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How To Avoid Being The Awkward PhD No One Wants To Hire (Cheeky Scientist Radio)


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Skip ahead to:

1:20 – TOP TIP: Incorrect Job Search Workflow
8:30 – Show Me the Data
19:00 – How To Avoid Being The Awkward PhD No One Wants To Hire w/ Jordan Harbinger
56:30 – Principal Scientist Career Track w/ Scot Matkovich Ph.D.

Tired of being perceived as an awkward PhD? 

Want to be better at networking and relationship building?

In this episode of Cheeky Scientist Radio, Jordan Harbinger gives practical strategies to improve your networking ability, to grow your confidence, and discusses the best ways to create meaningful professional relationships. Then Scot Matkovich, PhD comes on to discuss what it’s like to work in industry R&D and why he chose to make the switch from academia to industry. 

About Our Guests

Jordan Harbinger, often referred to as “The Larry King of podcasting,” is a Wall Street lawyer turned interview talk show host, and communications & social dynamics expert.

Jordan has hosted a top 50 iTunes podcast (The Jordan Harbinger Show) for over a decade which receives over 4 million downloads per month, making the show one of the most popular podcasts in the world.  On The Jordan Harbinger Show, Jordan deconstructs the playbooks of the most successful people on earth and shares their strategies, perspectives, and practical insights with the rest of us.

Jordan’s business sense, extensive knowledge of the industry, and contemporary approach to teaching make him one of the most sought-after coaches in the world.

Scot Matkovich completed his PhD at the University of Melbourne.

He then relocated to the USA and continued to make contributions to many aspects of cardiovascular research. Scot recently joined Eli Lilly as a Principal Research Scientist with the Diabetes and Cardiovascular Complications Group, where he is enjoying being more closely connected to interventions that will directly benefit heart failure patients.

In his spare time, Scot is a musician and photographer.

Key Takeaways

1. Networking is only awkward if you reach out with an ask before adding value. Use the ABG maxim – Always Be Giving.

2. Your non-verbal communication is key to the way you are perceived, practice having open and confident body language.

3. Your freedom to do research and ability to make an impact on society will increase when working in industry R&D.

The Science Behind Being Charismatic 

A study, published in Computers in Human Behavior, looked at the difference between sort of how Steve Jobs spoke versus a reference sample of hundreds of other prominent speakers. They found that Steve Jobs had a distinct tone of voice.  His voice was higher than the majority of these speakers and the standard deviation of his pitch level was much higher than the other speakers. Meaning that his pitch level varied a lot. His speaking was the opposite of monotone. 

Another study, published in The Leadership Quarterly, examined how charisma affects the success of a company. And specifically one of the items they researched was how does charisma effects shareholder return depending on the received market certainty. The study found that when the market was perceived being high the charisma of the CEO really increased shareholder return. Resulting on average in $130 million in wealth creation in just one year. In times of uncertainty people are more willing to get behind someone who is charismatic. 

How To Avoid Being The Awkward PhD No One Wants To Hire: A Conversation With Jordan Harbinger

Isaiah: So how do you help someone A) gain self awareness over how they’re coming across, and then B) once they are aware that they’re maybe a bit deficient in that area, how do you try to get them to increase their performance? Especially in terms of in-person interactions?

Jordan: Sure. So there’s a couple of things we can do to target specific weak points. One, I always try to break things down to non-verbal communication. It doesn’t always come down to that, it often does. So when we find people that are, and this is just one specific instance, because it’s impossible to cover every single outcome or iteration of this, but when we see people who are hunched over computers all day, studying, reading, grading papers, typing, writing, whatever it is, we often find that there’s a closed and unfriendly looking posture, even if that person is friendly enough.

And so something that I like to do is open people up and we use the doorway drill. And what this is essentially is every time you walk through a doorway, you would straighten up your posture, chest out a little bit, shoulders back. You don’t have to exaggerate it, you’ll look kind of silly. But just shoulders back, chin up, chest up, smile on your face, open, positive, confident body language. And the idea is we’re walking through doorways so many times during the day that we reset ourselves a lot. And I know what’s going to happen is as soon as people hear this they’re going to go through one door and do it and go “that’s cool” and then they’re going to walk through 500 more doors in the next week and not do it one single time.

So what I recommend people do is grab those little post-it notes that usually aren’t worth the paper they’re used for because they’re too tiny. The bright yellow or pink or green ones. Stick them up on the doorframe at eye level. At what that will do is that will interrupt your autopilot response so when you’re walking through your office door, your bathroom door, your bedroom door, your front door, or whatever it is in your house or office, you go “What’s that post-it note? Oh right, I’m supposed to straighten up and reset my posture.” You don’t have to write anything on it. People don’t have to go “What’s that post-it note for?” It’s just a post-it note. Doesn’t matter. And you’ll reset your body language. And you’ll start to develop that as a habit. Eventually you won’t need the post-it notes.

And what that does is it creates a default open, positive and upright posture. And what that does is when people … when we become a blip on other people’s radar, we treat them as the first impression dictates. So if someone walks in and they’re hunched over and they’re looking at their phone, we think this person’s busy, they’re closed off, maybe they’re cranky, we don’t know. But if someone walks in and they’re upright and they’re positive and they’re smiling, we think oh, this is a friendly, outgoing person. And we start to treat people as such. And when people start to treat us a certain way, that actually trains the way that we see ourselves and the way that we behave, because we’re really just reacting to the environment around us.

So once people start to talk to us and chat us up and treat us like we’re charismatic, outgoing and friendly, we start to behave as such. So really these post-it notes create this virtuous cycle where you’ve got great body language, non-verbal communication, people start treating you like somebody who behaves that way, and then we’re training other people how to treat us, and by doing so, we start to live into that particular reputation.

Isaiah: So what’s the best way to start networking now if you’re already behind? Let’s say, you need a job yesterday. What are just some quick things that you might suggest to do if you’re desperate?

Jordan: Sure. So the way to start this is one, layoff life lines is a great exercise to do this. But that’s not a daily practice. That’s something that you’ll use to re-engage some relationships that you’ve let fall by the wayside and kick off the rust. But it’s about consistency and daily practice.

One of the daily practices that I do every day is, I don’t have a fancy name for it, it’s called text re-engage. I’m open to ideas on what we call this.

But essentially what we do is whenever I’m in line for coffee or I’m waiting for a bus or something like that or an airline lounge or gate, instead of scrolling through Instagram mindlessly, what I’ll do is I’ll go open up my phone. I’ll scroll into my text message app, and you know, you’ve got those messages all the way at the bottom where it’s like oh yeah, I had lunch with them at a financial conference in San Diego three years ago and then never kept in touch. What I’ll do is I’ll find the people at the bottom of that text message list, because those are the sort of weaker and dormant ties. And I will reach out to those people. And it’s sort of script, but it’s more of structure, and the structure’s important.

Essentially this will re-engage people, and you’ll start conversations. But you have to do it in the right way. First of all, you say hello, and you use their name. That way they know it’s not some sort of mass text that you’re sending to 85 different people or it’s not some software that you’ve got. And then you say it’s been a couple of years or several months or whatever since we met at, and ideally if you remember where you met them you put that in there. If you don’t, don’t worry about it. You can say it’s been awhile since we talked, if you don’t know where you met. And then you can say I’d love to hear the latest what’s going on with you, for me I’m, and then just put like one line, for me I’m doing my PhD, I’m still hanging out studying in Germany, just got married, whatever it is.

You throw that in there and you say I’d love to hear the latest from you. I’ve been bad keeping in touch and I’m going to remedy that. And then you say no rush on the reply. Hope to hear from you soon. And then you sign your name. You’ve got to sign your name otherwise it’s like “new phone, who this” or worse, they’re embarrassed that they don’t remember you or that they … If I don’t have your number saved, I can either say oh my gosh, this is awkward, who is this? Or I can just ignore it and you’ll never know that I did get the text. So sign off with your name.

Isaiah: So you’re reaching out. There is purpose here. To build your network because opportunities come from it. And I think a lot of us really shift into that gear of wanting to drive a result. How do you stay out of that mindset so you can come across as authentically wanting to build a relationship?

JordanThere’s a popular sales maxim called ABC, always be closing. Well, I prefer ABG, which means “always be generous” or “always be giving”. And what this means is that we want to help other people without the attachment of getting anything in return.

And so if I’m doing the text re-engage and one week somebody comes back to me and says “Yeah, I’ve got a book coming out but I need an editor because my other editor quit” and then I meet somebody else and they’re editing, I go oh, okay, I’m just going to connect these two people in my network. I’m not connecting them because one day I need free editing and one day I need free book writing. I’m not thinking about what’s in it for me at all. All I’m trying to do is connect other people in my network to each other, and that is my value add. Because a lot of people go, if I’m a graphic designer “I can’t just give free graphics to everyone.” You’re not doing the legwork there. What you’re doing is taking your existing network nodes and tying them together. Which makes this process really scalable. This isn’t five hours of free work that you’re going to do for everyone every day.

You could make 100 introductions a week and it probably wouldn’t even dent your productivity time. Because it’s just an email that goes to each party and then connects to each person. And some people go “Well, I want to make a lot of introductions.” By the time you’re making dozens and dozens of introductions, you should just hire an assistant that can do this for you because your network is so expansive that you’re probably seeing a lot of ROI from it. But with ABG, or always be giving instead of always be closing, this is something that is a little bit hard to explain because a lot of people are like “But then you secretly do want something.” The answer to that is more or less, yes, but it’s not something specific and it doesn’t have to come from those people.

So if I make 100 networking connections and I’m just giving value first and I’m not keeping score and thinking oh, I’m going to get something from them, I can help 100 people. If 99 of them never help me back with anything, who cares? I’ve banked a bunch of good will, I helped out a bunch of good people. They’ve got a bunch of stuff done. And then when you need something, you can sort of float that out to your network and you’ll have people clamoring and climbing over each other to help you because they owe you one. And occasionally, you’ll find one person who goes “Hey, you know, that introduction you made three years ago resulted in a business. We would love to sponsor your show or have you fly out and speak” or “We owe you big time.” You find people where you introduced them to their new career, their significant other, their wife, whatever, husband. That’s kind of a big deal. It’s a position of honor.

Principal Scientist Career Track: A Conversation with Scot Matkovich, Ph.D.

Isaiah: Why did you choose to go into R&D in industry?

ScotIt’s very much a continuation of what I think have been life aims of sorts for the last 20 years. I only started a PhD because I had, perhaps not a particularly focused goal in mind of what kind of disease research I wanted to do, but I wanted to work in a way that would ultimately make an impact on the health of people suffering diseases. A lot of friends have asked me, “Well, why didn’t you become a physician,” or go into something like that and I supposed I could have, but at the time of my life where I had to make decisions like that I was your archetypal shy nerd, didn’t really want to engage with a whole lot of people. That is still a fundamental part of my personality but I think some of the shell has disappeared over the last several years.

So I always wanted to make an impact in human health because I really didn’t know much different than following the traditional academic path and you must remember, growing up and going to school in Australia, essentially, there is not an R&D industry of sorts there. It’s too small a country and too small an environment to support most of that. So I went along a traditional academic path, I was encouraged to post-doc in the US, which I did in order to take advantage of the greater infrastructure here and the greater number of opportunities.

It took a while going down that path before I realized that I wasn’t really having the kind of impact on health research that I might have wanted to and I certainly began to realize that within the academic system, unless you’re quite far up the pyramid, it can be very difficult to be terribly influential, and it’s not that I had a personality need that I had to run the whole show or figure everything out, but I did want to be doing something that I felt was impactful even though I eventually acquired a junior faculty position and had the opportunity to run my own lab for a while.

That grind of convincing a relatively small group of your peers at the NIH that what you are doing is important really got to me and I think the other thing that got to me was a lot very well-meaning advice from people who had been successful in the system saying, “You know, you’re just going to have to focus on something very small at the start. You’re going to have to play by everybody’s rules. You’re going to have to do what you have to do in order to get your grants funded, and then once you’ve achieved some sort of level of seniority, then you can go off and do what you want to.”

I think as soon as that advice started percolating through, I thought, I’ve got to get the hell out of here. This is not compatible with my aims. So I’ve now been with Lilly for three and a little months, a reasonably short amount of time, and yet, I can tell you that everyday I am sitting in rooms of really smart, really hardworking dedicated people who are all trying to get to that same goal of improving human health without having to fuss about will the study section like my grant proposal, or did I use this word or that word or this phrase in my discussion that’s going to captivate their attention?

All of that sort of nonsense has been blown away and I feel like I’m getting on with the job in a way that I simply haven’t for most of my professional life.

Watch the full podcast episode above to get even more networking and communication insights from Jordan and learn more about what it’s like to work in r&D in industry from Scot.

To get advanced access to the full length versions of these podcasts, as well as access to our live training webinars, exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the waitlist for the Cheeky Scientist Association now.

Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.

Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.

Isaiah is a Ph.D. in Anatomy & Cell Biology and internationally recognized Fortune 500 consultant. He is an expert in the biotechnology industry and specializes in helping people transition into cutting-edge career tracks.

Isaiah believes that if you feel stuck somewhere in your life right now, you should make a change. Don’t sit still and wait for the world to tell you what to do. Start a new project. Build your own business. Take action. Experimentation is the best teacher.
Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.