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Being realistic in your expectations
We are told to aim for the stars; that we can do anything we want with our career. I know because I say it to people I speak to; I do however add a caveat: you will need to be realistic.
We all have expectations, of the people we know, our friends and colleagues, our family; the TV we watch; the food we eat; even the service we expect as a customer. For most of the time we don’t give these expectations a second thought; that is until we are disappointed or surprised.
However, managing expectations is something we all need to do, both our own and other people’s expectations of what we can achieve. It can give us a sense of calm, a feeling of certainty and may even help avoid an upsetting situation. Sounds great but how do you go about managing expectations?
Let’s take applying for a new job as an example and have a look at some of the common expectations involved:
Action Your Expectation Employer expectation How to manage the situation
Writing your CV You have written a good CV and posted it to 200 scientific companies – that will surely get you at least one interview Successful candidates will meet the criteria set and will understand what the company needs Tailoring your CV to the company, taking time to research them and find out what they do and the type of person you are looking for will strengthen your application and show you are someone who has taken time over your entry
Applying for the job To hear back when the company receives your application Recruitment for a new position is important but it’s not at the top of my list right now, I have other deadlines The reality is that with over a hundred applications for many roles and potentially more than one role open at any one time, you are unlikely to hear back unless it’s to say you have an interview
Interview You will be examined in every detail and it’s going to be a horrendous experience OR there’s going to be no one better than you, it’s already a given Employers expect you to be on time, dress appropriately and most importantly engage with them.
  1. Smile and make conversation with everyone you meet
  2. Look interested, even if you’re not
  3. Listen to the question, take a deep breath and answer it as fully as you can. If you can’t think of an answer after a breath or sip of water, be honest and come back to it.
  4. Give appropriate and honest answers
  5. In group exercises make sure you interact with the other candidates. Marks are given out for certain behaviours and if you sit quietly in the corner you can’t score anything!
Getting feedback You expect detailed feedback of where you went wrong and how to improve next time The successful candidate performed the best, what more is there to say? Being told you were just pipped to the post or not getting any feedback at all can be tricky. Sometimes you really are just unlucky but if it’s happening consistently, seek some advice from a careers specialist who will be able to carry out a mock interview with you
Negotiating salary Just graduated or have a PhD - £28k is reasonable, right? Just graduated or PhD, little experience, £18-21k is reasonable, right? Salary expectations are amongst the most difficult to manage as you are basing a salary on what you/they feel they are worth. A reasonable starting salary for someone in chemistry is around the £21-24k but it may be more or less. You will need to consider all of your options and decide if it is enough for you.
Posted by Charlotte Ashley-Roberts on Aug 11, 2014 9:32 AM GMT
There are times in your life where everyone has an opinion on what you might decide to do next, or how you might go about it. Taking advice can be really difficult, especially when you feel it is unsolicited or inappropriate. So, what should you do?

I remember being 18 years old and applying to go to university, everyone had thoughts on where I should go, what I should study, what I could do with it afterwards. I had no idea. I didn't go to university, I trained as a pharmacy technician and carried on my life as normal, not giving university a second thought. Fast forward to three years later and someone close to me suggested I go along to a university to see what it was like. I went for the interview with the admissions officer, applied and got in through clearing, starting 6 weeks later. I never looked back.

What did I learn? That you have to make your decisions based on the information you have at the time and you have to listen to your gut instincts. I wasn't ready to go to university at 18 emotionally and although people who gave advice were well meaning I just didn't know where to start and it was all a bit confusing.

I see this a lot when talking to people in careers consultations - they are being given advice by the people closest to them and they don't know what to do for the best. My first rule in making a career decision is to decide what you want to do - don't think about anyone else, just for a moment. Ask yourself:

If I could do anything, what would it be?

I know, you still don't know! Think about what you could do if you weren't restricted by anything at all - change your career to something you have always wanted to do but never been able to, take on a promotion, retire! It could be anything. Once you have decided on that you may need to consider other factors like your family and be realistic in your expecations of what you can achieve (I will blog on this next week).

Want my advice? Take all the advice you can, so that you can make your decision with all the information you need. You are the one in charge of managing your career and therefore responsible for the consequences of your actions. If you want to seek advice, choose someone who has been through something similar as their experience will be able to give you good information, although of course it may not be exactly the same for you.

You will need to forge your own path.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
Posted by Charlotte Ashley-Roberts on Jul 30, 2014 9:08 AM GMT
In an ideal world the support we give you will provide the tools you need to manage your career; to enable you  to find the job you really love to do, the one which makes you bounce out of bed in the morning. Unfortunately it's not always an ideal world and many members we speak to are feeling overwhelmed in their career management.

Whilst we have developed a number of ways to help you manage your career, we can always improve so I have a question for you:

How can we help you manage your career?

Please comment, tweet or email your suggestions with what you would like to see from us. They can include, but are not limited to:
  1. Topics or subject areas you would like us to cover
  2. Methods of delivery you prefer e.g. phone, email, webinar, blog, video etc.
  3. Career events we could hold
  4. Things you would like us to stop or to start doing
  5. Anything else!
Thank you and have a happy Monday

Posted by Charlotte Ashley-Roberts on Jul 14, 2014 8:50 AM GMT
Do the words ' Please can you prepare/deliver a presentation on x' fill you with dread? Presenting is part of many job descriptions and one which many people would rather avoid. In fact when a team a team of market researchers asked 3000 U.S. inhabitants “What are you most afraid of?” Many named more than one fear but right at the top came speaking before a group, followed by heights, insects, financial problems and deep water. (Source).

An uneffective presentation can be unengaging, boring and can leave the audience wondering what the point is. With this in mind, here are our top five tips to presenting:

1. Prepare. What are the audience going to gain from attending your presentation? Also consider their position, existing knowledge, experience, number, and willingness to attend. Who are the decision makers?

2. Use an INTRO:

Impact Begin by raising expectations. Your opening must declare that what is coming is enthusiastic, relevant, interesting and dynamic. E.g. use a prop; a short story; a quotation; music; a good picture; a statistic; a question or other audience involvement.
Need Remind the audience why they need to listen to you. In particular how they will benefit from the experience.
Time Say how long you will be speaking, (and stick to it).
Response Explain when you would like questions. I.e. anytime / at the end. In presenting a proposal it is normally better to allow questions anytime as you can always curtail a discussion if you are losing focus.
Outline Tell the audience what you will be covering – outline your Structure
Don't forget the summary: summaries are vital for a professional end to your delivery. Repeat your top four or five key points. Leave the audience with a strong message.
Do not introduce any new material even if it was something you forgot earlier.

3. Keep it simple, the audience will not remember most of your words. Leave opportunities for discussion about detailed points rather than try to cram them in.

4. Consider your method. Do you have to use PowerPoint? Some of the best presentations I have been to have just been a single person on a stage; I was totally focused on them.

5. Slow down. Most people speak to fast, especially when they try and cram lots in. Take a breath and slow your words down - they will sound fine to the audience!

Posted by Charlotte Ashley-Roberts on Jul 9, 2014 1:58 PM GMT
Most of us have heard the old adage, "a problem shared is a problem halved" but how many of us share issues which affect us in the workplace? We might have a good old moan to someone we trust. Moaning about our situations is a natural thing, it can be a way of reacting to difficult situations where we feel we are not able to change outcomes. By moaning, we can feel some relief in sharing our discomfort with our friends, family and colleagues. But what if we stopped moaning and started doing?

First thing to do is to identify the issue. Once you have identified the issue, and in my experience the problem you think you have isn't always the underlying issue. The real issue is often the one which comes out 5 minutes before the end of a consultation/conversation! Anyway, once you have identified the issue, you need to find a solution. This might mean taking responsibility for your actions e.g. you need to actually apply (or even look) for new jobs if you want to get out of the one you hate. It could mean identifying someone who can help you and making the effort to ask them for help if you are sinking.

These things can be daunting, you open yourself up to others and I often hear concerns about looking silly or stupid. The fear of looking silly is often far greater than the actual reality. I believe in most situations that once you voice your concern you may feel that you're not alone; frequently others feel the same but similarly don't want to speak out.

Here are some proactive things you can do
  1. Make a pros and cons list for your problem and (try to) come up with a solution
  2. Set a clear goal that you can work towards - be realistic
  3. Do something that makes you happy
  4. Create a list of positive resources for those times when you need a boost

So I challenge you, do something today. Make a change, even a really small one, talk to someone (without moaning) because...... to give you another quote: "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate." (sorry!)
Posted by Charlotte Ashley-Roberts on Jul 2, 2014 11:00 AM GMT
One of the most common questions I am asked is: 'what can I do with my degree?'. I'm afraid my answer is very boring and I tend to answer it with a question: 'What would you like to do?' I don't do this to be awkward or to avoid the question but because the number of roles where a chemistry degree can open the door is vast. Let me show you what I mean.

There is an annual survey carried out which shows the destination of students six months after they graduate called What Do Graduates Do?. The research shows that in 2011/12 half of all chemistry graduates were women and 34.1% went into further study with 63.7% studying for a doctorate. Many graduates from scientific disciplines are employed in the UK as professional, associate professional and technicans which includes: researchers, laboratory technicians and environmental conservationists with 19.2% chemistry graduates working in scientific professions.

Six months after graduation 38.3% of chemistry graduates were in full time work and 34.1% in further research. Only 9.2% were actually unemployed - possibly less than you were thinking? Anyway, back to those who were employed. What kind of work were they doing? Here is a list of sectors:

  1. Science professionals
  2. Other professionals, associate professionals and technicians
  3. Retail, catering, waiting and bar staff
  4. Business, HR and finance professionals
  5. Other occupations
  6. Clerical, secretarial and numerical clerk occupations
  7. Marketing, PR and sales professionals
  8. Education professionals
  9. Managers
  10. Engineering and building professionals
  11. Childcare, health and education occupations
  12. Information technology (IT) professionals
  13. Legal, social and welfare professionals
  14. Health professionals
  15. Arts, design and media professional
How can this work? Besides up-to-date knowledge and technical ability, a chemistry degree will help you develop analytical ,teamworking, communication, research, crititcal-thinking and problem solving skills. All of which are used across sectors.

You will notice I haven't given you job titles. This is because scientist=senior scientist = scientist II = analytical scientist = analytical chemist = research chemist. Job titles only mean something to the person who wrote them. However, if you want to get a flavour of the the different job titles out there, have a look at the list of graduate jobs on Prospects. There is also an overview of the science sector.

I hope this gives you an indication on why sometimes careers advice can be a little vague. The important thing to focus on is what you enjoy and what interests you. Chemistry can take you almost anywhere you want to go.

Posted by Charlotte Ashley-Roberts on Jun 26, 2014 9:00 AM GMT
Are you a chemistry student at the University of Cardiff? The Royal Society of Chemistry Roadshow will be with you tomorrow (26th June). i'll be there to give a talk at 10.00 am on getting your career off to a flying start. Come and have a listen and a chat with me over lunch.
Posted by Julie Franklin on Jun 25, 2014 10:15 AM GMT
When you are looking for a new role it's common to feel that everyone else is more employable than you. You might also feel that you are employable but you're not sure how to communicate this to an employer. Most people will start with their CV. One of the most important aspects of a successful CV is to treat it like a marketing document, it is of course there to sell you.

However, I know that this is something that people struggle with, so how do you turn your CV into a marketing document from a life story? It's easy to get bogged down in your own history, focusing on the things you have done which are important to you, rather than being essential reading for an employer.

By knowing your strengths you are able to:

- demonstrate genuine experience
- reveal to an employer how you might operate in the new role
- make yourself memorable by using a language that an employer finds easy to understand

How do you identify your strengths?

You can start simply with asking yourself 'What do I do well?' You can also ask other people the same question to give yourself a different perspective.

John Lees has a useful Seven Step guide to identifying your skills:

1. Recall times when you have used skills in information, imagination, organisation, growth and enterprise, influencing people and developing people.

2. Think about a day at work when you were entirely absorbed in what you were doing, time passed quickly and you felt a 'buzz'. Think about what you were doing, what skills did you use?

3. Think about interesting roles or projects you have done. What was the best job you have ever had?

4. Think about the skills which come easily to you.

5. Imagine it's Sunday night and you are looking forward to particular activities and projects in the week ahead, what are the skills you are looking forward to using?

6. Think about a time when you surprised yourself by doing something you didn't know you were capable of doing. What were the skills you used?

7. Write down any other skills you are good at AND that you like doing.

Look at all the skills you have written down, which skill energises you most and which would you like to improve? These skills can be turned into strengths by embedding them into an example which is not about the skill, but about you. These are either short and punchy - perfect for a CV or more detailed which is perfect for an interview.
Posted by Charlotte Ashley-Roberts on Jun 18, 2014 9:30 AM GMT
Never wanting to miss out on an opportunity to develop myself I attended a training day on career coaching with David Clutterbuck. I found it really thought provoking both for my work at the RSC and also for myself outside of my role.

Following on from my discussion the other week in LinkedIn regarding what makes you feel valued at work, I thought I might share an exercise (copyright David Clutterbuck) you can do to discover or perhaps rediscover your values. It's called the Values Triangle.

Why are they important might you ask? Well, if your values aren't being met, either in or out of work, you may find that you are feeling unbalanced in your work-life balance or feeling like there is something not quite right but that you can't put your finger on it. Let me tell you, this is not a quick thing, it took me about 6 hours. I did have breaks, go away and think or do something completely different in between but over two and a half days it came to about 6 hours in total. However, I found it very beneficial and it has already started to make a difference and challenged me to make some changes.

Posted by Charlotte Ashley-Roberts on Jun 13, 2014 8:00 AM GMT
Want to work for a major force in the international Science Publishing world? Our Graduate Publishing Editor scheme is a great way to kick-start your career. The scheme's open now for those of you who would love a career in science publishing and want to work for a great organisation. Find out more here.

Good luck from the Careers Team if you apply!

Posted by Julie Franklin on Jun 12, 2014 8:29 AM GMT
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