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Subject: jobs, etc.
From: Al Zale <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Academic forum on fisheries ecology and related topics <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 10 Apr 1997 23:57:45 +0200

text/plain (138 lines)

I am very pleased that we are engaged in the ongoing discussion on
jobs and assistantships and related matters.  These are issues that
almost all of us have dealt with or continue to deal with, and which
we must address if we are to continue to be involved in the ecology of
fishes (or their management).

However, I also have an ulterior motive for wanting to see this
discussion continue.

The Student Subsection of the Education Section of the American
Fisheries Society is sponsoring a symposium entitled "Enhancing
Graduate Education:  Looking Toward Our Future" at AFS' annual
meeting in Monterey, California (USA), this August (organized by
Jennifer Wiens of Kansas State University).  They have asked me to
give a presentation there entitled "Advice on Getting a Job or
Assistantship:  Making Yourself Competitive," which is co-authored by
my former student Rob Simmonds and his colleague Rick Eades; they
both work for the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries.
The abstract of the presentation is as follows:

Getting a job or assistantship in fisheries can be tough.  Opportunities
are scarce and competition for them is fierce, as demand greatly
exceeds supply.  We offer our advice to prospective job or
assistantship seekers based on our recent experiences, both in getting
positions and trying to find the best applicants for openings we have
sought to fill.  Because of our backgrounds, our focus is on state
agency jobs and Coop Unit assistantships, but our advice likely
extends to other positions as well.  Tactics vary, but success requires
acquiring the credentials necessary for the position you desire,
investing time and energy in an organized strategy to find the
positions, and properly executing the necessary steps to receive an
offer.  The right coursework, job and volunteer experience, technical
skills, and expertise are critical, as are knowing how to find openings,
prepare your resume and application, prepare for and take tests, and
interview.  Most important is the need to develop the personality,
maturity, and track record of achievement that will make you someone
that potential employers or professors will feel they can comfortably
and productively work with.

As we say, "tactics vary" and I am looking for input from YOU on
what works and what does not.  We (i.e., Rob, Rick, and I) have our
experiences and opinions, but others may have conflicting experiences
and advice of equal (or geater) value.  I would therefore like to solicit
your views and incorporate them into our presentation, thereby making
it more valuable to the audience in Monterey.  There may well be more
than one way to skin a catfish.

(Note that we are not attempting to cover academic positions in this
presentation, just assistantships and agency jobs.)

Posting your input to me here via Fish-Ecology will insure wide
dissemination, far beyond those who see the presentation in Monterey,
plus perhaps some discussion thereof.  Gutreuter, Grossman, Kwak et al.
have done us a great service by posting their thoughts -- get YOUR views
out here also.  Of course, you can also send responses to me directly
at [log in to unmask] if you don't want to post to the
entire group.

To get you started, here are a few questions, first for the profs out
there who may be looking to fill an assistantship:

How important are grades vs. GRE scores vs. recommendations vs.
work experience?  Sure, they're all important, but which do you
consider most important, why, and what are your expectations?  The
more specific regarding the expectations the better (e.g., would you
even consider someone with a GPA < 3.2?).  I'd like to be able to get
a feel for what the concensus out there is.  I get the impression that
many faculty members don't put much stock in GREs, but I've found
the quantitative and verbal tests to be excellent predictors of the kind
of students I like to work with.  Your thoughts?

What's the best way to start to get an assistantship with you?  Is an
unsolicited application worthwhile or should potential students respond
only to assistantship announcements?  The latter is the case with me,
but then I only accept students when I have funded research

Do you prefer a student who has a definite idea of the topic that
he/she wants to work on, or someone who would be willing to work
on any of a variety of topics?  Myself, I prefer the latter (i.e., a student
with the curiosity to work on any topic that I can come up with
funding for), but some of my colleagues want a trout fanatic for a
trout project because of the extra motivation that this adds.

Now for you agency folks:

Are grades, thesis topics, or any of those other academic things
important for hiring a fisheries manager?  Does it matter whether
someone's degree is in Fisheries or Wildlife or Biology or Art History?

Would you prefer someone who has received all of their degrees and
work experience in your state or someone with a broader geographic

How important are agency exams in your selection process?  I
understand that in many states, it's no longer important who you
know, as much as what you know, because of stringent hiring
guidelines that depend exclusively on standardized test scores to avoid
discrimination.  This runs counter to the conventional wisdom on

What's the best way to keep track of openings with your agency?  Are
there any secret tricks?

How important are publications and presentations?  Some agency folks
tell me they aren't ("pointy-headed academic stuff"), but others say
that these measures are indicative of an applicant's communication
abilities, which are critical for today's manager.  In some states they
may be required for promotions.

What about professional society involvement?  I've been told that
concentrating on work experience is more fruitful that serving as
president of the local student AFS chapter.

That should get things started.

I should point out that there exists a wealth of information on this
topic in the "AFS Guide to Fisheries Employment" edited by Tracy Hill
and Rob Neumann.  This is an excellent sourcebook that all
prospective fish-heads should consult first.  The goal of our
presentation is to take things a step further, and get into some of the
more specific (nitty and gritty) details of getting a job or assistantship,
and to also address the fact that, depending on the agency or school,
there is no single method that will always prove successful ("tactics

Thanks for your attention, and hopefully for your responses.

Al Zale
Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit
Department of Biology
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717

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