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Marketable skills?

  1. Jul 5, 2007 #1
    theres a lot of talk in the "don't do a PhD" thread about being employable. what skills are employable/marketable?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 5, 2007 #2


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    In science and technology, technical competence is what counts, which implies an ability to solve problems, especially new problems. There is no answer in the back of the book. So there is

    However, in addition to that are:

    Communication - the ability to convey information accurately and efficiently both verbally and in writing.

    Organization -

    Interpersonal skills - the ability to work with others, including subordinates, peers/colleagues, and superiors.

    Familiarity with technology and industry/economic sector - one has to know the business/economic environment is which one is employed
  4. Jul 5, 2007 #3
    those are very vague, i meant specifically what like accelerator know-how, knowing lots of programming languages, being able to design digital circuits, computer hacking skills, nunchuck skilss...?
  5. Jul 5, 2007 #4
    Think of it this way. Will your skill bring more money to the company?

    If so then that's a desirable skill to have.

    If not then no one will care about you really. That's what the phd thread tried to emphasize.
  6. Jul 5, 2007 #5
    computer hacking skills is quite the marketable attribute. I suggest you make sure that those skills are devine over all. I though the examples you have listed are concentrated towards the computer electrical side of things.

    Those skills like programming languages and alike are important. BUt communication, organisation, interpersonal skills and understanding are skills that are invaluable to ones success.
  7. Jul 5, 2007 #6


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    Um I think you guys are quite missing the point. He was asking specifically having what stated in a resume would cause him to be more employable, probably in the physics industry, even though he didn't say so. You can't probably state things like "Good interpersonal skills, "Effective orator" in your CV can you?
  8. Jul 5, 2007 #7
  9. Jul 5, 2007 #8
    Most employable attribute is the number of years you have worked in your field, that is "experience."

    With experience you already have aquired all the necensseary skills such as mentioned above like organizatin, team work etc etc.

    You are not going to put you are good at organization on your resume are you?

    With work experience, your employer won't have to invest alot of money in your training. In fact you might start training other people first day on the job.
  10. Jul 5, 2007 #9


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    When I did my first job interview, I provided copies of my Thesis, lab reports, presentations, and articles I had published. Basically it was an example of techical communication.

    When I did the interview, I talked with various managers. During the discussions/interviews I discussed relevant subjects in the areas in which they were interested.

    If was going to work in accelerators, I would expect to know about the key research and be able to offer opinions on such research. I should be able to point out areas for improvement. I would have to demonstrate knowledge of accelerator design, power/ion sources, etc.

    I was thinking what skills one possess, as opposed to how one describes those skills.

    In terms of managing, if one were to be assigned as group leader for a project, one would put that in a resume.

    Certainly, it is important to describe any job experience in a resume.
  11. Jul 5, 2007 #10
    Actually you can, just not that directly. More importantly, those are some of the things they'll be looking for in the interview, and they'll place a lot of weight on them, so regardless of whether they end up on your resume, they'll end up being important in getting the job.

    And while we're mentioning it, let's not forget that if the company sees your resume before meeting you, you're going about your job hunt the wrong way.
  12. Jul 5, 2007 #11


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    I wouldn't simply state them and leave it at that, but you can list some formal oral presentations that you've given at conferences, etc., as an example of your communications skills. If you've ever had to supervise or assist someone directly (maybe a new graduate student, or an undergraduate on an REU), that's worth mentioning, too.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2007
  13. Jul 6, 2007 #12
    I'm going to assume Ice was asking what makes a person marketable if they do not get into academia. I.e., what the heck do you do to secure a job after a PH.d / Masters where you are not going into Academic Physics.

    Tid Bits:

    I was reading the other day what makes a mathematician employable in industry. It was from an Aerospace company. If you want I can try to dredge it up.

    If you as a physicist and/or mathematician can learn industrial skills, you'll probably be more valuable than most engineers. That's bold, but it is also saying you are willing to work or take extra classes to the level of a Bachelors in one of the engineerings.


    First thing is first. You have to know what market? Are you mechanical minded, electrical, bio-, chemical, computational, etc. You decide that, and you're half way there Ice.

    Next. Go after that. I was reading on PHds.org about a "back up plan" for graduate school. Things like, what the heck happens when you don't make it. They suggest, I suggest, you do learn something further outside of your research. And learn it well enough that you can get a job in that field. It would be wise to pick something that your PH.d supports in some way.

    Factoid, 70% of all PH.d's in Mathematics do not go into mathematics. I got that out of the Mathematician's Survival Guide by Krantz.

    For mathematicians programming is a logical move. You can either take classes or teach yourself. The later being more difficult to do and more difficult to prove you did do.

    For physicists you may have more options. You know electronics theory, but can you design circuits? It's not a simple move there. It requires effort.

    Analogously, if you're an uber-pure mathematician and you know some differential geometry, then learning to use tensor calculus will definitely require some work, albeit they're very related. It is still nontrivial. For one, you might lack the physics understanding required to make heads or tails of why you would use tensor calculus.

    Here's a book I used in my EE electronics course, Electronic Circuit Analysis and Design 2nd ed. by Donald A. Neamen. I suggest if you like electronics you check that out and see if you can read and do some of the problems. I think you'll find it nontrivial.

    Similarly, you can take courses in the mechanical engineering department. You're good at mechanics, but getting on a cad program and designing a part will not prove to be easy unless you've given that some serious attention.

    Here's the bottom line:

    Academia/ Science is about publishing something novel and new that can be used to find something else novel and new - and who likes your work.

    Industry is about selling what you got for a profit.

    It's that simple. Say, you know how to prove the snake lemma, great. You're a genius. You're not worth as much as a double bachelors major in mathematics and computer science.

    Similarly, you could say you understand all about the standard model and how to read data at the BNL accelerator, great you're a genius. A double bachelors in physics and EE is going to be worth far more than you in industry.

    To finish, if you got a suspicion you're not the next Hawking, then I suggest you ignore those who "made it" and learn something serious on the side. Yes, that will take away some from your work, but in the words of the great physicist Schwartz at my school, "learn to do things good enough." I.e. striving for the 100th decimal precision when all the other equipment gives you 3 decimals is worthless, eh?

    A flip side to this, is can you "use people to make money?" I.e., can you manage? You could also take courses towards a career in management.

    Let me tell ya, if you do go to industry, you're going to learn that Dilbert actually does depict the average manager pretty damn accurately. To that, industry has become aware of this over the last decade or so, and they have actively sought after science types who know managers skillz too.

    Best of luck.

    P.S. Previous posts about being a "people person" go for every job in the world.

    P.S.S. Can you read this?

    Knowing a foreign language is great. Knowing a difficult foreign language is even better, especially in engineering.

    P.S.S.S Most people would not consider me able to speak Japanese well enough to be useful, even after a few years of studying it. Honestly, it will take 5 to 10 years to become proficient enough if you do not live in Japan. So get started now if you want to add that someday to your resume.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2007
  14. Jul 7, 2007 #13


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    I given this some more thought.

    It's not so much knowing a computer language as actually writing code or program, or knowing how to use a particular code (there are lots of off-the-shelf codes these days). If one created a computer code to process data or do a simulation then include that as an example of experience.

    A colleague did programming in LabView, where he used it to monitor experiments and process the data. That experience is listed in his resumé.

    When I was hired for my first job, the company was looking for someone who knew or had experience with a particular code. It just so happened that I was one of a handful of grad students in the country who had actual experience with a more modern version of the code they had. So during my interview over lunch, I spent time discussing the use of the code. I also discussed my experience with analysis, and more general but relevant topics.

    The VP of the company called me the next morning to offer me a job, and asked how soon I could start. That was my first job after grad school, and my only interview.
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