Thursday, August 11, 2016

Does anyone know about the C/hee/ky Scie/ntist Associ/ation?

From the inbox, a good question:
Have you heard of the Chee/ky Scie/ntist*? Know anyone who is/was an Ass/ociate and can say if it was helpful? It looks super interesting, but also potentially scammy. 
Heh. So, bluntly put, I think it looks scammy as well. Joining a private discussion group for over $300 seems outlandish. The website screams "scam" to me as well, although maybe that's just because the template seems to be associated with supplement folks. That said, I'm sure there are plenty of intelligent folks who've forked over the money and gotten good advice and good networking out of it. Here's hoping, anyway.

Personally, I suspect that it's not oriented towards chemists (i.e. sure seems to be a lot of life scientists) and that there's no strong evidence that Associates achieve more success in obtaining positions than those who do not. Readers?

*Googleproofing to (a likely futile) attempt to avoid anonymous hordes on non-regular readers coming into plump the website.


  1. I'm a member of this association. I think it has it's pros and cons:


    - It gives you access to a Facebook secret group where all the associates are, including the ones that have a job already. Some people claim that they found jobs through connections with the people in the association
    - It gives you access to webinars with tips about: networking, resume, salary negotiation, tips and perspective about different types of positions in industry (e.g. consulting, scientist, patent agent, field application scientist, etc.), tips for finding jobs in the US for PhD students with F-1 visas or postdocs with J-1 visas
    - People in the associations tend to organize networking events, so this may be beneficial
    - They helped people to open their eyes about the possibility of getting a full-time professor position with tenure
    - They convince people that they do not need a postdoc to get an industry job (either research related or non-research related)
    - They give you networking scripts to contact people on LinkedIn to help your job search (I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing)
    - They send weekly emails about the best in the group and the best articles to transition to industry posted elsewhere online


    - The Facebook group is very crowded and some people post about things not related to the job search. For instance, a guy keeps posting about how to apply to grad school. In other words, there is no filter on who joins and who does not, as long as you pay the fee. There is people from all over the world: US, China, India, Europe, etc. So, some of the things they post may not be relevant to you
    - Every time they let in new associates they delete all the webinars from your account and start to put them slowly again (there are four modules with many webinars and pdf documents each). So, If you want to go back and find certain webinar it may not be there because is enrollment season
    -There are only about 3 people in the staff to help around 900 associates in the Facebook group, and one of them (the main guy: Isaiah)only puts Facebook likes to all the things you ask for help (resume edit, cover letter edit, etc) without actually helping you. He only comments if you share with the group that you got a job. The other 2 people from the staff are pretty good though and always very helpful
    - Most of the help is provided by other associates in the group (that don't get paid)
    - As expected, the members without jobs are the ones that participate the most in the association
    - They will use your post announcing the fact that you got a job to advertise it to more people and bring new people to the group (more money). Then they will make a 'transition interview' or 'transition call' on Skype that will be used for advertisement to bring more money to their pockets (sorry more associates to the group)
    - Once you join they try to sell you new exclusive memberships to small networking groups focused on the type of job you want. For example, scientist type of job or consulting type of job
    - They try to sell you tickets for a 'summit' which is a 2 day conference in a big US city, like Boston, where supposedly they will help you to get a job
    - They try to sell you the idea that networking and referrals are the EXCLUSIVE way to get a job. This may hold some true but some associates or other people find jobs through applying online without networking (like myself)
    - Every year they have at least 3-6 enrollment seasons and every time they increase the price and tell you that the group will close forever, so they push you to join the association (they will never close as long as they have profit)
    - There are not many chemists in the association but many biologists and life sciences people
    - As chemjobber mentioned there is no evidence that the people in the associations find jobs easier that people who does not. They never tell the number of unemployed people in the association

    1. Anon1220 - thank you so much for your assessment.

    2. Thanks for deleting it

    3. Weird, the spam filter retroactively consumed it. I made it spit it back up.

    4. Thanks for asking this question Chemjobber and I appreciate some of what "Anonymous" said here, though I cannot confirm that this person is an Associate - they may in fact be a competitor or affiliated with a competitor. The most important question that should have been asked is this - does the Association do what it says it will do? Does the Association work?

      The answer is clearly yes.

      The Association gets PhDs into industry jobs, and more PhDs than any other program are willing to put their names, faces, and career details on the line to back up the Association.

    5. As per the so-called "Cons" listed by Anonymous, here are my comments:

      The Facebook group is very crowded…

      ---Yes, it’s an extremely active group. If you want to be part of a silent forum that no one engages in, go elsewhere.

      ***By the way - why is Anonymous so consumed with the fact that the Association, which is a business, costs money? I'm guessing Anonymous is currently getting a salary for their new job, which the Association helped them get, correct?

      Every time they let in new associates they delete all the webinars from your account and start to put them slowly again…

      ---This is simply not true. Nothing gets deleted. The modules get updated and the webinars themselves, including dozens of archived trainings never get hidden or updated.

      There are only about 3 people in the staff to help around 900 associates in the Facebook group…

      ---Another incorrect statement. At the time this was written, we dozens of "staff" - as in consultants and moderators and admins. Many of our Associates have become consultants. What is correct here is that the real value of the Association is the other Associates. However, the supportive culture of this group was designed on purpose and a lot of work goes into maintaining it.

      Most of the help is provided by other associates in the group (that don't get paid).

      ---Wrong again. We employ dozens of "staff". We are a business - a business with a mission to get PhDs into industry jobs. This so-called con is wrong and irrelevant.

      As expected, the members without jobs are the ones that participate the most in the association.

      ---What's the point here? PhDs who want jobs are learning the fastest? Yes, of course. The 500+ members who already have industry jobs are there to help.

      They will use your post announcing the fact that you got a job to advertise it to more people and bring new people to the group (more money)…

      ---This is where I feel Anonymous has turned nasty and snarky without cause. Associates who get hired volunteer to do a post-transition call and volunteer to do a transition interview and/or transition Skype call.

      Once you join they try to sell you new exclusive memberships to small networking groups focused on the type of job you want…

      ---The purpose of a business is to solve people's needs. As needs come up, we develop new courses to meet these needs. This development takes time and money, which is funded by memberships.

      Every year they have at least 3-6 enrollment seasons and every time they increase the price…

      ---Yes, a business can't survive without a profit. That being said, an Association membership is a one-time fee of $324. The average Associate salary after being hired is above $80,000, which works out to over $200/day. If you join the Association and get hired, you'll pay for the fee after two days.

      There are not many chemists in the association but many biologists and life sciences people.

      ---The amount of uninformed, critical and incorrect comments here is astounding. We have over a hundred chemists. For example, Lilian Josephson, Ph.D. just got into a Senior Chemist position at L'Oréal.

      As chemjobber mentioned there is no evidence that the people in the associations find jobs easier that people who does not…

      ---No evidence? Another critical and incorrect comment. Go to our website and look at the success stories. Look at the hundreds of written testimonials.

      If Anonymous would like to be a little more transparent and have a live discussion about this on Chemblogger or elsewhere, I'm happy to do so.

    6. Hi Isaiah, care to present evidence to your claim that "The Association gets PhDs into industry jobs."

      Hint: it will take more than anecdotes about members getting jobs to convince me (or any qualified scientist) that the Association has any causal effect.

    7. Interestingly, Dr. Josephson seems to be a very accomplished chemical engineer, but she is not a chemist. She is, however, working as a senior chemist at L'Oreal. Fascinating.

    8. Thanks for commenting Chemjobber. The truth is, your exact PhD background matters very little when it comes to getting into an industry job. If we were to talk specifics, the conversation might be more meaningful. As in, what type of chemistry background do you have or are you interested in and what type of career are you interested in or do you want to see evidence of someone getting into? The same goes for you Phil, what kind of evidence do you want to see? If hundreds of successful PhDs getting jobs after joining the Association (many who struggled for months or even years to even get an interview) is not casual evidence at least in part, what would be? A PhD is unemployed for 18 months and never gets a job offer. They join the Association. They get hired. That may not be cause and effect if it was just one person (n=1) but when (n=100s), it starts to become causal. Of course, this is not a peer reviewed journal article and you're not a third reviewer trying to figure out the mechanism of some disease. I guess a better question is - is there a better way to learn about a program than to talk about other people's experience in the program?

    9. "The truth is, your exact PhD background matters very little when it comes to getting into an industry job."

      You're gonna have to try harder to convince me this is a truth.

    10. CJ, it could very well be true, based on the example of Dr. Josephson that Isaiah bought up...

    11. There are thousands of PhDs who got jobs without joining the Association, so perhaps the correlation is negative?

      Apparently, you have a PhD yourself. So explain to me how you would test a hypothesis. Any hypothesis.

      Also, it's funny that you tell us we should learn about other people's experience in the program, yet you're here to try and spin or flat out deny the testimonials shared in this very thread.

  2. I had the same feeling. For a site that claims to cater for 'intelligent people' it has a very suspicious look. I really want to transition to industry, but at present I am very conflicted whether I should pay over $320 for something that looks shady....

  3. I agree. I am one of the associate.You don't get to learn any new skill. Writing resume and networking is one thing they try to cater to the members but that don't really help in getting the jobs. There are making lots of profits by acknowledging the facts of less paid situation faced by lots of PhDs and Post Docs. They try to raise the confidence and self esteem in PhD holders. Matter of fact is your situation will not differ by joining this association. Use this money in getting new skills and learning some new techniques that matters to get the job you want. Please don't waste your hard earned money to read face book posts.

  4. Hi thanks for your comments about our Association, full discloser I am one of the creators of the Association. I would like to respect everyone has an opinion, but, I am sure the people who made these comments have not completed the training, as their statements would be driven by the actual experience moving through the stages of the program, rather than from the perspective they have shown here, which appears limited to reading posts in the online community. For the people who genuinely want to transition to industry, and are willing to get involved with the training, and use the help of the consultants, it is the most comprehensive and economical assistance you will find anywhere to get assistance with an industry transition. The way to get the most out of the training, and to get a job, really is to review the training and then use the online community to ask the consultants for assistance, and feedback as you are transitioning. We continue to see success stories each week, of the people who are willing to do the training to reach their goal. I ask anyone reading this to also reach out to the people in the success stories on LinkedIn and ask them their perspective, to not only get a balanced view point, but to also get advice from successful people who clearly were in it to win it. Be mindful, that industry is not the place for negative people, so I can see the challenge the reviewers here have, if they are unwilling to participate in the training, but expect a result. I encourage them to reach out to me directly, and send their job applications for my review, and let's figure out where it's all going wrong. That's the only way they will drive their own result. From Laura, CEO at CS.

  5. I joined this last year out of desperation, and I can say that it is what it is - no more, no less. You get out of it what you put into it. Joining the group (or "Association") makes you part of a network of other PhDs/postdocs who are also desperately looking for industry positions, and you correctly noted that the majority (>95%) are bio/life science PhDs. This was initially surprising to me, as an organic chemist, since I always thought that bio was a hot field - after all, lots of big pharma companies are scrapping the traditional small molecule/medchem research programs and switching to biologics.

    They give you a template for connecting with strangers on LinkedIn, and strategies for job hunting, as well as a detailed walkthrough on how to properly write and format a resume for industry positions (as opposed to a CV for academic ones). They also give detailed walkthroughs on how to craft a LinkedIn profile, and one of the big pieces of advice for LinkedIn is simply the "appearance" of success (if your profile looks awesome, people will assume you're awesome, even if you're desperately looking for work!).

    They have a lot of webinars on various topics, including job hunting strategies, LinkedIn, networking, social skills, and various specific careers (including "Medical Science Liaison", science editor, and others).

    As to whether it works - I dunno! The very fact that the population in the Association is skewed towards the biological sciences so heavily means it's not all *THAT* useful for me or other chemists. I've followed the plan and haven't really seen any results yet. They stress the importance of networking, and how that is the best way to get a job. Other people here may disagree, but I have to agree - I've applied to 2500+ positions online, and really only gotten 10 calls back over the years. The job market is absolutely brutal, and so other strategies are needed. I'll keep you posted.

    1. Thanks for your comments here Adamantane. Remember, you can reach out to me or anyone in the Association at any time. Have you reached out to anyone personally - Laura, Cathy, Ann, Klodjan, Arunodoy, or anyone else? We are here if you want help. I think the takeaway from what you said is that you've applied to 2500+ positions online and have only received 10 callbacks over the years. This is exactly why being part of a strong referral network is so important. We just launched a new member's directory and you can already find dozens of other Associates in the physical sciences and in chemistry specifically. That being said, the idea that you have to network with someone with your exact background and exact career interest to get the job you want is simply incorrect. What position are you seeking? Reach out to me in the private group or via a private message. I'd love to help you personally.

    2. I think this is the key: "This is exactly why being part of a strong referral network is so important."

      It appears that Dr. Hankel has successfully recreated the Masons. I'm sure that's been very remunerative for you.

  6. You know, for $6 you can get a copy of "Navigating the Path to Industry" off of Amazon, save yourself a few hundred dollars that you can pay to somebody as a personal consultant, and not have to join Science Amway.

  7. I'm an associate, and I can say that I feel like I've been drawing from my own personal network that I'd already built over the years much more than from the association. In fact, the only interview I've gotten in my job search was through a friend before I had joined the association. So while I agree, networking is extremely important, it's not something I necessarily had to pay to learn. If the network provided by the association is useless to me (Basically mostly job seekers), what's the point? I can't say that it's been very helpful, other than getting my resume and cover letter reviewed. I don't know... Anyway, the hunt continues. It's been nearly a year and no bites.

    1. Hello, Anon4:42PM:

      Happy to try to help, if I can. Shoot me an e-mail:

      Cheers, CJ

  8. Hi, Isaiah. I came across this association while researching about jobs after doctoral studies. I recently graduated with a Doctor of Science Degree in Computer Science in the USA June this year (2017). I have been teaching at a college in the USA since I completed my Master of Science Degree in Information Technology from the UK is 2008. I want to make a transition into the industry. I am looking for a job in the information system security industry. Can this association be helpful to me considering my background in Computer Science? You can reply to me privately at my email at

  9. DR. Isaiah Hankel has another group called the Escape Plan, which costs $300 and scams people into believing that they will receive useful advice and information. It's essentially a tiny workbook with empty pages that you fill in and a Facebook group that people use to post motivational junk. OMG, why did I fall for that?? Pleas don't make the same mistake.

  10. Thank you for this blog. I find it very useful because I'm able to see - 1. how the association responds to criticism regarding their business and 2. the associates who have join and their frustration with CSA's objectives. Obviously I can get success stories from their website, but I wanted something candid and I want to hear both sides of the story. In marketing, it's great that we hear success stories, but it's frustrating when it's not working for you. So is the $324 investment worth it? According to some, it's great. According to others, it's a waste of time. Take it for what it is -

  11. CS is some useless and ineffective organization who are just interested in making money. I will tell you the problems being a member myself (Yes, and please do not be a victiom like me)-

    1. They tell you that enrollment opens once every year. That's a blatant lie. They open at least 4/5 times every year with increased price.

    2. The email list they maintain is horribly bad. Even if you are a member, they keep sending you those "Please-join-CS" emails.

    3. They will show you repetative webinars again and again. For example, a webinar on resume will be an exact repeat at different times of the year. They fool people to just get money.

    4. To get a resume template and all the boring stuff, you do not have to join this place. There are plenty of material available online.


  12. Diese ganze CS ist ein Betrug. Meine Freundin hat sich angemeldet und auf keinen Fall kann sie ihr Geld zurücknehmen. SEI VORSICHTIG UND DENK WIEDER DRAN!

  13. For someone who wants an honest answer on whether or not to join: I'm an associate myself. I joined at a desperate moment in graduate school thinking this was going to help me find a job. I'll give feedback based on my experience and observations.

    Pros: 1. I found value in some of the modules because they encourage you to think of what skills or job you'd like to do in 5-10 years and then work your way back to determine the paths to get there. Clearly this isn't rocket science but having designated modules and clear questions can help you focus without going about the career search process from a position of weakness.
    2. Helpful associates will answer your questions in the private fb group. Because there are people from all over the world, you can get answers much faster.
    3. Webinars, some of which offer important information all in one location without having to search the internet too much. The information might be available without joining CSA but it takes more effort to find.

    Cons: Chemjobber from 1 year ago mentioned a lot, which Isaiah denied by mentioning that chemjobber might not have been an associate, but I don't believe that. The items mentioned come from a person who has association knowledge.
    1. Isaiah talks a lot about stuff in the scary fb and LinkedIn videos talking about how desperate PhDs are and some ridiculous stats. In the group he does only like comments. The few times he writes something are to congratulate you for a job or contributing to the group. But he doesn't offer help.
    2. There are a few paid consultants on the group- by my count there are 4-5 now (2 when I joined- Catherine and Laura). They are helpful but thats all you get. They'll review stuff, give you their opinion and ask you to repost if you want them to look again. Posts get lost of course.
    3. The main selling point is this cache of other PhDs in industry careers that you can network with. I have one word in response to this: LINKEDIN. Use it and you can find people in your desired careers and you can connect with them, have informational interviews etc. I've contacted a number of associates on LinkedIn for informational interviews, career advice etc- I have a less than 50% response rate (And yes CSA moderators, I mention I am part of the associate, use a script following your guidelines)
    I've also contacted non CSA people at various levels of seniority and have had better success rate and referrals etc.
    Regardless of whether you join or not you'll have to send emails asking people for informational interviews or advice. So why not use your friend GOOGLE, get help on scripts and contact people on LinkedIn. My advice is save your money on CSA and join LinkedIn premium to get InMail credits and unlimited browsing. Use that to find people, cheeky scientist associates are still people and will be willing to talk to you regardless of whether you paid Isaiah money to join.

  14. I saw Isaiah's TED talk perhaps 1-2 years back and enjoyed it, so I joined the mailing list thinking it might be helpful. As a psychologist, these emails were clearly full of duplicitous sales tactics. I felt sorry in that moment for PhD candidates who fell for these tactics and paid to join, as we are literally a highly educated group... but it goes to show that anyone can be duped/exploited, and I get it when considering the desperation to get a good job. The volume of emails trying to get me to join, and the whole "ONE MORE DAY TO GET THIS ONCE IN A LIFETIME OFFER" BS led me to unsubscribe. I wouldn't join, there's tons of options these days. I've personally found my career counseling center to be the best so far, and networking/workshop meetups are incredible if you live near a city. Oh, and this thing called Google really does wonders! Best of luck to all of you!

  15. Been in the Cheeky Scientist Association and on their email list for awhile and know others who have been too. The emails to join the list are constant and get annoying. Usually international people dominate the conversations. My guess is because international students are more isolated, and also cannot feel the fear mongering in the language used, while many US or Europe based PhDs find the marketing language and tactics tacky and pushy. There is too much information all thrown at you, with little step by step guidance and a collection of endless 1:1 webinars as the main collection of actual educational content.

    Endless. Webinars. Not instructional information, but basically recordings of informational interviews with various people that you have to slog through yourself. You have to listen for 30 minutes to find out something you could probably have Googled in 1.

    We need more personalized information to help more people find their dream jobs - emotional support, debunking myths, leadership and self advocacy - not factoids. Also found the facebook group hard to follow because let's face it, facebook groups are not the idea place for coaching conversations. Only a few CS consultants contribute useful information, though again, for international folks this has been useful because there are few visible alternatives at this time. (Note, Cheeky Scientist just opened up an International PhD Community for another $424, which sounds like it's teaching international PhDs how to "help companies sponsor them". Again, targeting internationals who already tend to be more vulnerable and isolated.)

    The Cheeky Scientist module content is nothing unique - you can find most of the contained information yourself at a deeper level by Googling a bit, through books or though networking. It's just capitalizing on FOMO, honestly. I'd advise seeking out an actual career coach if struggling or depressed, someone who has experience getting people like us through the ups and downs of the job hunt, and get personal support and advice from someone who actually gives you the time of day.

    Agree with above comment that the biggest Cheeky Scientist association value is the network, like many things - and you can get that for yourself through LinkedIn messaging people for informational interviews. If you see people on LinkedIn who are PhDs and have > icons or emoticons and three titles (three job titles! how would any employer take that seriously after scanning the experiences?) in their header, they may well be a CS associate, because that's what they are told to do to attract employers on their LinkedIn Profiles. Take that as you will. Be proactive, message people and connect directly for personalized help is my advice to PhD job seekers!