APS News

Book Review

By Barrett Ripin, APS Associate Executive Officer

To Boldly Go: A Practical Career Guide for Scientists, by Peter S. Fiske [American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC, 1996. Single copies: $19.00 ($13.30 for AGU members); $10.45 for 10 or more copies.]

From an employer's perspective, REJECT is the easiest response to a job applicant. It is typically made within 20 seconds of picking up your resume and, in the current employer's market, it is by far the safest decision. Selecting you, on the other hand, is not only hard and stressful for an employer - it is very risky. If you don't work out, then two careers are damaged - yours and theirs. Somehow, in that first fraction of a minute you must differentiate yourself from the hoards. Then in the subsequent interview and visitation dance, you need to convince them that it would be big mistake not to go after you. If you don't understand this basic psychology then you will have lots of practice job searching.

Physics postdoc Kevin Aylesworth first clanged the employment problem alarm a few years ago. Now another postdoc has written the most practical and readable career and employment guide available. Peter Fiske's To Boldly Go: A Practical Career Guide for Scientists is chock full of useful advice and tips for both early- and mid-career physicists. It is about creating options, recognizing opportunities, and avoiding pitfalls. In 188 easy-to-read pages, Fiske's guide helps you chose which jobs to go after, backup strategies to your dream career, how to get past the first fatal 20 seconds, how to clinch the offer, and even how to negotiate favorable employment terms (salary). Fiske dispenses wisdom beyond his years with efficiency and good humor. It is best read twice: once well before active job seeking begins and again during the process.

Secure and content in your current position? Use or lend the guide to help out students, postdocs, family members, and less fortunate colleagues. [However, don't be too smug - I personally know several physicists who last year had no idea that they would be down-sized, RIF'd, or feel vulnerable this year.]

The guide would make a good beginning of a 'survival kit' for college seniors, graduate students, and postdocs. A worthwhile read for those who value being happily employed.