Six Degree of Separation and Social Networking

November 24, 2008

“Six degrees of separation” suggests that everyone on Earth can be connected to everyone else in no more than six steps.  In that vein, the Australian documentary “How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer” traces the development of network science.  There are many implications that can be applied to this theory.  The internet, power grids, transportation networks, disease and the human cell all follow the same principles and design as our own networks of people.


This documentary is a powerful 60 minutes that should be experienced.  I suggest you take the time to watch the documentary as it make a compelling case that small worlds exist and the world is smaller than we think.  Everyone can reach anyone with just a few steps.  I suggest you take the time to watch the documentary and think about how this can relate to your employment situation. 


Networking is instrumental when conducting a job search.  It’s thru the networking process that you will have the most success in securing employment.  As a job seeker, you will want to find that job, that is not advertised or what is called the “hidden job market”.  About 75% percent of available jobs can be found in the hidden job market.  Employers are most likely to hire thru referrals or someone they know.    


You can increase the effectiveness of your job search just by reaching out to the people you know and asking for references.  Everyone knows at least 200 people with one degree of separation would allow you to reach 12,000 people and so on.  Networking sites such as LinkedIn and Face book are examples of networking thru association. 


A good way to start your job search is by making a list of everyone you know and let them know you are out searching for work.  You never know who those people will know.  By reaching out, people will instinctually want to assist and will make the effort. 


Studying networks will help you to understand that events are not isolated but the human race really does depend on each other.  We live in a society that is interrelated on many levels and yet we only notice when something goes wrong.  If you can understand this then you can understand network science is the foundation to the 21st century and our survival. 


The bottom line is to get out there, talk to your friends and relatives, and attend networking groups and association events.  Let everyone you know that you are looking for a job and ask for assistance.  Your goal should be to make at least one connection during the event that could be your ticket to a new job.  Remember, all you need is one job. 

This article was written by Liane H. Gould, Manager of Career Services of the ACS Department of Career Management and Development.


November 12, 2008

A native of northern China, Donghong Sun graduated with a BS in Chemistry from the University of Beijing in 1992 and moved to the United States to pursue her PhD in Chemistry at Columbia University. After graduating from Columbia, Sun conducted postdoctoral work a Rutgers University and landed a position working on pesticide formulation for Rohm and Haas. She decided to leave industry after her first child was born. Following a discussion about Rider University’s Graduate-Level Teacher Certification Program (GLTP) with the mother of one of her daughter’s classmates, Sun decided to pursue a teaching career.

Currently in her second year as a chemistry teacher at Montgomery High School in Skillman, Sun is one of hundreds of second-career seekers who have participated in the Rider University’s GLTP. Graduates who have completed all the requirements of an approved program in teacher education are eligible to receive a New Jersey Certificate of Eligibility with Advanced Standing, which authorizes the individual to seek and accept offers of employment in New Jersey schools. After a year of mentorship on the job in a New Jersey school, the certificate becomes valid for the lifetime of its holder.

“The Rider program came so highly recommended and it opened up a whole new way of thinking about teaching for me,” recalls Sun. “I like the fact that the program puts the student at the center of active learning versus sitting passively taking notes which was the norm when I was a student,” Sun added.

“There is certainly a shortage in science teachers and we are trying to bridge the gap,” stated Sandra Alberti, Director of the Office of Math and Science Education in New Jersey, “We recognize the need for our students to have a strong foundation in life sciences in order to contribute to the future well being of the economy. That’s why we are promoting best practices in math and science education and have already mandated that New Jersey students must now take biology as one of the core sciences courses in high school.”

The primary goal of the Office of Math and Science Education is to strengthen skills of all students, increase the number of math and science graduates from colleges and universities and develop initiatives that will increase the number of certified math and science teachers. “Ultimately, our goal is to develop a world class workforce by assisting students and job seekers in obtaining the skills and education that are needed in a competitive economy,” added Alberti. Rider University’s GLTP program is just one of the programs that encourage individuals to pursue teaching careers in math and science. Launched in 2003, the New Pathway to Teaching in New Jersey (NPTNJ) also offers a statewide alternate route teacher preparation program for candidates who already possess a bachelor’s degree and certificate of eligibility. Candidates take NPTNJ coursework at local NJ Community Colleges using a curriculum created jointly by New Jersey City University and the Community Colleges. NPTNJ includes a pre-service component that incorporates classroom management techniques, lesson planning, and on-site classroom observations. Once individuals receive a teaching position, they take coursework essential for the development of excellent teachers.

“Of the nearly 400 individuals who have participated in the 2007-2008 NPTNJ program, approximately 28% represented math and science teachers,” stated Darlene Yoseloff, Director of School Relations, Middlesex County College.

Liberty Science Center is also focused on strengthening the quality of science teachers. Through its Gateway program, Liberty Science Center offers a unique approved Regional Training Center for alternate route science teachers. Alternate route science teachers who have their first school contract in the state are eligible to participate in the training. The majority of the training is completed during an intensive 20-day summer program before they enter their first teaching assignment. Participants observe and teach lessons in a local summer school program and receive onsite coaching visits once they are actually working in their school.

Mary Ellen Clark is Executive Director of the Central New Jersey WIRED Bio-1 initiative. Bio-1 focuses on retaining and expanding high quality jobs in the biosciences sector, as well as exciting young people about the biosciences and laying smooth education and career pathways to increasing bioscience workforce development through training and transformational graduate programs.

Mature Workers have what Employers Want

November 10, 2008

The economy might be slowing but numbers show that the demand for the mature worker has not been impacted as much as you may think.  The number of workers 50 or older are growing while those 45 or younger in the workforce are declining.  The myth is workers who are 50 or older who have lost their jobs are finding it more difficult to find employment but the reality is that those workers are winning new jobs at the same length of time as their young less experienced counterparts.  Mature workers are viewed as being work-tested and experienced. 

Bureau of Labor Statistics reported “employment among mature workers grew by 3.7 percent from July 2007 to July 2008 while the workers ages 20 to 44 declined by an average of 1.3 percent during the same period.”  Congress has defined the mature worker as 45 or older.  Where does that put you? 

This new information dispels the long standing myth that mature workers have an even more difficult time securing employment in a down economy.  It has been suggested that companies are relying even more heavily on the experienced workers in this down economy placing a premium on knowledge and less on having to payout the increased salary and benefits.  Beyond the technical skills, employers are putting a premium on the soft skills, work ethic and business acumen that most mature workers have developed.

More good news is that the BLS data show that the biggest employment gains for the mature worker occurred within management, professional and related occupations. The numbers show that mature workers secured 659,000 new positions over the last 12 months.

The baby boomers age segment has been increasing with the number of Americans 55 or older by 2.7% over that last 12 months.  This compared to those under 45 whose employment growth is at 3.7%.  A Challenger quarterly survey reported, “The median length of job search for the mature worker 50 or older was about 4.2 months, compared to younger job seekers at 3.6 months.”  Only two week’s differential. 

The demand for older workers is particularly high in sectors that continue to experience growth despite the current economic conditions.  Most companies are reviewing the next few quarters and identifying their labor shortfalls.  Companies are looking to delay the exodus of retirees from their ranks.  Mature workers are having an increased concern on their ability to retire in the short term.  The AARP and other groups are reported in recent surveys that about 20% of retirees are delaying retirement due to the economic downturn. 

Even with the downturn some close to retirement are looking forward to new careers or start their own consulting firms.  The Economic Policy Institute reports that 43 percent of workers switch jobs after age 50 and 27 percent change occupations.  Mature workers are looking to their next career to be meaningful and impact the community or society.  The mature workers are most welcome in the healthcare, teaching, consulting or small business sectors. 


The good news is opportunities for the mature worker are widening as has not been the case in the past.  If you are in career transition you have more career choices than ever before; it is now up to you to expand your vision of desire.


This was written by Liane H. Gould, Manager of Career Services for ACS Careers, former employee with the AARP Foundation working on mature worker issues and a certified Life/Career Coach.