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So, this is a continuation of my topics :) This and this.

I need to consult specifically with the academic community.

I found a scientific group (part of a large scientific institute). The lab staff includes several dozen people, about half permanently live in another city, but periodically they gather in the parent organization.

I sent my resume, they were interested in it, the head of this laboratory contacted me and told me that they could use someone with my experience, what the laboratory does, what I have to do, what software to work with, they sent me by mail some equipment for the software debugging stage. In addition to the manager, I also communicated with a heating engineer, an electronics engineer and a mathematician. In principle, everything is consistent.

The trick is that I have programming experience, but not in their industry. That is, it is understood that I will still gain the necessary competencies on the spot.

Today we again called the head of the laboratory and discussed what to do next. In short, “he started the process, but in organizations like ours, things can slow down due to bureaucracy, but tomorrow they promised to send him a draft agreement” and “in the meantime, I would like to see from you a rough plan with control points with a horizon until about the end of the summer on the topic you will be studying"

Usually, when I used to get a job somewhere, I went through a full interview, passed a medical examination, collected a package of necessary documents, applied for a job and started working.

Here they ask me for some kind of plan (despite the fact that I still don’t really know anything about them, in fact), they don’t conduct a typical interview. And I just want to get to work first. For a regular job. I don’t know anything yet about future grants, articles, etc.

In short, a lot of strange things...Can anyone help me with this and share similar experiences, what do you think about it?

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    I don't think this sounds strange at all, I think it sounds like you're being hired for a position with higher expectations than what you're used to. It sounds like you're used to being a drone, and this job expects you to use your brain.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented May 14 at 14:22
  • @BryanKrause I really can’t imagine what kind of “plan” one could write. Without knowing anything about the work of the laboratory, except for their publications. And without even having enough experience. They will probably want to see something close to reality, but most likely they will only see my “fantasies on the topic...”. For now I'm at a dead end.
    – dtn
    Commented May 14 at 14:32
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    You can ask for more guidance, but from the text you've provided it sounds like they're expecting you to be more independent. From your previous posts, can I assume this is a postdoctoral position? Post docs are often expected to be quite self-directed. If this isn't what you want, it might not be a good role for you after all and you might be better looking for a more ordinary job.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented May 14 at 14:35
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    I see, well, it sounds like you need to talk to the person who is hiring you to help set expectations between you both. You think it's just an engineering job, they're asking what you expect to study between now and the end of summer.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented May 14 at 14:42
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    Why do you ask random strangers on the internet what your employer is expecting of you based on a partial description of your interactions? Seriously...
    – N.I.
    Commented May 14 at 16:50

1 Answer 1

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This is a standard project management task --- treat it as part of the interview process and do a good job

This is not a particularly unusual request when an organisation considers hiring a professional who is expected to plan and drive their own work independently. The task serves two purposes: (1) to ensure that you have a reasonable plan ready to "hit the ground running" when you start working there; and (2) to demonstrate that you have the executive skills to undertake project management. A small amount of preliminary unpaid labour of this kind is not unusual for applications for executive positions or research positions where there is some significant component of managing your own work.

If you have not previously undertaken a task like this, I recommend you familiarise yourself with standard planning tools often used in project management and use these to create your plan. This is an opportunity for you to impress the hiring panel by showing them that you are a skilled project manager so err on the side of being too detailed and formal rather than doing it in a perfunctory manner. At a minimum, write up a proposed schedule using a Gantt chart and make sure it includes all necessary elements of the work and reasonable timelines for completion. If needed you can augment this with a work breakdown structure and network diagrams, though these are only likely to be necessary if you have a large and complex project. You can also mention estimated resourcing requirements or costs for any parts of the project where these can be reasonably estimated.

If it were me, I would write up a full set of powerpoint slides giving a project management plan with a Gantt chart and work breakdown structure. I would also mention estimated resourcing requirements and costs. For anything that is impossible to estimate reasonbly due to lack of familiarity with the organisation, I would include space for this but leave it labelled as "[To be discussed]" or some similar notation. I would then present this as a formal draft plan for the project, with the expectation that it will be refined and finalised upon commencement of employment.

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  • Ben, thank you for your extensive and detailed response. What would you recommend to rely on when drawing up a plan?
    – dtn
    Commented May 15 at 3:15
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    From your question, it sounds like you have been briefed on some possible work avenues. I would therefore develop the plan around these work avenues, but supplement it with any ideas of your own for additional work you could do to uplift the organisation.
    – Ben
    Commented May 15 at 22:55
  • Thank you very much!
    – dtn
    Commented May 16 at 2:20
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    I made a plan keeping your recommendation in mind. The plan suited the employer.
    – dtn
    Commented May 20 at 13:26
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    @dtn: Nice work!
    – Ben
    Commented May 20 at 22:45

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