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First published in AWIS Magazine Volume 30, issue 3 (Summer 2001)

Some changes come by choice, some are forced upon us, but most are a mixture of the two. Individuals often need to alter career paths in response to changes in family dynamics or geographic location. Changes in technology and the economy can also affect our professional viability. Since the inception of the Internet, the world has seen an increase in the rate of change, which may be the most challenging--and stressful--change of all.

Scientists wishing to alter their professional directions can use the Internet to help make the career transition a smooth one. Reinventing a career is usually a three-step process consisting of training, networking, and job hunting, all of which may occur concurrently rather than sequentially. Here I'll discuss ways the web can help with each step.

Surfing for Training Programs

Since the new economy is "skill-based," the first step in a career transition might be determining the new skills needed and where to acquire them. Not only can the web help in locating training, through online learning, it also can be the medium for the training.

Many short-term training programs offering a certificate are available in continuing education programs across the country. Programs in computing, business, or communications can augment quantitative skills gained through a science degree. You can investigate opportunities at nearby colleges or universities or look for training programs that are offered via the web. While online programs offering professional credentials tend to have price tags in the range of college tuition, an employer may agree to completely or partially foot the bill.

I first tried online learning in 1999 as a means of keeping up with technology. I found web learning to be similar to learning in a large university science lecture. Nobody pushed me. I figured most things out on my own, checked into the online classroom a few times a week, read a couple of chapters a week, and posted assignments weekly. I definitely gained the skills I wanted, and since then have taught some online college courses. However, be aware that although class times and locations are flexible, high quality online courses require as much time at least as much time as other substantial learning experiences. A course that relies heavily on discussions may require more time since class participation is in the form of typed responses. Some of the most established and highly regarded online programs for professional development are offered through the continuing education branches of Stanford ( www.stanford-online.stanford.edu), UC Berkeley ( www.learn.berkeley.edu), UCLA ( www.uclaextension.org), and NYU ( www.scps.nyu.edu).

Networking in Cyberspace

While the "what you know" part of career preparation is important in skill-based jobs, the "who you know" part remains a critical factor. With its listings of upcoming events and contact information, the web can help you network more efficiently. Some quick steps are:

  • Getting on email lists for upcoming seminars, workshops, and other events at nearby colleges and universities

  • Looking at events and activities of local chapters of professional organizations

  • Searching for local companies or organization where you could gain experience using new skills

Sending email to promising contacts you meet at mixers, courses, or seminars and inviting them to lunch could lead to lasting professional relationships. Such email correspondence can potentially yield a big return for a relatively small investment of time.

Volunteering is another great way to meet people. Nearly every professional organization has positions they are eager to fill, and, if you volunteer your services, you will quickly become popular among its members. This is especially true if you work in the local chapter of a professional organization. Additional volunteer opportunities exist in local nonprofit or community organizations. Choose positions that will allow you to gain new skills or experience while also helping an organization you believe in. A directory of organizations looking for volunteers, searchable by geographic region, is available at www.helping.org. Many people, myself included, find volunteer work to be a stress-reliever. However, volunteer work can be time-consuming, so time constraints are likely to make the ability to politely say "no" a necessary skill.

Marketing Yourself Over the Internet

Job seekers can use the web in three different and complementary ways:

  • to search large job board sites or to post their resume,

  • to research prospective companies and their job openings, and

  • to self-promote using a personal Web site.

  • I'll briefly describe each and provide a list of available resources.

    Numerous job boards exist, some of the most common being monster.com, hotjobs.com, and bestjobsusa.com. One recruiter told me she found the monster job board to be the most cost-effective method for filling technology openings. In science, the major professional organizations, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science ( www.aaas.org), the American Chemical Society ( www.acs.org), the American Physical Society ( www.aps.org), and the Association for Computing Machinery ( www.acm.org), have job boards. Many job boards allow applicants to post their resumes using various levels of privacy.

    In addition to using job boards, company and college Web sites can be scanned for listed job openings or types of professionals they hire. Some corporations, such as IBM, will even email relevant job openings to interested individuals who complete a career profile.

    Personal Web sites are becoming more common among job applicants, particularly for those in technical fields. For those who profess to be computer savvy, a Web site with résumé or curriculum vita (CV) is necessary for credibility. A résumé template may be very useful. Visit www.onlineteaching.com for an example. Other resources for creating electronic résumés and CVs are listed in Additional Resources below. Creating a personal Web site can be time-consuming, but the skills will be useful in many other contexts.

    Remember: In selling yourself, you are your own PR department, and women must toot their own horns as loudly as men do. * Sandra C. Ceraulo, the new AWIS contributing editor for The Net Effect, is an independent consultant specializing in online teaching and other new media services for education. She is also a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Millard Fillmore College at SUNY Buffalo and is experienced in both online and traditional college teaching. Dr. Ceraulo holds a PhD from The University of Chicago and a BA cum laude from Cornell University. Her Web site is at www.sceraulo.com, and she can be contacted at sceraulo@aol.com

    Additional Resources

    1. S. Wellington and Catalyst, 2001, Developing a Career and Life Plan for Women: Be your own mentor, Random House.

    2. Smith, 1999, How to Build a Career in the New Economy: A guide for women and minorities, Warwick Publishing, Los Angeles.

    3. M. B. Nemnich, and F. E. Jandt, 2002, CyberSpace Job Search Kit, 2001 - 2002, Jistworks: Indianapolis. This book includes a section on electronic CVs.

    4. Search 10 Job Boards at Once: www.job-search-engine.com.

    5. Creating an Electronic CV: www.hsph.harvard.edu (enter cv in the search engine.)

    6. Electronic CV template: www.qsilver.queensu.ca/history/cvtemp.htm.