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How to do consulting? 精选

已有 5393 次阅读 2009-1-26 20:53 |系统分类:科研笔记

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(New notes added 1/29/09 below)

 

I have previously written about solving real world problems. For academics, this opportunity often arises from “consulting”. This is quite prevalent in the US so that almost all universities allow professors one-day-per week to pursue consulting tasks. The rationale being that such freedom keeps professors current and engaged.

This inevitably leads to the question for young academics starting out – “how do you get consulting jobs?”

I am not familiar with the situation and environment in China. But below are some general principles which I believe to be country independent.

1.       You need a reputation in order for industry to hire you. But for person starting out this is a chicken-and-egg situation. How do you acquire a reputation if you don’t have experience – without reputation how do you get experience. Of course senior professors or your mentor may recommend you. But a more active approach is to look for summer term employment with local industries, i.e., you apply for a summer job with a company. In particular, when you are graduating and interviewing for jobs, you may have turned down offers from some companies. Those companies already know about you and wanted you. If they cannot have you as an employee, they may very well hire you for the summer. Once you PROVED your worth, the rest is easy.

2.       You can also get a good reputation by being a good speaker/presenter at conferences. I cannot emphasize more strongly and more frequently how important it is to prepare to give good talks. Yet countless otherwise perfectly capable scientists seem to ignore this golden rule. (You should also consult my earlier article- http://www.sciencenet.cn/m/user_content.aspx?id=40787 Volunteer Services to Professional Societies)

3.       Once hired as a consultant, you must remember industry will only pay for what they want and not what interests you and what paper you may publish. You are there to solve a problem for them and not to do your own research.

4.       Do not attempt to fit a square peg to a round hole, i.e., don’t make the problem fit the tools you happen to know. Meet the problem on its terms. You are far more likely to solve the real problem and possibly discover and learn something new.

5.       The best kind of consultant jobs are tasks where you can learn something new. Applying a well known tool to solve a problem in straightforward fashion will soon becoming boring after a while.

6.       Once you acquired a good reputation as a consultant, do everything to protect it. As you gain stature and reputation in your field, people may want you for your name rather than expertise. Sometimes, you may be used by management to perform tasks not convenient or pleasant for themselves to do. These are not necessarily bad in themselves. But you need to understand your role and the functions you are asked to perform.

7.       Beware of conflict of interests. You have responsibility to your university, to the company who hired you as consultant, and to yourself. Transparent and ethical conducts are important.

8.       I have said this before. I had four major ideas in my four decades plus career. Everyone of these ideas came originally from consulting with industry. Thus it can be a win-win situation for everyone.

 


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