June 17, 2013
There are many important aspects to having a successful career. One aspect often overlooked is making sure you have a community of peers. Communities provide more than just support for everyday life and challenges. They are great for building networks, developing co-mentoring relationships and gaining leadership experience. Coming to a large campus, like the NIH or a college campus, can feel like you have landed on a different planet. Everything is so different. Finding welcoming and supportive groups and peers can help ease that transition. But, it can also help you prepare for the next step in your career.
While the resources below are specific to the NIH, all universities have similar groups to make you feel welcome. Check your campus list of organizations. This is not an exhaustive list of groups available, but is meant to provide an idea of what types of organizations exist. All of these groups are welcome to everyone in the NIH community.
- The Graduate Student Council and the postdoc association Felcom both support trainees by providing social events, career networking and communities for intramural trainees.
- NIH Black Scientists and Friends Network, an informal group dedicated to the mentoring and career enhancement of Black scientists at NIH. For more information, contact Dr. Roland Owens.
- LGBT-Fellows and Friends helps its members thrive in their professional and personal lives by addressing issues unique to the LGBT community. Join the LGBT-FF listserv to learn about up-coming LGBT-FF seminars, professional development activities and networking opportunities.
- The NIH SACNAS (Society for Advancing Hispanics/Chicanos & Native American in Science) chapter provides a trans-NIH resource to provide a forum to network, share successes and strategize about future goals. For more information and to learn about upcoming events, join the NIH-SACNAS listserv.
- The Women of Color Research Network supports all scientists interested in raising the voice and visibility of Women of Color (WOC) in biomedical and behavioral research. This new social media site is for women of color and everybody interested in diversity in the scientific workforce. Visit the Web site to join.
- MOM-DAD-DOCS seeks to provide mentorship, support, and networking to intramural trainees (basic or clinical) with children. Contact Lori Conlan (conlanlo AT mail.nih.gov)
- The Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management plays a lead role in making certain that representatives of all groups feel comfortable and can work optimally on the NIH campus.
- Visiting Fellows Committee, ~60% of the NIH postdoc population is visiting from other countries. There are over 20 country groups to connect you with fellows from around the world: https://www.training.nih.gov/country_support_groups
February 11, 2013
One of the most common forms of professional communication is the ‘Presentation.’ No matter what career you have – professor, researcher, science policy analyst, CEO of a company – chances are you will have to prepare and deliver professional presentations. In fact, you probably give presentations regularly already – for lab meeting, at professional conferences, for your thesis proposal, or for your job interview. However, no matter why you are giving your talk, the goal is the same: Communicating and sharing information with your audience. Because of this, there are some simple principles that any talk should have – and you can use these are the building blocks of any presentation you prepare.
- Have a story: Every talk has a story. Just like any story – from a book or a movie – no one remembers every detail, but just the major events. Your goal is to construct your presentation so that people leave remembering the major points. Start by asking yourself, “What are the ‘major events’ your audience should know about your story? If they have 5 minutes to summarize my talk, what is it I want them to be able to say?”
- Plan your Transitions: Successful presentations are about successful transitions. Transitions occur throughout your talk. There is a transition from your introduction to your first major point. Another transition occurs when you move to the next point. Transitions also occur from slide to slide. If you understand the story you are trying to tell, then having smooth transitions is easier. When you are practicing your talk, think about how you will lead your audience from one point to the other. For example, once you complete your specific aims of your experiments, your audience should know (and you should too) that the next major point to discuss is the methods used, in only enough detail for them to understand what comes afterwards – highlights from the results.
- You are the Presentation, not the Slides: With Powerpoint and other presentation applications today, most people prepare slides to go with their talk. While this is not a bad thing, the slides should not be the focus of your story. Filling your slides with the verbatim text of your presentation bores your audience, invites them to read ahead (and by doing so, stop listening to you), and in the ends, makes them wonder why you could not have just written the talk and handed it to them before hand. You are the presentation: You tell the story, you decide what the important aspects to emphasize are, and you direct the audience’s attention to interesting features of graphs and figures. Your slides are tools and landmarks that help you stay on track, and remind you what major point you wanted to make at that time. Perhaps outline your story on a piece of paper, and then create your slides to help support your story.
Here is a recent videocast of a workshop that the OITE did on Talking Science: Designing and Delivering Successful Oral Presentations
No matter what type of talk you need to give, before you start, think first about your story, how you will transition from major point to major point (and from slide to slide), and do not rely upon you slides to tell your story. With these basics you can create any great talk!
January 23, 2013
You are reading through a job description, which starts with the following: “We are seeking an accomplished researcher to lead our transgenic mouse program.” You think this job is perfect for you! Your research project uses a transgenic mouse model, and for the past two years you’ve been Chair of your institute’s student led Career Symposium. You include in your resume the research you did in transgenic mouse lines, add a one-line bullet “Chair: Career Symposium Committee,” and send it in with your cover letter. Done. Now you just have to wait for them to call you!
When employers advertise an open position, they are trying to find someone that can produce results and match their needs. While you were correct to add your committee experience to your resume, simply listing it is not enough. Your resume needs to describe, in words, the results of your work as leader, and how you achieved them. So how do you do that? Start by simply writing, on a piece of paper, what you did as the committee chair. Use active phrases that describe what you did and what you accomplished. Here are some examples:
- Met weekly with other committee members to identify topics of interest and produced 9 seminars during a 12-month period
- Led meetings, set agendas, and ensured task completion
- Led a team of 15 committee members and distributed people to 3 teams based on skills and expertise
- Contacted potential speakers, providing details about your committee and the goals of the Career Symposium series
- Coordinated travel arrangements for speakers, created itinerary, and confirmed travel & hotel arrangements
- Managed finances to ensure the series stays on budget by tracking costs for receptions, honorariums, travel expenses, and processed reimbursements
- Marketed seminars to NIH community, using email, websites and other social media and achieved average attendance of 150 people per seminar
Now you have a detailed description of your leadership and the results of your work on the committee. The next step is to read through the job description again, paying attention to where there are examples of the requirements or duties of the position. As you re-read the description, you see the following sentence: “Successful applicants will be able to lead a small group, create timelines, communicate priorities, and manage staff to ensure deadlines are met.” The final step is to condense the list above into two or three short, active, bullet points that describe how your experience leading the committee matches what they want. (Editor’s note: Give it a try by writing your version of the bullet points in the comment section of this blog). This speaks directly to how you meet the position’s requirements, and is much more informative than listing “Chair: Career Symposium Committee.”
You can learn much more about career options in industry, and how to build your resume and cover letter to be competitive for these positions at the “Industry Careers Overview” seminar on January 24th, in Building 50 Room 1227 (also videocast at videocast.nih.gov). Click here to register.
December 3, 2012
In Sept 2012, LinkedIn added a new feature to their site to allow anyone to endorse anyone else. LinkedIn suggests that this new tool can be a way for you to recognize the good work done by your connections. http://blog.linkedin.com/2012/09/24/introducing-endorsements-give-kudos-with-just-one-click/
While the premise of the endorsement is positive, the way we see them being implemented is diluting their value. Here in the OITE many of our inboxes are being filled with eager readers endorsing us. While we love feeling smart, we question the value of endorsements when people are acknowledging us for skills they have never seen us use. For example: fellows have been endorsing our science skills when some of us have been away from the bench for over 8 years! How do you know the quality of our science techniques when we don’t even know the quality of our science techniques anymore? Forbes mentions in a recent article that in the first month over 200 million endorsements were added, and on average they see an additional ~10 million endorsements every day. In the social media sphere, google “LinkedIn endorsements” and you will see a flurry of activity about the value of endorsements, and most of the commentary is not overwhelmingly positive.
We urge you to save endorsements from just being a popularity contest, only use these “easy clicks” for people you are really familiar with. Not all of your first degree connections can you honestly judge the value of their skills that they have listed. In regards to choosing to “one-click” an endorsement for someone, heed the old adage, “Just because you can, doesn’t you mean you should.”