Comics and Career Fairs

Webcomics continue to be too accurate with the latest sequence at PhD Comics. Of course, Jorge Cham’s humor has always ranged from “funny because close to home” to “not funny because too close to home”. This year the strips in the latter category have been especially well-timed: the series linked above, for example, comes not just when I’m in the same situation, but the week of Cal’s major Career Fair. (Identifying other examples is left as an exercise for the reader.)
Anyway, the career fair starts tomorrow; the fraction of recruiters looking for physics PhDs is indeed pretty low (as would be expected for a general campus career fair) but nonzero. (There’s an event specifically targeted at masters and PhDs next month.) I’ll be attending with copies of my resume in hand, hoping to get someone’s attention or, failing that, pick up some good swag. Any advice for this sort of thing?

10 thoughts on “Comics and Career Fairs

  1. Mason

    Have two versions of the CV: short and long. At a venue like this, most people will be interested in the short cv, but it’s good to have the long one handy in case somebody wants to see that.
    Also, if there are companies that interest you, let me know because I know people at a decent number of places. I’m obviously happy to put you into contact with anybody you find relevant. I think that such methods typically work better than career fairs.
    The only time I actually want to a career fair was because I was curious about a couple of the government labs and I was already attending the conference in question [i.e, the career fare doubled as a reception and required no real effort on my part to attend], and for the rest of the things there, I just asked about various aspects because I assume I’ll eventually have students who are interested. One of the people at that career fare gave me advice on my cv that I ignored. (His advice was good for industry cvs, but it didn’t apply to cvs one sends to more academically-minded places. I don’t entirely remember why I was talking to this guy in the first place. I might have just wanted a free pen. Come to think of it, this may have been where I got my alien pen.)

  2. Nick

    I recommend collecting all of the silly-putty you can. If I had thought of that my freshman year, I’d have a good pound of it by now.
    On a more serious note, have a bunch of people look over your CV, ideally people who do that sort of a thing for a living. The Career Development Center at WPI, despite collectively possessing the charm and wit of a horned lizard squirting blood out of its eyes, did wonders for my resumé, mainly by tearing it apart until I got it right.
    (The first time I brought it in, they handed it back to me and told me, ‘You need to see a councilor.’ I wasn’t expecting to be told that I needed psychological help purely based on my resumé. They’re that polite.)

  3. Jenny

    Try to chat up the people at the physics-minded companies. Remember that they are really bored and are happy to talk to someone who doesn’t just want the T-shirt. Some of these places will schedule interviews while they’re on campus with applicants they find interesting.

  4. Justin

    The Caltech Alumni Association has some sort of networking program – I believe somewhere there’s a list of alumni at various companies who you can email to ask about their company, what they do, possible job openings, etc. I haven’t looked for this myself, but it came up at some of the Postdoc Association career workshops. As did the well-known statistic that ~80% of jobs come about through networking rather than through normal application procedures.
    I’ll second Nick’s advice to get what help you can from the campus career center. As I recall, UCSC didn’t really know what to do with me, but according to those CPA workshops I mentioned the Caltech career center is freakin’ awesome and is very helpful to PhDs looking outside of academia. Hopefully Berkeley will be more like the latter case…
    As far as specific advice, I’d say take it easy tomorrow and treat it like a practice run for the masters/PhD event next month. If you find something, great, but I think your odds will be much better at the second event.
    If you think you can make the jump from blogging to writing books, apparently there’s good money there as you may have seen on Chad’s blog.

  5. Mason

    I’ll third the getting the CV examined extensively bit.
    I remember a few people at Georgia Tech (yes, _after_ I got my first position, so I was late to the game as far as taking this stuff sufficiently seriously is concerned) commenting that I was seriously underselling myself in my CV. In all cases, my commenters were academics, and I went through multiple drafts of my CV (over multiple job-application and fellowship-application seasons!) with them until I had it really polished. (Note that because you’re applying for non-academic jobs, you certainly won’t want to restrict yourself to academics commenting on your CV.) They helped me similarly with my research statement and (to a lesser extent) my teaching statement. They too were extremely blunt (though not to the extreme described above!), but if somebody’s cv really is crap, the best way (IMO) to get that message across is to be blunt about it (ideally, blunt but still kind).
    Caltech’s Alumni Association has close ties to LinkedIn. There is a specific group [it goes somewhat beyond an informal group structure that these online networks have] that they run for CAA members (on which they’re supposed to give me detailed data, but that’s another story) and I think there’s also some similar stuff beyond LinkedIn per se.

  6. Arcane Gazebo

    Indeed, I should have gone over my resume with a career counselor perhaps last week; it’s too late to do so for purposes of this event, but it’s increasingly clear that it would be a good thing to do very soon. I’ve been using a resume format rather than a CV for these non-academic jobs, although I also have an academic CV on hand in case someone requests it (one recruiter did today).

  7. Mason

    I was using the terms very loosely above, but by “standard” definition, the resume refers to the short document and the CV (by name) already refers to the long one. After I wrote that post, I was reading an article that was quite anal about distinguishing the two with different names.

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