Imagine a ballroom full of the smartest uber-geeks from around the world, the top three graduates from each high school over the past thirty years. Only today they aren’t talking about the science club, Star Trek, or today’s biology class. This morning they are standing in groups chatting, having known each other for years, dressed in corduroy jackets with patched elbows, long gray hair, poor social skills, and resumes four or five pages long. This was what I witnessed today.
Pfizer is downsizing after loosing a court battle last fall. They won’t be able to make a profit off of some serious investments for pharmaceuticals. These investments take decades to discover and explore. But now, 75% of the people in their labs are going to be out of work in a few months.
People who have spent a lifetime and a fortune in our countries best schools were wooed and cuddled into a top paying research job years ago. Now they are trying to fit in their best outfits and find something here in the area. They want to be near the university, make the same amount of money, have the same facilities and corporate culture, and want to be challenged intellectually doing it all.
That last part will be the hardest. As I stood all day at our company table, people came to me with their superior intellect and intimidating brainpower. They told me they were disappointed we were an IT company and not a biology company. I only had to ask two questions after getting their resume, “So, what are you looking for?” and “What kind of experience do you have?” It took many about twenty minutes to answer each of these questions.
I would smile and nod, say comforting yet neutral things, then explain we would follow up with them in the next two weeks.
There was a sense of superiority from many people, especially people who were older. Pfizer was their first and only job. They had only one other time in their life when they had to sell themselves, and those companies were swooning during their graduation.
I am glad to have had this experience with career fairs. It has given me a better sense of all the people I haven’t been meeting at tradeshows over the last decade. Above all it has built my ego to think of all these pompous ivory tower intellectuals, no matter how grateful I am or their work. Because I have skills and experience that can transfer to any industry while they are stuck doing one thing - one highly trained, very expensive, extremely exclusive thing that only two or three organizations in the world do.
So here are the rules of thumb:
- Resume should be one page, on nice paper, in English, no photos or graphs.
- Keep your conversation to the point of your expertise, what you want to do, and something memorable about yourself.
- Learn how to shake hands like a professional.
- Listen to Barney “Suit Up!”
- When you are talking to someone, young or old, smelly or fresh, ugly or hot, for the love of God talk to that person like your equal.
- Finally - don’t eat or drink and slop food all over the place when you want to impress someone. I don’t want to shake hands after you touch food or put your hand in your mouth.