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5 Items for Career-seeking and Additional Resources

Both direct feedback from our recent NC State physics graduates and national trends indicate that development of professional skills gives a significant advantage in navigating the scientific world. In order to assist students in gaining these skills, the physics department has developed a list of 5 skills/accomplishments (the "5 item list") which we believe all students should work to achieve during their undergraduate career. These skills are best developed with practice and sustained effort. Below you will find links and resources that can help you to develop these skills.

Five Items

The Careers Toolbox is a product of the AIP Career Pathways Project, carried out by the American Institute of Physics and the Society of Physics Students and gives Undergraduate Physics Students and their Mentors guidance in exploring options and finding opportunities to help in preparing for STEM careers. The Toolbox is referenced as a resource for many of the items below.

What I worked on this term is a fillable form to help you keep track of which items you’ve worked on and what you plan to work on as you progress through each semester.

What the heck is an elevator speech??

Elevator Pitch

Individuals should have a pre-prepared speech that can deliver information regarding themselves or a quality that they can provide within a short period of time, namely the amount of time of an elevator ride for if an individual finds themselves on an elevator with a prominent figure.[2] Essentially, an elevator speech is meant to allow an individual to pitch themselves or an idea to a person who is high up in a company, with very limited time.

“Every interaction holds the potential to advance one’s career. Most do not, but you do NOT want to blow the 100 to 1 shot that you are alone with the CEO of a startup looking to hire… Luck rewards the prepared…”  Dr. Brand Fortner

See #4 in the Toolbox.

Essential Tips for Writing an Effective Elevator Speech

Professionalism – Merriam-Webster: the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well

Concepts of Professionalism

Professionalism and Work Ethic

Keeping it Professional when Job Searching

Action Item:

Pick an industry that you come in contact with, and observe how people dress — both one you might work in, and ones you interact with.  Examples:  Bank tellers (different from bank managers?) or workers in retail or in different kinds of stores.  In general, get used to observing the styles of people in different lines of work.  If you do have an internship or other connection with the technical private sector, pay particular attention to the attire of those workers.

Career Search Strategies and Resources:

Below you will find auxiliary exercises, articles, statistics, and resources that can help you along the way to achieving your career goals.

The 8 Best People to Choose for Job References

13 Tips for Choosing the Best Job References

Action Items: 

When it comes to asking someone to write a reference or recommendation letter for you, you should make it as easy as possible for the letter writer.  Here is what one professor asks for when asked to write a reference or recommendation letter.  Be prepared to provide as much information to your letter writer as possible.

Here is a list of questions your references may be asked.  Think about how your references would respond.

  • Number of Years you have known the candidate?
  • Why are you a reference?:
  • How would you describe his/her work performance?
  • Any personal difficulties that interfered with work?
  • Quality of his/her results compared to his peers?
  • Describe his/her ability to work with others:
  • What are his/her strong points?
  • Level of Technical Skills:
  • Areas for improvement:
  • Special or unique contributions:
  • How could we ensure his/her success at XXXX Corp?  Advise for his/her
  • manager?
  • If you were the hiring manager, would you hire him/her?
  • What is his/her reason for leaving YYYY Corp?
  • Other comments:
  • How would you rank the following on a scale of 1-5 if 5 is the highest.
    • Ranking 1    2    3    4    5
      • Assertiveness
      • Teamwork
      • Performance under pressure
      • Verbal communications skills
      • Written communication skills
      • Decision making
      • Honesty and Integrity
      • Energy level
      • Leadership
      • Interpersonal skills (Peers)
      • Interpersonal skills (Supervisors)

Become a member of APS and sign up for Local Links

APS Local Links aim to develop mutually beneficial links between academia and industry by connecting industry professionals, early career physicists, and faculty in geographically centered areas. APS is partnering with volunteers in several different regions to launch these new Local Links. These groups will meet on a regular basis to share ideas, learn about current academic and industrial research, build relationships, network, and potentially encourage recruitment of students and postdocs into industries.

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