By Vrushali A. Bokil
Students looking for jobs in industry are often advised to develop soft skills, effective communication abilities, cross-disciplinary collaborative techniques, and interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary training. What jobseekers do not typically hear about is the need to understand who they are, what they want, and their core values, strengths, and passions. In other words, the most efficient method of career preparation is the inside-out approach. Roughly 50 young SIAM members received this message during the Professional Development Evening at the 2018 SIAM Annual Meeting, held in Portland, Ore., last July.
To begin, Ye asked participants to clarify their core values—such as “authenticity” and “creativity”—and record a few of their most important principles along with a brief description of their personal significance. She emphasized that people must know who they are, what they want, and what their contributions are worth to confidently communicate and negotiate job offers with prospective employers. Effective communication is a crucial soft skill, and an elevator speech that employs powerful, concise statements and clear language helps one articulate his/her hiring potential. Participants had the opportunity to test what they had learned and practice their elevator pitches with volunteers from companies including Microsoft, NASA, 3M, and Nokia Bell Labs at a networking reception during the session.
The inside-out approach requires outside help in the form of a support network. Did you know that more than 70 percent of jobs on the market are not published ? Ouch! On average, every posted opening receives over 100 applications . The realities of the job market require that applicants not only know who they are and what they want, but also have a network of people familiar with their values and passions to promote them to prospective job hunters. Ye classified members of this support network into four categories: people who provide emotional support, challenge one to grow, help expand one’s possibilities, and share power. Participants then performed a short activity to identify the people in their network, pinpoint missing categories, and brainstorm ways to engage and expand their connections. Some attendees expressed discomfort in categorizing people this way, noting that it made friendships feel business-like. Ye assured them that this would not be the case, provided they approach networking with respect, authenticity, and a mindset that includes genuine intention and gratitude when building meaningful connections. This technique helps set the right expectation about the kinds of support to seek from each person in one’s network.
In summary, an inside-out approach that accounts for authenticity, curiosity, motivation to learn and contribute, willingness to build meaningful relationships, and constant adaptation to the job market will keep people moving towards their objectives and goals and hopefully lead to that ideal dream job.
The Professional Development Evening received positive feedback, and SIAM plans to offer similar career development workshops at future meetings. Stay tuned for announcements about these upcoming workshops from SIAM. In the meantime, online workshops about soft skills development are available through Zhennovate. All job seekers in mathematics, statistics, and operations research would highly benefit from perusing BIG Jobs Guide by Rachel Levy, Richard Laugesen, and Fadil Santosa, now available for online purchase at the SIAM bookstore . Jobs in these areas are projected to grow by 30 percent over the next decade. The guide provides practical steps for finding that dream job in business, industry, or government (BIG), and includes information on the types of available jobs as well as tips for writing high-impact resumes and securing rewarding internships. BIG Jobs Guide also offers insights to mentors and advisors on building institutional relationships and enabling math departments to aid students in finding BIG employment.
Acknowledgments: The author would like to thank Di Ye from Zhennovate, Fadil Santosa of the School of Mathematics at the University of Minnesota, and Richard Laugesen of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for feedback that greatly enhanced this article.
 Levy, R., Laugesen, R., & Santosa, F. (2018). BIG Jobs Guide: Business, Industry, and Government Careers for Mathematical Scientists, Statisticians, and Operations Researchers (1st Ed.) Philadelphia, PA: Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.
 Smith, J. (2013, April 17). 7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Your Job Search. Forbes – Leadership. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/04/17/7-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-your-job-search/.
 Ye, D. (2018, June). Stand Out in the Industry Job-Hunting Process and Optimize Your Career Potential. SIAM News, 51(5), p. 10.