Career Workshop Day 10/16/04

      by Elaine Yamaguchi, originally published in The Vortex, 11/04




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The Career Assistance and Transition Group (CAT) and the Employment Committee along with the Women Chemists Committee (WCC) of the California Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS) recently co-sponsored a Career Workshop Day on October 16th with the St. Mary’s College, School of Economics and Business Administration.  The interactive career workshop was led by veteran presenter Dorothy Rodmann from the ACS Department of Career Services of Washington, D.C., and Marinda Wu, the California Section Local Section Career Program Coordinator.  This Negotiations Workshop, which is usually offered only at the National ACS Meetings, was brought to our local section for the first time.


On the sprawling campus of St. Mary’s College in Galileo Hall, students from the School of Economics and Business Administration and ACS members participated in negotiations strategies as presented by Dorothy Rodmann.  She is one of 55 career consultants for the ACS and was present in the early stages of development of this program.  Dorothy opened with a question.  She wanted the audience to think of a recent negotiation they had carried out, and a few people described their negotiation of the week for the class.  Negotiation skills are almost a necessity with most scientists working on teams with other people these days.  In all cases, negotiation was defined as a process to get agreement between two parties.  It might also be a technique to resolve differing opinions or ideas.  She pointed out that factors that influence behavior and thinking such as economic, cultural, moral, ethical, values, and ethnicity would have an effect on the negotiation strategies used by one individual but not another.  She described how the type of communication response affects the negotiation outcome, meaning that there is a response continuum spanning the range of Overly Submissive to Overly Aggressive, and everything in between.  She said that no point on this continuum is magic.  It is vital to realize how fragile the situation is that one is attempting to negotiate.  The placement on the continuum scale is a reflection of the risk a person is willing to take on a particular issue, or the tradeoffs he or she is willing to make.  Following Dorothy, Marinda described the typical behavior of the overly submissive, the assertive, and the overly aggressive person on the job and during a job interview.  Marinda pointed out that in today’s very tight job market only 3-5% of chemists who apply for jobs in industry get a job offer at the end of the interview day.


Assuming that a person actually receives a job offer at the end of the day, then one begins the negotiation process.  Dorothy Rodmann pointed out that there are three major negotiation processes:  the soft, hard, and the assertive.  In the soft process the individual caves in and implies that he or she does not want to confront or participate in any real negotiation.  In the hard process the individual is very much an aggressor with “my point of view is correct and you’re wrong,” a style that is useful when one is buying a car.  The Assertive process was designed by Harvard Business School to sustain relationships and compromise.  The method is divided into five main activities:  1) separate people from the problem, 2) interest identification and exploration, 3) create options for mutual gain, 4) use objective criteria, and 5) have your best alternative to a negotiated agreement in mind; that is, if the individual decides to reject the offer, he or she knows what other alternatives are possible.