February 25, 2013
You found an awesome job posting or graduate program, crafted the perfect curriculum vitae, and created a cover letter capable of convincing the staunchest of holdouts that you are a vital addition to their team. The only problem is you remembered to attach your resume after pressing send on your cover letter e-mail. Forgotten attachments happen to everyone, but the job application process is where you are supposed to distinguish yourself as a better candidate than everyone else. So – now what?
Unlike many career advice searches on the internet, there are not a lot of professional sites with comments on forgotten attachments. The obvious action requires you to send the forgotten materials; otherwise there is no chance for success. The real question remains: How do provide the missing information while saving face?
Do you apologize for the mistake? Do you try to act as if it never happened? The best route is to resend the same e-mail (with the attachment this time) with a comment in the title about the inclusion. Do not write a long, apologetic paragraph about forgetting the attachment. This reaction makes a big deal out of a common mistake and can make you seem insecure. At the same time you need to say something to differentiate the new e-mail from the old one so the hiring manager or principal investigator does not think you are spamming them. One postdoc recently forgot to attach their resume to a cold call e-mail and recovered by simply sending the same e-mail entitled “Employment inquiry at blah with attached resume”, and received a positive response.
For the most part, human resources and principal investigators tend to be pretty forgiving. Just keep in mind they are judging you at every interaction – this can be a time to show your ability to recover gracefully from a difficult situation.
Mistakes made during the application process may come back to haunt you during the interview. Keep in mind that if you are being interviewed that the company/ principal investigator thinks you might be a good fit for them. Do not be the one to bring up a past mistake. Do not give them a reason to deny you the position. Only talk about a past error from your application process if they ask about it. Be prepared with an answer that puts you in a positive light, not something like you were too busy applying to their competitor and forgot the attachment to them.
Of course, the better strategy is to remember the attachment. Make a list of things, mentally or written down, that you always check before submitting any application. Some items to include can be; properly addressing the cover letter, attaching the required documentation, filling in the subject line, and using spell check (spell check will not reliably catch names). Leave a comment with other items you think the email proof-reading list should include.
February 19, 2013
Last week at the NIH, Daniel Goleman delivered a talk about Emotional Intelligence and how it influences leadership. The premise of Emotional Intelligence is that understanding your emotions, the emotions of others, and how the two interact allows us to be more successful and happier.
Emotional Intelligence suggests that to be successful the following traits are important:
- Self awareness: being able to assess and understand your emotions and having self-confidence
- Social awareness: having empathy, organizational awareness and service orientation
- Self-management: having emotional self-control, adaptability, initiative and optimism
- Relationship management: developing others, influence, providing inspiration, conflict management and teamwork
While that all seems well and good, we often hear that scientists lack these types of people skills. The urban myth is that as long as you are smart enough you can succeed, without having to worry about how you interact with others. But, there is no researcher that operates in a vacuum—especially today in the word of team science and collaboration.
So, how do you become more aware about these topics, and use them to become more successful?
- Reflect on how you respond to stressors. Are there particular things that you know are hot buttons for you? In the topics that cause you stress, are there any similarities? What happens? Be detailed when you think of these; who is involved, what do you say (or not say), what is the outcome? What do you wish you would have done or said?
- Practice different responses. One way to get a better response is to practice it, even if it does not feel “right”. Think about this as writing with your non-dominant hand. It is possible, but it takes practice to make it legible. Is there a time when you saw someone else handle a situation well, what can you take from that challenge you witnessed? When you reflected on a situation did you see another response that would have been better?
- Understand the other person’s position. This is not to say that you agree, but that you see the problem from their perspective. How can you use that information to build a working relationship?
- Breath. By focusing on your breath you can help reduce stress. This is also called Mindfulness.
There is no passive solution to understanding these topics, you have to practice. We teach techniques in OITE leadership and management courses. Workplace Dynamics covers understanding yourself and others and our Management Bootcamp has a whole session on working with Emotional Intelligence. We have even started to present these topics at national meetings such as Experimental Biology.
If you are an NIHer, you can Watch Daniel Goleman’s talk from last week. If you want other information on Emotional Intelligence check out the book list on sites such as Amazon or from your local library.
Research the topic, and learn to be more successful in science by embracing that people are part of our success.
July 9, 2012
The title seems a little contradictory. How is it that you can get more work done, but spend less time working? According to a New York Times article about a study from the University of Toronto Scarborough, it is because small breaks make you more efficient. The study authors suggests that the brain “becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover, he explains — much as a weight lifter needs rest before doing a second round of repetitions at the gym.”
So here are a few of the tips from the article:
- Symptoms of needing to take a break are drifting or day dreaming.
- If you are in “the zone,” keep working. It isn’t working hard that drains your brain, it’s when you are forcing yourself to go on when you really need a break.
- Taking too many breaks leads to procrastination. So, be smart about it. Everything in moderation
Here are a few ideas for break:
- Go for a walk – Even just doing laps on your floor gets you moving and gives you a break from your work. If you are at the NIH and don’t want to melt in this heat wave, consider walking the track in the basement of building 10.
- Go get a coffee (or something else) with a co-worker – After all, you have to walk to where the coffee is and having someone with you makes it less likely you will just sit and start thinking about work. According scientists who have spent time in England, many labs there still take a break in the afternoon for tea (or other beverage) for about 30 minutes. In fact, there is often a break in the morning as well for around the same amount of time.
- Stand at your computer while you read the OITE Careers Blog – The article mentions that standing while doing your work can help relieve some of the brain drain.
- Take a nap – We are aware this is not a culturally acceptable practice here in the USA, even if it is supported by science. However, in other cultures a break in the afternoon to rest is quite common. The Spanish Siesta is famous, and so I asked a visiting fellow and friend from Spain about how the “Siesta” works in the research community. She pointed out the siesta is as much about food as it is about sleep. The main goal is to sit down together around the table and have a meal as a family or group of friends. If you can grab a siesta in that time, that’s even better.
Working hard is a hallmark of the research profession. Most scientists I know take a lot of pride in putting in long hours. We are certainly not suggesting that any of us not work hard. However, research suggests that taking breaks can help us work smarter as we work hard. And isn’t that what we all want to do?