How much is your dream worth?

Thoughts and dreams, employment and careers

Dear Reader,

Can you put a price on a dream, even though you do not know how it ends?
I have been offered a really, really nice consulting position. It is well paid, it is interesting and I already know three employees so it would be easy to feel at home. However, it involves a lot of traveling. I am fine with travel. I actually like to sit on a plane and work. So what is stoping my from leaving my current situation and start a new career?

In short, it is my desire to become a patent agent or a patent attorney. I have gone through the roundabout several times, making pros & cons lists, discussions with my wife, asking friends and family. But it always just boils down to this single fact, I think I will enjoy working in the law profession (and of course working locally).

Think is a big and a powerful word and we do not give it much credit.

For example, we say “I think that I am right” in the meaning of I am not sure that I am right. It is like we do not trust ourselves enough to only go with our own thoughts. I think a lot, seriously a whole lot. I am a intuitive thinker according to the tests. This ability is my strength and makes me good at what I am. However, I do no fully trust it.

Basketball players need to have trust in their ability. Standup comedians need to believe in their strengths. Heck, everyone needs to believe in their ability to excel. So do thinkers. We need to substitute the meaning of think in your head with I know, instead of I am not sure. We need to trust our guts more, trust our instincts and take the decisions that WE think are the right ones.

We are not always going to be right but basketball players do not always make a basket.

Have a good one.

When accidents occur!

Be an occasional risk taker.

Good morning Reader,

Something happened to me yesterday. Something that had not happened to me in a while. I fell of my bicycle and bruised my elbows and got “road rashes.” It was uncomfortable, yes but I think that it sparked a feeling within that I had not experienced in a while. Feeling that I experienced a lot in my youth, a mixture of embarrassment and failure. This got me thinking.

In our youth, we lived every minute to explore. One of my examples include finding a bee nest, aggravate them and fight them off with a tennis racket. I got stung once. Another example included rushing down the meanest hill of them all, on my BMX. Now, I would not even consider that hill a slope but we all had hills or dangerous acts that we did not even think twice about performing when we were younger.

Did we lose this ability when we got older?

I tend to be an over thinker. It might be a relaxing day in the office but my brain is constantly on. If I have a decision to make, I not only think it, I obsess about it. When the decision has been made, I still think about it. This was quite the opposite when I was younger. I thought, I did. I thought and I did not. End of story.

I miss that part of myself. Can it be that I got scared? Did I make the wrong decision and it got stuck in my head, making me rethink every possibility? I do not know (but I will tell you if I find out). I believe that we all need to have that childhood spirit of doing and then reacting, not thinking, doing, reacting, think some more. We all need to get rid of that fear that we seem to get when we become “grown-ups.” We need to allow the risk taker to work sometimes in our lives,

because it did not matter if that hill gave you bruises or you hit your head (no helmets in my day), it healed up.

Have a good weekend!

Informational interview-Questions?

Informational interview questions for patent law

Dear Readers,

I have another list in store for you today. It is a list of questions that I commonly ask on a informational meeting. Some of these questions are general and could apply to any job. But a lot of them are focused at a technical advisor or a patent agent position. So here are my top 10 list.

First, I ask about his/hers personal background. I suggest that you find a person that has a similar background to yours and are/where at some point in the same job you want. They will understand where you are coming from and honestly, they will be your best bet for advice and guidance.

  1. What was your previous experience from patents? Most of my interviewees are PhDs that transferred over to the law profession. This question gives my an idea about what I need to learn to successfully get the job. In many cases, my interviewees did not have any prior experience.
  2. Do you remember your major concerns when you started to consider the transition to patent law? This questions can ease my own mind. Everybody are anxious and nervous when changing their career. The best way to quiet those concerns is by hearing that someone else had the same concerns as you are having.
  3. What attracted your interest in becoming a patent agent? This is a general question. The answer gives my a lot of different things. First, it gives me something to think about, do I feel the same? Am I interested for the same reason? Secondly, it gives me reasons that I could further use as my reasons in interviews. Most people DO NOT say they were financially interested.
  4. How did you prepare for the patent bar exam and did you pass it before getting hired? The patent bar exam is a tough test and there are classes and books  written about the best way to prepare for the test. However, classes cost up to $2000 and the books are around $20-110. Thus, I want to know if the interviewees spent their money on the classes or if it is possible to use only the books to prepare. The second part of this question relates to the fact that most firms pay for their technical advisors to take the class. I want to know if the specific firm might pay and if I would be better of taking it before applying to firms. Looks like an innocent question but it is huge.
  5. Did you apply for any technical advisor positions? How many positions did you (if any) apply for before getting your current job? This question is a measurement of how many positions I might need to apply for before even having a chance. In most cases, interviewees knew someone within the company but others applied to 7 firms or more (10 is currently the record).
  6. Did you have do adept your research reading or writing when transitioning from academia to law? I have dropped this question from my list of things to ask. Most responses were vague, little or no change or mostly just changes that were associated with the career change, i.e. writing science talk to legalese, whatever that is.
  7. What was (if any) the hardest part of the transition from academia to law? The answer to this question warns me of the “dangers” that lie ahead and further allows me to prepare myself mentally for those dangers. Common responses involved billable hours and pressure.
  8. Any word of advice on preparing my application to law firms? Did you include examples of technical writing or peer-reviewed articles? This is a open window to show the interviewees your resume (but only if they ask for it). Get their feedback and listen to their comments. Remember to proof-read your resume (over and over) and get at least two others to read it over. Then read it again. The second part is more specific, since most vacancies ask for a writing sample. This again helps you to specifically focus your resume and application to the specific needs and requirements of the firm your interviewee works for.Next, I focus on the specific position and the firm. Here you need to do a lot of research. You do not want to ask obvious questions about the firm that can be found on its website. The most helpful link to find out about the firm and its expertise is NALP. Find your firm and look at the hiring trends etc. Below are just a few questions that I include about each specific firm.
  9. How many billable hours are expected for the certain position? This is important and gives you an idea what is expected. If you do not know what billable hours are, look here.
  10. Does the specific firm help have a tuition program for technical advisors/patent agents. Some do, others do not. Some expect you to go to law school (e.g. Finnegan LLP) and others do not.

These are just ideas to get you rolling. If you have questions that you think I missed, especially when applying for a technical advisor/patent agent position, please comment.

Top 5-Get over it!

Finish line, crossing, resume, employment, rejection, interview process

Dear readers,

I have a confession. I like the articles on Linkedin. They are free, motivational speeches from successful people (I wonder why none of the Featured writers are people actually looking for a job, such as myself, hmmm). I like the articles when they are exactly what I am thinking because they make me feel like I am on the right track. I like other articles because they tell a story about someone that claims that he/she was stuck in the same situation as myself. Then there are the lists. “Top 5 things how to ace an interview”, etc etc. These are all reruns of the same list that was written by someone with common sense. However, I am going to make a list of anything at least once a week. My lists however, do not always include motivational talk.

This list this week includes ways to get over the fact that your application was rejected.

1. Positive thoughts. Yeah, it sucks. Yes, it sucks worse because you had already imagined yourself as a happy camper at that work, dressed well, telling jokes by the coffee machine and being very successful. But you know what, you probably thought the same before you took your current job. Honestly, you hit a bump and you got roughed up but it can only get you better for the next application. Even diamonds need to be cut and polished.

2. Do no be embarrassed. Similar to a relationship breakup, we sometimes are afraid of telling people about our rejection. They might think that we are losers, that could not get an interview or a job. This is mostly because human beings are self-centered. We constantly believe that everyone are spending their brain power on us. Everyone and their uncles are thinking about us and changing their perspective of us every moment. Everyone are keeping us in check and monitoring our steps, failures and successes. Geez, they are not. It is just your head. Our friends and family hold us in higher regard than we do. Seek support and let them know that, yes you are disappointed and hurt but you will bounce back.

3. Get back on the dance floor. According to  love gurus, the best way to get over your ex, is to get back on the market. Spend an hour finding another interesting job, go and meet people, apply for positions (you should never stop doing that), get other people to read your resume. Get in the mix, now!

4. Get organized and working. Your work is sometimes left alone and unattended after focusing (reads obsessing) on a specific interview process for a long time. Get back into your job, even if you desperately want to get out of it. Why? Because this is going to do at least two important things: a) It is going to get your confidence back and b) it is going to get you a better resume. Both of which are helpful for your next interview.

5. Eat and exercise. No joke, this helps. It gets the negative thoughts out of your head. It pumps you full with happy enzymes. The best thing is to train for an event, 2K, 5K or 10K. This is extremely helpful to get things into perspective. Getting your dream job is just like a marathon. Few people can finish it without some preparation. You will have to train for it, starting smaller and than increasing. You will become tired. You will want to give up. But in the end, crossing that finish line will be worth every single victory.

Do you have another advice for me? Leave it in the comments. 

First big disappointment-MoFo rejection.

Rejected, job, resumes

Dear readers,

yesterday was a tough day. Not because I had to face someone or some challenge. It was mostly tough inside my head. I did not make it through MoFo’s strenuous interview process. The interview process was in four parts, starting with the common resume process, followed by a phone interview with one of the associates or the partners. If you made a good impression, you enter a writing contest where you need to summarize two patents (in my case it was the Myriad BRCA2 patent and a banana cutter). The last stage is the interview stage, where you are interviewed with two partners and the staff to see if you would be a good fit into the culture. I never made it to that step since my writing exercise was not up to MoFo’s standard. *Sad song.

Rejections are sometimes hard to swallow. Whatever the reason was (please comment the reason you did not get a job), your automatic thought is always:

“I am not good enough” or “I am not cut out for this.”

This is exactly where my head was yesterday, bouncing back and forth with those two to try to make sense out of it all. Trying to make myself feel better. Making myself face reality and face those two sentences head on. Make myself stop dreaming, because it hurts when they do not come true. It hurts. After the wrestling with my brain for the whole day, I realized something. I realized that I have two options. A) Just go with the flow, continue to sink and stop believing in my ability, eat more, exercise less, become unhealthy, start drinking Jack Daniels in the morning, stop showing up for work (ok enough, you know where this is heading) OR B)Realize that I need to do better to put my resume at the top, I need to write more efficiently and most of all, the only thing I need is to IMPROVE my system and training. I picked the latter since I did not have any Jack Daniels in the house.

 What would you teach your kids, if they were facing the same difficulty as you?

To give up or get dirty?

Informational Interview

Dear Reader,
I am going to briefly describe my planning before the an informational interview.

1. The Hunt
First, I identified law firm in my area, typically using google.com: “Biotechnology law firms”, “patent law biotechnology” etc. etc. Then I read over the staff, starting with partners and tried to determine if that partner had a) Finished their PhD before getting a job with the company (bonus points if that person entered law school during that time, indicating evening school), b) done biology related PhD and then if the partner had been a postdoc.
After partners, I would try to identify groups within the company such as Biotechnology Patent group and go through the entire list of associates and find someone that had a similar path to what I want to embark upon.

2. The Contact
To date, I have sent emails that are specifically directed at the person, no general emails! I read general emails like I read spam mail, I don’t! I do not expect to read general emails either.
I start by introducing myself first and state what I am doing and what I want to do.

Dear Mr. Partner,
My name is #insertname and I am a postdoctoral student in #Department at #University. I am looking into ways of using my scientific experience to enter patent law.

Then I describe why I choose this person for advice. The research you have done above (1. The Hunt) comes in handy for this sentence.

I noticed on #FirmsName website that we share a similar background in science and you have successfully made the transfer from the bench to the bar. Thus, I look to you for career advice.

Then I go into a bit more detail what my plans are. I want to try to show the person that I am serious and have put a lot of thought into this career path. You also want to have your path listed because if this person thinks that she would not be able to help you, you can save yourself and this person a lot of time. If that happens, you normally get a negative-positive reply such as: “I am not sure if I can help you but I know a person that might…”

My proposed path is to become a patent agent and ultimately a patent attorney, #InDetail

As for the final sentence, I try to make it a strong salespoint by reassuring this person that I mean business and that this person will not waste his/hers time by meeting me. In addition, I suggest to meet at anytime available and under different scenarios. Finally, do not forget to put the words INFORMATIONAL MEETING, because otherwise the person will be turned off by talking to someone that is going to beg for a job. Remember, this is not a meeting to get a job, this is a meeting to get insight into the position and ways for you to get a job. Again, NOT to get a job.

Thats it really, I am limiting my contacts at the moment due to work but I have had a 100% success rate using this. It is mostly about doing the background research about the people and the company. The last minute preparation for an informational interview is going to be my next post, Informational Interview Part 2.

Thanks for reading and please leave your suggestions in the comments.

Interview Questions

Dear Reader,
I had a job interview last friday. It was a presentation that was done online, with three of the executives of the company. This is a consulting company that is advertising for a PhD in Chemistry, Biology or Biochemistry. I do not consider consulting my favorite cup of tea but everyone needs to work. It will involve a lot of travel, which does not really excite me (nor my wife) and I went into the interview with a certain relaxed feeling. The presentation went smooth, it was mostly for them to see the i can efficiently and clearly explain complex technologies. I thought I did ok, at least enough to advance to the next step.
As a guidance, these were the questions that I was asked:
1. Why are you moving away from research and academia?
2. What kind of work do you think that this position requires?
3. What are the qualities that you think you have that are beneficial for this position?
4. General questions about my resume, such as why I left my previous job (since I left that job to join my current postdoc position, because of the prestige reputation of the university).
I also asked them several questions, just to get a feeling how I would feel about learning from these executives, how they interacted and to find out more about the work that I am expected to do. Also, i asked about the company’s 5-yr plan.
I thought the interview was really dry, no nitty gritty questions and honestly reminded my of hostage negations where neither party actually wanted to spook or frighten the other one.

Also, I am back on my meditation plan and what a difference. I can not even describe how much it is helping me. To thank them back, I will be helping the Ananda community as much as i can by volunteering. If you are stressed, try it out.

Also, the sequester (yes, I am talking about that thing you hear on Fox) is affecting myself badly as well as every scientist in the US. Just got an email from my funding agency stating that due to the sequester, they will not be able to pay out any funding until the issues are resolved. And at the same time, John Kerry gives Egypt $250M? Sorry but Disease > Egypt >Department of Defense airplane.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a good day/evening wherever you are…and whenever actually too.