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Job Seekers Get Advice at Photonics West

Photonics.com
Feb 2011
One of several professional development programs at Photonics West this year was “Getting a Job in 2011 and Beyond,” a panel discussion held for the benefit of employment seekers of all stripes.

Held in conjunction with the SPIE Job Fair, which itself was more successful than any in many years, the discussion provided expertise on job search tactics from people directly involved in the hiring process. The participant included Paige Lawson, HR specialist at Exotic Electro Optics in Murrieta, Calif.; Laurie Morgus, head of marketing and communications at Thorlabs in Newton, N.J.; Suzanne Krinsky, head of human resources at Daylight Solutions Inc. in San Diego; and Paul Pernambuco-Wise, senior research scientist at Oceanit Laboratories Inc. in Honolulu.

Lawson and Krinsky agreed right away that job seekers should send résumés to a company’s human resources department, even if they would rather deal directly with the manager making the hiring decisions. Keeping the paperwork flowing through HR, they said, is most efficient for them. Morgus, however, thought that it was okay to contact the hiring manager directly, because if the candidate is strong, the manager would bring HR into the loop eventually.

When asked about how to assemble a résumé, Lawson noted that many people send ones that do not reflect the skills the job posting required. She said that people should research each target company thoroughly and use the job posting to highlight any skills they have that match closely. Krinsky agreed, noting that she has seen beautiful cover letter delineating skills that closely match the job description, only to find that the included résumé was so generic she couldn’t find the same information.

The panelists were somewhat split on the question of the level of degree one should have before heading into the employment market. Morgus said that Thorlabs prefers people with a PhD over those with master’s degree – mainly because of the hands-on experience they acquire. Krinsky noted that Daylight Solutions pulls PhDs for science positions and people with master’s degrees for engineering ones. Pernambuco-Wise also observed that PhDs tend to have better writing skills and that companies often will require writing samples. The panel also noted that PhDs are more accustomed to dealing with funding challenges than graduates with master’s degrees.

Lawson, to the contrary, noted that even those with associate’s and bachelor’s degrees can find the right match. Her company recently hired a promising person with an associate's degree, for example, and it is helping him build up his educational credentials alongside his new regular duties. The panelists also encouraged applicants to strive for senior or “lead” positions, so long as they feel their skills match the requirements.

“In the end, it doesn’t hurt to send (your) résumé,” Pernambuco-Wise said, “If you have the skills and the confidence, you are the senior guy.”

When asked by an audience member which general traits are sought after, the panelists offered a long list. Ambition, passion, people skills and integrity were the primary characteristics mentioned. Another, highlighted by Pernambuco-Wise, was that people entering and working in any technical or scientific field should be well read in many fields, not just their own.

Lynn Savage, Features Editor


GLOSSARY
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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