I'm surprised. Or maybe disappointed because she answers my question like many other natural scientists. ?You won't be moderating a lecture at all?? I ask, ?who then?? ?A colleague from my laboratory,? she replies. I ask if he is involved in the organization. Is not he. "So you really organized this fantastic career day so that you could stand at the coffee bar yourself and give your colleague the laurels?" I ask. Of course, that is not their intention. But that's exactly what will happen. The person on the podium is in the spotlight, he will be the one that the people will address afterwards.
A typical trap that women in particular fall into again and again. They often think - or at least hope - that someone will discover their successes and skills, recognize them and appreciate them without having to be in the limelight or do any kind of self-marketing. Men, on the other hand, are much more direct at telling what they've done and what they're looking for.
The moderation doesn't have to be breathtaking, I tell the doctoral student. The most important thing is that she stands there herself and moderates at least one lecture. It has to present itself, show what it has achieved. Because recognition doesn't come by itself. Karin Bodewits,

Issue 02/16 Hidden Treasures

A chemist wants to make the transition to industry after completing his habilitation. I had arranged coaching with him and should revise his documents with him and refine his application strategy. ?It's going to be a tough number,? I think as I pore over his résumé. Except for the scientific brilliance that emerges from every line, his documents give no clue at all to include an interesting story in the cover letter. When it comes to the point ?Member of professional associations? on my résumé, I first think: ?I can get out?. Nobody cares who someone pays contributions to. But he sent a second résumé, which I am also checking. Instead of ?GDCh member? it now reads ?Local Association Chairman GDCh?, and has been for two years. The applicant would have to enrich this point with events, I comment. Either he overlooked it on the first résumé or it is a form of low-key.
In the conversation about this point, the answer comes: ?We have achieved almost nothing here, there was only one lecture by Mr. X from company Y, who developed the analytical technique Z, then some representatives from other companies also came, not just our local association. ?Although this modesty honors him, it will certainly lead to difficulties on the job market. I advise him to present association activities in a different way in the curriculum vitae, for example: "GDCh local association chairman, responsible for A, B and C. Introduction of the lecture series" Chemists in Industry "with speakers such as Dr. X of Y. ?And more importantly, the applicant can use this as a hook to write a cover letter that will really interest an applicant in the industry. For example, if he wants to apply to one of the companies that were present that evening, he should refer to that event right from the start. If he has found out about the company from one of those present, he may be allowed to mention this in the cover letter.
There are treasures hidden in almost every résumé - as an applicant, you should share them: Serve the potential employer what sets you apart from other applicants and not what you are particularly proud of. The seemingly small experiences outside of the laboratory are often more important than the thirteenth analytical technique that you have mastered and still squeeze into the cover letter. Philipp Gramlich,

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last modified: 14.12.2021 09:58 H from A.Miller