Friends on the Inside

by Julie Vick

If you plan to apply for a job at a company or organization where a friend works, think carefully about how to “use” that relationship in a positive way.

It might be very helpful to ask your friend for information about the department or division as you prepare to submit an application or for an interview as you prepare for an interview. If the friend mentions to others that you’ve asked, no harm is done, because your question shows that you are trying to prepare thoroughly.

Once you’ve had your interview but haven’t heard anything, it’s difficult to know what’s really happening. If several weeks go by and you haven’t been contacted there are several possibilities: they haven’t finished interviewing; a reference said something to give the hiring manager pause; or you presented yourself well and your references are positive but you’re simply up against some very stiff competition. Even though your friend might be able to give you some insight into the process you should avoid being a pest and above all, don’t say anything negative about those who interviewed you.

Once an offer is made, however, think hard before involving the potential colleague in a salary negotiation. If it’s a very good friend in the same department, you might ask how flexible the department tends to be in negotiating offers, but leave it at that. For example, the friend may have done a poor job of negotiating, realizes it, and now finds him or herself in the awkward position of advising a new colleague about how to get paid a higher salary! If the friend is in a different department, the situation is less awkward.

Employees develop loyalty to their employer and, particularly in tough times when people want to hold on to their jobs, they don’t want to do anything that could be perceived as disloyal. As a rule of thumb, if you have to ask whether you could trust someone with information about your job search, you probably don’t know the person well enough to assume their loyalty would be to you, rather than to their employer.

“Makes ‘Em Laugh:” A Comic Strip a Day Gets the Dissertation Written

by Julie Vick

"Piled Higher and Deeper" by Jorge Cham
"Piled Higher and Deeper" by Jorge Cham

Are you deep in the middle of writing your dissertation and feel you are far removed from normal life?   Or might you be an undergrad wondering what graduate school is really like (or at least want to appreciate the funny side of academic endeavors)?  If so, take a break and have a laugh with Piled Higher and Deeper, a comic strip written about life in the trenches of graduate student-hood.  Jorge Cham, the author of Piled Higher and Deeper got his PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University, and was a full-time Instructor and researcher at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) from 2003-2005.    His strips have been collected into three published books and a fourth is due out soon.  Jorge spoke at Penn last year to an overflowing room of more than 200 people.

If you’re a first-time reader, there’s a page to check where you can find out about the characters and link to the most popular strips.

Not only are the comics themselves great to read but so is the fan mail:

“Oh God, it hurts! It’s all so true, and so evil! I can’t tell whether I should be laughing or crying in sympathy” -Chemistry grad from Caltech

“Your comic strip rocks. I’ve decided not to go to grad school.” -Elect. Eng. undergrad from Yale U.

“Everybody in my lab loves your work. The songs help soothe the hurt when my experiments fail and I think about the next 6 yrs here” -Microbiology grad from NYU

Give yourself the gift of laughter and spend a little time with PHD!