Tuesday, November 25, 2008

All these networking sites…

I wonder, after looking at Nature network, Facebook, BioMedExperts and Linkedin, if all these networking sites really work? Do people find new “connections”? Do they get a job easier? Or is it just more of a “virtual friendship thingy”? You know, like having 10 pairs of pants in the closet although you only really use four of them. Two are too small, one pair is falling apart and three of them are actually too big nowadays!?! But would you throw them away? No, “you never know” and it feels safer to have them there. Like you feel that you have a lot of clothes, albeit never use them. Like having a bunch of ‘connections’ although you wouldn’t tell many of them your inner thoughts.

When I started using Facebook (later than others, earlier than some) I was struck by the whole “should I add X as a friend?” dilemma. Should I accept anyone who asked for being my friend? (The more friends you have, the more popular you are.) Or should I only accept people who I really know and care about? (Hello, you only have maximum 15 friends?) I ended up somewhere in between. I accepted old high school people, who asked me. And then got surprised when they didn’t say a word, even after 10 months. Why add me then?!, I thought.

I have kept the number of “fun party pictures of me being very drunk” to a minimum. (Mostly this is easy since I tend not to turn up on party photos.) And the few party photos you can see me at, I’m not [that] drunk at (nor good looking). So, I think Facebook is fairly safe for “people at companies that I would like to work at” but I view FB as a social interaction, not primarily a “networking in order to get a job”.

Linkedin is a bit different. More professional (less funny applications) and just data and almost like having a CV posted with some more freedom to add and take some stuff out. I did get an email a few months back from a head hunter who found me on Linkedin… but it didn’t lead anywhere but at the time it got me happy since that was the first time a headhunter had let me know that I had an interesting and good CV. It also gave me some new thoughts on what I should present on Linkedin and what to write as “goals” and “achievements”.

BioMedExperts leads me to think “wow, I have few papers” and “wow, I have a paper with BigWig who has published 145 papers”. I don’t really know what to do with it, but now I am there so it seems like I can just see what happens in the future. I know that you are suppose to be able to write emails and interact with other people in your field, but I am so terribly shy sometimes so that won’t happen…. At least not until February when my first author paper from my post doc is supposed to be published (as if it would lead to a major difference?). Then I might get a bit better profile than now… you know, all those different bars that show how much of an expert you are in different fields?!

And then it’s Nature Network. I like NN a lot. I mostly like the idea of reading people’s blogs and the forums where you can find different articles and new science etc. sometimes I fall into the whole “I want to live in London/Boston so I could meet all these people”. Sometimes I’m just envious that some of them write really eloquent blog posts. And sometimes I’m just happy that I can write some small comments back and have a break in my experiments during the day. I am not sure that I dare use it as a “Hi, I saw your profile on NN and was wondering if you might have an idea about this that I am working on since I am working on an closely related research” (But my, I have been tempted big time. And maybe even asking “can I come by next time I am in town and have a coffee?”.)

Where am I going with all this?! Well, mainly it feels like a bit of a strange thing, this with all these networks… (one of the reasons I haven’t jumped into Second Life or twitter or something similar.) I am friends/contacts/connection to a number of people on each place. They aren’t the same, although the different circles overlap and I am a bit curious to see what kind of Venn diagram I would get out of it. Especially since NN and BiomedExp are mainly scientists; Linkedin has a bit wider net and Facebook the widest one, for me at least. I still wonder if the connections on Linkedin will help in the future – “hey, I saw that you know X – who’s a good friend of mine – and I am looking for a job in your sector. Would you be willing to meet up with me?!”

I guess I should remember what happened earlier this year when I did exactly this to a good friend of mine. He is older, more established, than I am in a sector adjacent to me. I looked through his connections, found three interesting names (working at places where I kind of wanted to work). Ponied up and emailed my friend, asking if he would mind talking to his friends about best way to approach the job market in their companies. Slam dunk. Not only was he happy to talk to his friends, he was happy to help me by giving them my CV and telling them how wonderful I am… and then I contacted them and got more info from them about “how to approach their bosses/HR”.

Well, I didn’t get a job [yet] in their companies. It was more the fact that they couldn’t hire people than that I wasn’t interesting to them (not to mention the fact that I was on the other side of the planet and didn’t have a fixed date when I was coming back…). At least that is what they told me, and considering that they emailed me suggestions and other people to contact about jobs, I believe them.

Which leads me to my final paragraph. I know/knew my friend very well so I didn’t have that much of a problem asking him, but how close do you have to be in order to ask? I have heard, so many times that I would be a millionaire if I’ve gotten a cent for each time, “just call them up and ask for 5 minutes of their time”. I don’t know about you, but for me that is soooo scary and also a bit pushy. I am currently looking at some companies where I think I would like to work and am therefore trying to understand how on earth I will get my foot in the door. To be fair, all the people that I have met/interviewed with/talked on the telephone after meeting them have given me very good feedback and letting me know that I am an interesting person who they want to keep an eye out for. But how do I get there? (To the personal meeting.) Especially since all the companies keep their employer list securely hidden behind the doors of HR and if there is one thing I don’t believe it’s the “Application letter to pass through HR” and I can’t really call the switch board and say “let me talk to the person in charge of X”, can I?!

And I know some of the names since I have done the search on Linkedin and found a few names of people working at some companies here in the city where I would like to work. The only question I guess, is how much guts to I have?! Or would it be very strange and pushy and rather not an interesting person at all who called/emailed?!

With that question and ponderings I leave to go out and make the best of an ELISA on my bench…..

Monday, November 24, 2008

PM's wife or President's wife - and careers

The New York Times about Cherie Blair's comment to Michelle Obama and her new life as the First Lady. And they state “Her European counterpart have taken a different route…” pointing to Cherie Blair and Carla Sarkozy*.

Well, the president’s wife is not the same as the pm’s wife. Not really. The head of state is the Queen…. Not the PM. But sure, we could argue that for a second. Cherie Blair worked as a lawyer when her husband was PM. They also had a number of kids. And it wasn’t as strange that she worked while having kids.

Here in America, it is not as common to work and have kids. One kid maybe, but not several.

And I challenge anyone to see that the main problem with Michelle Obama “putting her career on hold while Barack, her husband, is President” is that they can not shift back afterwards since the kids will have grown up so there will be another issue.

It’s like in Sweden, when the four parties in Government chose their four people to work together. Of course all of them were men. The second person in each party (!) was a woman, but see that didn’t really help now when the four first people were to get together….

It is the same thing with this. It doesn’t matter if Mrs Obama chooses to stay at home while her husband is working as a president (I find it fairly reasonable to be honest, for the kids at least). The problem is that there aren’t exactly that many women who get to make her husband’s choice… or husbands to make her choice.

I though about a similar thing last week, after being cornered with four older women who were all talking about loosing weight and becoming “rejuvenated” and since I was not only the youngest but also clearly the heaviest, I sat quiet and listened. Afterwards I realized a sad thing, I don’t think their main problem of finding a husband (as two of them really want to) is their weight. Nor their age. No, there was something much more disconcerting that entered my mind – something fueled by one of those Swedish investigations in Swedish… “Highly educated women have a harder time finding a significant other”. You can exchange highly educated women with “high income women” or “high performance women”, it still holds ‘true’ to the polls. The richer you are as a women, the more successful, the harder to find a man for you. For men it is reversed….

Why? Well, something to do with ‘the statement that men want to feel in charge’/in power? And that women want to feel taken care of? I don’t know, but in general and with society today, I think it is a valid point. (Or maybe not valid but something that rings true and accurately describes influences today.)

The funny part may be that I have a bunch of men around of me who state “I wouldn’t mind being a stay at home man/dad”. When it comes to reality though, I am not sure they would really do it. Why? As some of those men, who said all those things and then the children came and they had an option to stay at home and be the “stay at home dad”…. And it didn’t happen as much, partly since it was really hard work and “I need to feel needed at work”, partly because they realized that it was nice to earn money on your own and not live of your wife.

That said I know that I wouldn’t like being a stay at home mother. Or a “kept woman”. I like earning my own money, feeling that some of these are mine and I can decide on my own what to do with them. I guess I might be a bit paranoid about being left without any money, 401Ks or things? Or maybe I just like making my own job and being outside of the house?

And since I am not yet as old as the women I sat next to last week I might be able to make it work? (It would probably help if I lost some weight and kept the wrinkles away from my face.) And the other main difference between us was that even if I had the highest degree, i.e. being the highest educated woman around the table, I probably was the least earning one…. With my meager post doc salary it is not too much to guess since they were all lawyers/CEOs/managers or like that.

Ah well, I’ll get back to thinking about Michelle Obama and really hope that she gets a good job when she gets out of the White house. And that it is interesting that Hillary was the first First Lady who had a career prior to entering the White house. Maybe that can make us all realize exactly how few years things have been a “reality” and why it is needed not to stop working for “everyone can make an individual choice but it is not individual until it is really a choice”.

This woman will now reenter the lab and try to make yet another experiment, which will bring her closer to that coveted “getting out of post doc card” ;)

*I left Carla Sarkozy out of this mainly because she/they don't have children and are recently married... most 'problems' arrive when the children arrive. That is when the idea of "someone being h0ome with your offsrping" is a crucial one. For obvious reasons.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another anniversary

So, maybe most important for me as a European – 11 November 1918 – 90 years ago was the Armistice (of Germany or Compiègne) of the First World War. By some called The War. And by some called “the start of it all”….

In my book, The war with the ending in the influenza pandemic – The Spanish Flu, the start of the time when more than 60 million people of the population of Europe died within 5 years. (Estimate 50 millions during the Spanish flu 1918-1919and 16 millions in the war 1914-1918… and add on the people in Russia during their Freedom war and the Finnish liberation….) Like the plague in the Dark Ages, but different. One major factor that the pandemic hit so hard was the war. The war had left people very fragile and susceptible for infections. And of course, we did not have the antibiotics* yet.

And the times directly following this was the “happy 20ies”, at least in the Allied countries. The situation a bit different in Germany, that gave away most of its assets as it was “the main cause of the war” according to the Versailles treaty, and in all of them when the 1929 hit low bottom.

My country was starting the urbanization at this time. We might not have been active part in the First World War but we had our own small revolution in 1914 with “the Courtyard Crisis” [Borggårdstalet] where our King made the last intervention in Parliamentary politics. (He is still Head of State, but can not interfere in politics….) and we had some people dying in the pandemic, although we weren’t part of the war.

I am digressing. What I wanted to remember, apart from the appalling images of the trenches and the staggering number of [young] men dying, is that in the aftermath of it all, something very important happened. Important to the point that Europe stood before a new world war within 20 years from the ending of the old, the countries were not only suffering from a financial crisis and economic harsh time but also lacking in people and having a tough time with hope**.

And at the moment we are waiting for a pandemic (it is overdue, should have been here a few years back), some countries (like the US and UK) have been fighting in wars that have put a toll on both economies as well as people, the financial crisis (I don’t really have to explain that one) and the decreasing amount of antibiotics working against our most common bacteria to cause lethal diseases… a dystopian cocktail. And on top of that, a hefty dose of scapegoats, or Boogey men, to throw into the mix.

I think it might be the best to happen if we learned from our past, the history, and really tried not to repeat the same sad mistakes again.

Then I remember the folly of it, since I am a scientist who do actually repeat the same thing over and over again and do sometimes see a different result. That of course, is what we in science call, things that happen that we can not explain. I do not think that it is wise to apply it to the outside world and expect the same result. So far history has shown me that repeating mistakes only leads to even bigger mistakes in the long run.

With that I will go back to trying to understand why the experiment I repeated did not give the same results as expected….

*It is important to remember though, that even in this day and age – with antibiotics and all the treatments available in the world – the mortality during influenza seasons and complications like secondary pneumonia is still fairly high. And add on top of that, the antibiotic resistance spreading and we might not be so convinced that we are in good hands the next time the pandemic influenza comes around.

**I don’t necessary think that the President Elect will make all the promises he made, nor that he can but the idea of making people believe in themselves, in their country and the future – that might not be a bad thing at all. Hope instead of Fear. Not a bad thing…

Sunday, November 09, 2008

problems with mac.

if anyone knows how I can copy and paste text from Pages into Blogger.... I'd be extatic.

As of now, I can only write directly into this window but not copy and paste from another source on my Imac. Annoying is just the first name. THe text I past end up "underneath" this post window and there it disappears. Very strange.

Anyone know how to do this?