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How did you get your current job?

  1. Apr 6, 2014 #1
    There is a lot of discussion about how Physics gives you valuable skills, and also a lot of discussion of how these skills are somewhat general and hence need to be 'sold' and that employers are often looking for specific skills making it hard for a physicist to be considered. After reviewing many of these threads I'm struck that much of the advice is quite 'strategic' in nature (market yourself, etc.) perhaps a more 'tactical' approach is of value.

    As such I'd be interested in hearing anecdotes of how people got their current job (if you could include an approximate date, it would be helpful).

    For me I applied to numerous graduate schemes after university. After six months to a year I was offered an interview at a defence company. It all went well and I joined in 2005. I currently design and deploy high speed diagnostics (I've had one promotion).

    I'm currently looking for other jobs and my current 'tactics' are simply put 'optics/physics' into job search websites. After ~3 months, ~10 applications of this I've had no interviews.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 6, 2014 #2
    It's not the US that you probably speak about, but anyways: I work a well-known non-profit organization for applied research for a little less than two years now. I found the job announcement by thinking "maybe I could check this company" and then doing so systematically employing brute-force sieving: Finding a website listing all the company's research institutes (~50 in total), opening the websites of those that sound remotely interesting and fitting by name (~30), narrowing down to a sensible number by exclusion principle ("Munich? No way!"), then looking at their job offers. Same thing with the many offers then: Reduction in multiple phases, although not as clearly defined. In the end I ended up applying on a position that I had no qualification for at all, but where it was apparent that the group was essentially just looking for good researchers.

    I, too, did not have the feeling that job search engines are very helpful except maybe for digging up random company names. I found the "get the name of a suitable company from wherever and check directly" to work much better. After 10 years in the business, you should know a few companies in the field (e.g. competitors) or in related fields (supplier, customer).
  4. Apr 8, 2014 #3


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    Try to contact everybody you know (even if only slightly) in your field. Your resumes are not getting beyond 'Human' Services. Send a nice personal letter (as well as your resume) commenting on why you want to work for their company. Don't be afraid of rejections, at least they will be from someone competent.
  5. Apr 8, 2014 #4
    Thanks for the response Timo, I am actually in the UK.

    I am trying to 'utilise my network' and speaking to my peers applying for a job seems quite a rare way to get a job; it seems to me that graduates would essentially be at a complete dead end.

    Indeed from the lack of responses it would seem that most people do not have a job or deem the way they got that job to be valuable information.
  6. Apr 8, 2014 #5
    I work at a pizza place. lol So I doubt you care how I got that job... But, I did manage to get it even though they were not hiring and are barley solvent. I took the paper application, scanned it and typed in all the items. That was enough to distinguish me from the rest of the applicants and get me a job they were not hiring for. This was the first and only "legit" work I was able to get after applying for almost two years. Of course I left my degrees off of my application.

    Reading your original post, it says you only applied to 10 places in 3 months? If blind applying is your tactic then you should be applying to dozens and hundreds of places. I have submitted a hundred or more applications over the past few years, both for a career style STEM job and for a low pay job to get by.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2014
  7. Apr 8, 2014 #6
    I applied online.
  8. Apr 8, 2014 #7


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    Simply firing off a generic CV into cyberspace has not been a successful strategy in my experience - both from the point of view of an applicant and as someone who has served on several hiring committees.

    One critical step is to assess the position itself and determine if you're a good fit for it.

    I think a lot of people get into a pickle where they get a job interview and then have nothing intelligent to say when asked why that job is the right fit for them.

    To do this, you have to make contact with the company. Call or email them and arrange to speak to someone who can provide you with details about the position. This is of course where a wide social network helps. This is also a way to find out critical information like whether or not there is an internal candidate, or whether there might be similar positions opening up elsewhere. This can also help you with targeting specific individuals in your cover letter and tailoring your CV.

    Other hints include going to conferences or trade shows (not just job fairs). Speak to people who simply work in areas that you're interested in. They may not have an opening at the moment, or any control to get you in if they do, but they may know when things are coming up or when the best time to apply for something is and what traits to highlight if you apply for something down the road.
  9. Apr 8, 2014 #8
    I dont think that is practical advise for a graduate. Those things are very expensive. As a student you can get the school to pay for your ticket and airfare. As a graduate looking for a job you are going to spend a lot of money and a lot of time flying to various conferences just to meet people that may or may not be hiring. As a student the conferences I went to were filled with academics, they are never hiring unless you are looking to do a post doc.

    Have you really ever known a graduate to do this?
  10. Apr 8, 2014 #9


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    I got my current job by simply applying online!
    I got lucky. Most of my interviews I got through networking. You would be surprised who is connected to whom. I got an interview because my dad's friend's cousin worked for an engineering firm. I got his email address and initiated contact.

    Just get yourself out there and utilize your friends, family, classmates, school connections, and co-worker connections. If you throw out a hook you never know who will bite
  11. Apr 8, 2014 #10
    Aside from the fact that being at a conference because it is relevant to your research and interests is completely different than going to a conference to get a job. The former will have more success but it also comes down to the fact that the former has relevant work experience.
  12. Apr 8, 2014 #11


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    Yes. Which is why I'm surprised that not more people do this.

    I realize there are costs involved, but they're not all in the $1000+ category for registration. A lot can depend on the size of the particular conference. You can get a day pass for example, or a pass just for the vendors. Or you can sometimes get your registration waved completely if you're willing to do some volunteer work. You can also use such venues as an opportunity for setting up offsite lunch meetings - in which case you don't even have to go into the conference and really only have to pay for food that you were going to eat anyway. You don't have to fly either, unless the only conferences that apply happen to be in the field you're interested in are on the other side of the continent.

    And to be clear I'm talking less about academic conferences and more about trade shows. The conferences I attend tend to be a mix of both (AAPM, RSNA, COMP, etc). You're right in that job hunting at a general relativity or other purely academic conference is probably not going to be all that lucrative. But if you're looking to get into a particular industry, it can help to go to the shows where the big players launch their latest and greatest wares.
  13. Apr 8, 2014 #12
    I'm skeptical, but I will look into it. Thx! In grad school I worked on thin films and the material science conferences I went to never had anybody from industry, they were only academic. I suppose I assumed that industry would not want to conference and share trade secrets with each other... I guess it doesn't quite work like that.
  14. Apr 8, 2014 #13


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    It's good to be skeptical.

    If you look at a conference like the annual meeting of RSNA for example, you have about 10k people attending. This is where the big and small companies in the diagnostic imaging (and radiation therapy to a lesser extent) set up shop for several days to display their latest and greatest technologies to frontline healthcare organizations (their consumers). They run information sessions and teach potential customers and end users how to use their products. This is on top of the academic sessions that go on in adjacent buildings.

    Most of the time the technology on display is patented, so they're not worried about people stealing trade secrets. It's a lot more like a Ford and a Toyota dealership setting up a display right next to each other, but with the opportunities to talk to the engineers who designed the cars.

    Many of these kinds of conferences will even have job boards (physical and online) where people can post their CVs and set up interview rooms so that delegates can interview potential applicants on the spot.
  15. Apr 8, 2014 #14
    My advice is nearly 30 years old, but appropriate. I answered a want ad in a newspaper for an experienced technician. I must have hit all the right words in my cover letter and resume. I did well in the interview. I was relaxed, and quietly competent.

    I maintained that job to support my habit of attending school at night. And eventually, I graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and my employer made a decent job offer just as the economy took a very serious downturn.

    These days, I would recommend looking at sites such as LinkedIn and various job search sites. However, be selective about where you send letters and resumes. Note that these days, HR departments are looking for certain key words. It helps to read the job ad very carefully for those key words and to ensure that your resume and cover letter have them. Don't lie, but do make sure you're using the right key words. You may be entirely qualified for that job, but if you don't have those key words you won't get an interview.

    It helps to track the market and see where the jobs are. Study where you see these want ads and read them very carefully to figure out what they're hiring for. Read the trade magazines to see where the hot trends are and possibly for a job ad. Look at the firms doing the hiring and figure out what they do. Finally, be patient. Sometimes that stack of resumes can sit around for three to six months or more before anyone acts on them. I've seen that personally many times.
  16. Apr 9, 2014 #15


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    In the UK, one may wish to join a scientific or technical society and use the networks to find additional opportunities, e.g., IoP or IET


    Or other institutions.

    I just started a third job a month ago. I was invited to apply and was told I was the lead candidate to replace a retiring scientist. At the job I left, I was invited by the CEO to join the company about 16 years ago, after working in industry for nearly 10 years. I had known the CEO from some research I did during graduate school.

    For the first job out of graduate school, I picked up a business card of a VP in a company and applied by letter and phone call. One of my colleagues met the VP at a conference. When I finally interviewed, I was offered the job the next day. I was three months on that job, and a client of the company asked if I was interested in applying for a job with them. I turned down the offer.

    When I was an undergraduate and graduate student, I spent some of my free time reading technical and trade journals in order to learn what companies in the industry had to offer, what research was being conducted, and what technical issues/challenges industry was facing. When I applied for the first job, the managers were impressed by my knowledge of the industry and technology, as well as my research and academics.
  17. Apr 9, 2014 #16


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    I think this might work in the US but not in Europe. Firstly, the OP is in the UK and there simply aren't that many physics conferences held here. Mostly they are small workshops that you more or less have to get invited to to even know about and even the "large" ones (say 200 people) organized by the IoP are only held every two or three years.
    The same is actually to a large extent true for trade shows unless they can be sure to sell a lot of tickets (or they can find some really good sponsors).

    The reason is simply that it is very expensive to organize conferences here, meaning even British organizations and companies often prefer to hold their meetings abroad. There aren't even that many conference venues here (there are some, but nothing like what you find in e.g. Brussels or Amsterdam). Italy, Spain, Greece etc tend to be popular destinations for conferences and tradeshows in Europe (my wife works for an events company here in London, nearly all the big events they organize are held abroad; even Las Vegas is a more popular destination than London) .

    This is actually a problem for PhD students here in the UK: most of them only get to go to one or perhaps two conferences during their PhDs.

    My only suggestion to the OP is to have a look at the IoP website, They organize career evenings and invite large companies that are potential employers for people with a degree in physics.
  18. Apr 9, 2014 #17
    If you study physics in the UK then you're probably going to get a job in something like accounting, finance or IT rather than physics.
  19. Apr 9, 2014 #18
    It should probably be generalized to the world with the possible addition of the defense industry.
  20. Apr 10, 2014 #19
    This is turning into quite a useful thread. I know some of the advice is general and some of it is directed at me; it's all great but an additional factor for me is that I'd be happy to leave the UK. I should also say, I always tailor my CV/Cover letter but it's tricky as agencies seem to dominate those websites and they tend to remove any specific information that would let you google the company they are advertising for.

    Well this is another thing to consider. Bearing in mind I'm quite experienced now, I notice that many of my peers have had considerably more dynamic and rewarding (financiailly) careers.

    With regard to the IoP, I have dealt with them on numerous occasions and been unimpressed on most of them.

    I do know of one 'trade fair' type event in the UK. Photnoex has lots of photonics companies and, I believe it's free.
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