Archive for the 'Career' Category

b5media Science and Health Channel is Live!

My dream of having a Science & Health Channel at b5media is finally a reality! Genetics and Health is part of it along with Veggie Chic and Diabetes Notes. This also means that I’ll assume the Science and Health Channel editorship and hand over the Women’s Channel to a very qualified Christina Jones, writer of eBeautyDaily.

b5media currently has a freeze on new blogger applications, but if you have a burning desire to write a science and/or health blog, please e-mail me at cottontimer@gmail.com. I’m particularly interested in developing blogs for men’s health, global health, and hard sciences like chemistry and physics.

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Reviving a Dead Resume

My resume/CV has been on its death bed ever since I finished my post-doc in 1999. We moved to Japan that year and feeling burnt-out of research and wanting to start a family, I decided not to look for a full-time research position. The angst that followed didn’t let up for almost a year.

During that first unemployed year, I worked on some freelance consulting projects and had a few scientific papers published that had started in the research pipeline several years past (that’s how long it takes for studies to go from research proposal to published papers). My friends’ resumes and CV’s were growing much more quickly than mine and I occasionally felt a twinge of regret.

Now it looks as if my resume will have enough energy to go dancing again. In this new phase of my career, I am starting to more rapidly accumulate experience in writing and editing that will hopefully serve me well both online and offline.

This week’s additions to my resume are:

1. Contributing blogger at eMothersOnline, a group blog written by over 10 mothers of all ages and from all walks of life. Our main purpose is to empower and encourage mothers. My introduction can be found in this archive of my posts to eMothersOnline (click on the title or comment links to see the full post).

2. Women’s Channel Science and Health Editor at b5media blog network. We are currently looking for blogs that focus on women’s interests and needs science and health. If you’d like to propose and/or write a blog or two, send me an e-mail at cottontimer AT gmail DOT com. Maybe we can help breathe some life into your resume too!

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Doing My Best at Any Price

In today’s world, few things are more prized than financial success. Stay-at-home moms (SAHM) know this well. People pay lip service to the tremendous contributions of SAHMs: we’re doing the most important job in the world, we’re shaping the future, yada yada yada. But I don’t believe they’re being sincere.

Every single person I meet brushes aside my mothering job and asks me what I do or “used to do.” And I feel like I have no good answer. If I tell them I’m a writer, I don’t think I’m being completely truthful because I’m really a blogger (with some forays into writing for print publications).

But if I say I’m a blogger, then they think it’s just a hobby if they even know what blogging is. Just today, my fellow b5media blogging friend Krissy warned me about becoming addicted to the Internet. She noticed how much I was posting and how (emotionally) invested I am in my blogs.

Where’s the line between being addicted and doing my job?

If I had a “real” job, no one would question spending ten hours a day in the office then bringing work home to do late at night or on the weekends. After all, I’d be getting paid big bucks (I’d hope!) so it’s expected.

When it comes to blogging, even Marv was surprised to hear that I’m trying to make a career out of it. It’s not as if I’m receiving a salary and what little money I make from ads is barely enough for a cup of coffee a day.

The early stages of professional blogging remind me of what Jennifer Niesslein and Stephanie Wilkson, editors of Brain, Child, faced when they first started their magazine.

From an interview in Literary Mama:


Stacey Greenberg, Interviewer: How do you balance work and motherhood? What does a typical workweek look like for you?


JN: When we came up with the idea for Brain, Child, my son was five months old, and I fit everything in during naps and evenings and weekends. You know, the classic part-time worker cobbling together of time. I’ll tell you, it’s a lot easier now that my son is in kindergarten. I work 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. My husband pulls his parenting weight around here, so if I have to catch up on things over the weekend or in the evenings, I do. The workweek varies depending where we are in the production schedule. It gets more intense the closer we are to finishing an issue. So, in a nice, calm period like now, I’m working only on the weekdays while he’s in school; in a month, I’ll be heading up to the attic after dinner for another shift.

SW: It has become vastly easier for me now that a) we’ve moved the business office out of my house and b) both my children are in school from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. every day. In the old days, my schedule was a lot more chaotic and a lot more had to be done at night and on weekends. Now I work from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. a few days a week and 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. a few days, depending on whose turn it is to pick up the kids, mine or my husband’s. I really value that structure. Yet at the same time, I think the best thing about owning your own business is having the flexibility to work when and how you want. My family spends six weeks in the spring in England each year with my husband’s family and I work from there. There’s never a need to ask anyone for time off to volunteer at our kids’ schools or to just bum around with them. That’s a great, great thing.

Is problogging any less legitimate than starting my own magazine or any other venture that doesn’t reap immediate financial rewards?

I may never make a six-figure income from blogging. Yet, I will continue to do my best.
I work hard and hope my efforts will be recognized. My passion and commitment depend on more than just financial reward. Because if it were otherwise, I would never have become a mother (or a blogger).

ETA: If I gave the impression that Krissy wasn’t being supportive, I’m sorry. She was just looking out for my sanity during one of my snowball sessions.

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I Am A Dot Com

Yes. I am now www.hsienlei.com. The domain is being forwarded to here and I also got a spanking new e-mail address at my own domain to go with it.

Being a dot com is nothing new. Almost everyone has their own domain name nowadays and if you don’t already, you’d better snap one (or more) up before somebody else does. Like most people, I decided to register my own name first. Luckily, my name is relatively unique so it was still available.

Consider this my attempt to hang out a shingle for my problogging business (now four blogs and counting). It takes more than a domain name to establish credibility and professionalism, but I think it’s a good start.

ETA: In case anyone is interested, Yahoo! is offering domain registration for only $2.99 a year – http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/. (And, no, I don’t get a kickback if you sign up there. Although I should look into it….) They have good customer service too. I messed up my DNS settings and they got back to me within a few hours and fixed it.

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ProBlogging: Feasible or Not?

Before I joined the About Weblogs Network four months ago, I was only vaguely aware that some people were making a living out of blogging. Like most of you, I was blogging for fun and my own edification – processing the information overload that threatens to overwhelm me every day.

Starting the Genetics and Public Health Blog allowed me to go a step further. I was finally motivated to get back to speed on my field and had the chance to share it with others. What a great combination.

Because the About Weblogs Network is for-profit, network bloggers are encouraged to look for sources of revenue via Google Adsense (not allowed here at LiveJournal) and other affiliate programs. While doing research on making money online, I came across Darren Rowse’s blog, ProBlogger. It opened my eyes to the potential of blogging.

Darren’s been blogging for over two years and has been able to earn well over $10,000 a month from a combination of almost 20 different blogs. So he’s undoubtedly an expert when it comes to problogging.

Yesterday, Darren wrote about how to decide when it’s time to blog full-time as a main source of income. After reading it, I realized that problogging is probably not for me. I’m not interested in writing on a variety of different topics so as to diversify my income stream and I don’t think I could crank out over 20 blog entries a day like he does.

Just when I was starting to get real, I find that both Cotton-Pickin’ Days and the Genetics and Public Health Blog were included in the Global Roundups* at Harvard’s Global Voices Online. It’s both flattering and a bit disturbing. With every small bit of recognition, I get more confused. What’s the blogosphere trying to tell me? Should I get serious and stop fantasizing about having an online career or should I actually consider it?

Only time will tell.

~~~~~
*From the Global Roundup post: “Cottontimer is a Chinese-American who keeps two blogs to occupy her hours as full-time mum in Vietnam….”

The comment I left to the post there: “BTW, I just want to point out that full-time moms already have their hours ‘occupied’. Maybe you didn?t mean it this way, but I resent the implication that full-time moms don?t already have their hands full and need to blog in order to do something productive with their day besides just sit around.”

NB: More than a couple of people have suggested that I have too much time on my hands if I’m able to blog so much on more than one blog (my personal daily goal is three posts on the Genetics and Public Health Blog, one post at the Children’s Books, Toys and Things Blog, and one post here). To them I say: Read ProBlogger and see if you still think bloggers, blogs, and related services aren’t going to be huge economic successes.

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Career-Boosting Blogs

When I quit full-time work in 1999, I found it difficult to maintain the discipline needed to keep on top of the latest in my field. Even with consulting and editing gigs, I was focusing only on selected knowledge specific to the project at hand. I didn’t have the big picture in mind.

Writing the Genetics and Public Health Blog has galvanized me into paying attention to the latest developments in genomics. Each day, I scan the news for interesting research, analyze its worth, and develop my own views. This mind exercise is valuable in and of itself. The resulting blog is a showcase for my analytic and writing abilities and proof that I haven’t been in a cocoon.

Business Week (June 6, 2005) thinks websites and blogs can be an important part of a job seeker’s portfolio:

Just be sure that your Web site looks professional and your blog, or Web log, is smart, otherwise you will have defeated the whole purpose. Also, know that a Web site or blog will never replace a well-written resume and a stellar work history.
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Blogs are also being touted as a strategy for career enhancement. The idea is for professionals to start blogs that focus on topics of interest to people in their fields. The goal is to position yourself as an expert in the field–at least amont people who read blogs.

A blog is actually better for the career than a Web portfolio, which is just another form of the resume, said Jeff Kaye, CEO, of recruiting firm Kaye/Bassman in Dallas.

A good blog can show that you are up to date on the latest ideas and news in your industry, he said. A resume or Web portfolio only highlights your past accomplishments.
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Again, you want to keep the Web portfolio professional. That means no family photos or personal information beyond your name, e-mail address and work history.

The Genetics and Public Health Blog is my professional persona but it’s not hard to find my personal one as well. Regardless, I hope the person I represent on these web pages is someone that companies will want to hire.

Pointer from Web Logs at About.com.

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Who’s hiring?

I’ve been out of the job market for so long that I didn’ t know college students were making hiring decisions now.

…another study, led by a professor at Ohio State University, suggests that women who do get married and have children will see their job prospects diminish. Two hundred undergraduates were asked to make hiring and promotion recommendations for a law firm based on r?sum?s that differed only as to sex and whether the applicant was married with children. The result: women with children were less likely to be hired and promoted than either men or childless women, whereas men with children were actually favored in hiring over their childless male counterparts.

~The Atlantic, April 2005

Common sense would indicate that these results have a grain of truth. But with this attitude, companies will lose out on a tremendous source of brain power and abilities. Fortunately, some are catching on.

Allstate’s policy toward working mothers won the company recognition from a national magazine. Working Mother magazine named Allstate to its top eight list of best companies for women of color with children. Allstate topped the list, which also included JP Morgan Chase and Co., Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, American Express Co. and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

~NBC5i.com, June 2, 2005

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“Working mothers, in my opinion, provide much higher results with flexible hours than average guys do who could be there 60 hours a week,” says Donald Murray, chairman and CEO of Resources global Professionals Inc.

The CEO says he has observed “that no one can juggle things or multi-task like a professional woman with children. But many employers don’t acknowledge that.”

{snip}

Indeed, “motherhood has a positive impact on women’s ability to lead,” writes Moe Grzelakowski in her book, “Mother Leads Best: 50 Women Who Are Changing the Way Organizations Define Leadership.”

“Motherhood has helped women executives change from good leaders into great ones,” the author says.

“Children transform ultrahigh-achieving women, leavening their highly focused, intensely driven, tough-minded traits with character and compassion. … (They) become softer, yet stronger; more confident, yet more humble; more directed, yet more tolerant. All in all, children not only give them a greater capacity to lead, but they stimulate a greater capacity to love.

“Leadership, coupled with love, is very powerful.”

~Lansing State Journal, May 30, 2005

One of the skills I’ve developed as a mother is the ability to work with constant interruptions and a little voice in my ear demanding something every other second (like now). Shouldn’t be too different in the workplace.

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Tracking Changes

For over a year in Japan, I earned a decent amount of money editing science manuscripts. Without the “tracking changes” function on Microsoft Word, I wouldn’t have been able to find an Internet-based editing job like that.

I applied for the job by fax and accepted the e-mail offer without speaking to anyone at the publishing company on the phone or going through a face-to-face interview. They e-mailed the manuscripts to me and paid me via bank-to-bank direct transfer. I only spoke to someone at the office when they owed me money.*

This week, I helped edit a manuscript for another former boss. Once again, I relied solely on MS Word. Since my printer is still in the box from our move to Vietnam, I didn’t even print out a hard copy.

Editing directly on the computer requires intense concentration; I had to take a break after every page. All the deletions, insertions, rearrangements, funky lines, and boxes were in blue and covered the manuscript like Pascal lines. On my second time through the manuscript, my brain was frazzled from doing some serious contortions. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for the authors to see their manuscript all electronically marked-up.

Despite the many benefits of being able to work online with colleagues around the world, I would still prefer to work together in the same physical environment. Working online is exhausting because it requires more imagination in the absence of spontaneous give-and-take. Also, I believe that moving towards a society where everyone telecommutes from their own home would reduce our humanity.

Of all the things I miss about working, bantering with smart people on a daily basis tops the list. Nowadays, I work in isolation. And I don’t like it.

*One of the drawbacks to this arrangement is having no accountability. By the time I quit, they still owed me several hundred dollars. Because I didn’t live in Tokyo or anywhere near and had never signed a real contract, I had no recourse except to refuse further editing assignments which they had the audacity to continue sending me.

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Job – Work or Career?

Thoughts of returning to work crosses my mind frequently. While we’re overseas away from the U.S. and Singapore, there’s no immediate need for me to find a job. But as soon as we return to either of these countries, it would be nice for us to have a second income.

Honestly speaking, even though it may also be arrogant of me, my pedigree and contacts should open plenty of doors. I will still have to do some research and figure out whether I want to go back to epidemiologic research or explore other areas of interest like regulatory affairs or science writing. I know I will probably have to mail out lots of C.V.’s, make lots of follow-up phone calls, go on lots of interviews, and receive lots of rejections. But the job hunting process doesn’t concern me. What I’m really worried about is choosing between working purely for the money or working to advance my career.

What will probably be best for our family is a drone’s job where I can punch in at 9 and punch out at 5 or at the latest, 6. That way, I can still devote all the rest of my outside office hours to Marv and Stephen. But this kind of job must be a total bore–that’s why I burned out of research and working in the first place. Moving from country to country imposed too many career breaks and I had no hope of finding an intellectually stimulating position where I was more than just an English editor (actually, a couple of part-time jobs I had after my post-doc did involve editing and teaching English).

A career-making job would be one where I could be the leader sometimes or all the time, help decide what projects were worthwhile, and had some decision-making responsibilties. But I’m not naive. This kind of responsibility also creates stress and demands beyond office hours. Even if I don’t mind putting in the time and effort, I am sure my family would resent it. It would be impossible trying to define the boundary between two opposing passions.

I’ve never had to be both mother and employee. Maybe it’s not as difficult as I’m imagining especially because Stephen will be older and more independent (all bets are off if we have another baby). Chances are, I’ll end up feeling guilty all the time just like many other parents.

Whatever kind of job I eventually have, the biggest challenge will be to convince everyone at work and at home that I am giving my all with no reservations or qualifications.

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