Teleguilt

August 24, 2015

Image of a person at a desk in a house.It’s called many things: teleworking, telecommuting, working from home, working remotely. Whatever you call it, it’s on the rise. According to the Telework Research Network, about one in five Americans work from home at least once a week; this number is expected to increase over 60% in the next five years. Teleworking is a growing trend in the workplace because there are many upsides. Teleworkers often report among other things: increased productivity, fewer interruptions from colleagues and more flexibility over the management of their time. While we know you may not be able to do research at home, it is likely you may telework to write papers, analyze data, or think about new project directions.

Teleworking doesn’t only benefit the employee. Employers also benefit from teleworkers. According to Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics, the government saved about $32 million last winter when federal employees worked from home during official snow days. Not all companies are on board with working from home though. Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, banned telework — an announcement that was widely considered controversial. Best Buy followed Yahoo’s lead and ended their flexible work program in 2013. Mayer recently defended this decision by acknowledging “people are more productive when they’re alone, but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together.”

An article “The psychological impact of teleworking: stress, emotions and health” was published in the journal, New Technology, Work and Employment. This article notes some of the benefits of teleworking including: better balance of home and work life, increased flexibility, reduction in commuting, reduced overheads for employer, increased skill base for employer, and increased productivity. On the other hand, the article also details some of the challenges that come with teleworking.

Telework Problems

  1. Social isolation
    One of the most commonly cited disadvantages to teleworking even with technological tethers like IM, email, phone calls and Skype.
  2. Presenteeism
    Meaning not just an increase in working longer hours but also working when sick as well. Presenteesim is an issue for office workers who feel pressured to come to work when sick, but this can be an even bigger challenge for teleworkers when co-workers can’t ‘see’ how unwell they are.
  3. Lack of support
    The article specifically mentions technical support in this section since technology is the key for successful teleworking; however, support could also mean supervisory support in decision-making as well.
  4. Career progression
    The importance of face time has been perpetuated through the years and through different sectors of employment. Turns out it might be true since people who worked from home were promoted at half the rate of their office worker colleagues.
  5. Blurring of boundaries
    Traditionally, the commute from work to home allowed for a role transition to occur. There is often a spillover effect for office workers who transfer both negative and positive emotions from work to home, but this can be an even bigger challenge for the teleworker.

Anybody who works remotely will also disclose another secret disadvantage: guilt. This teleguilt comes from a fear that your co-workers or your boss are thinking that you aren’t pulling your weight. You can feel this fear while sitting at work, but the teleworker often fears that everyone thinks they are lounging around their house in pajamas and not putting in enough hours. This guilt and fear often fuels teleworkers to work even more hours to “prove” that they are working. This makes the traditional long hours that scientists log even worse!

How can you combat teleguilt? In general, some strategies for reducing work guilt include:
1. Prioritize work items and immediately take action on the most pressing items.
2. Develop a system (time management/task organizer) that helps keep you consistent.
3. Recognize when you have done all you can for the day/week and then move on.

As you progress in your career, even as a scientist, the options for telework increase. So, keep these strategies in mind as you gain more and more options to work from home. Just remember the sign-off from Garrison Keillor in the Writer’s Almanac, “Be well, do go work, and keep in touch”...sounds like a good mantra for all who work from home.


Are you an Ambivert?

August 10, 2015

If you have ever taken the Myers Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI), then you probably know whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. This assessment was developed based on Carl Jung’s framework of psychological types. Jung coined the terms “Extrovert” and “Introvert” to describe the direction of one’s energy flow. He felt this dimension was one of the most substantial personality differences. Even if you haven’t taken the MBTI, it is likely you have a sense of your own preference in regards to what energizes you since extroversion and introversion are widely talked about.

It’s generally considered that extroverts tend to be energized by the outside world (people, places and things around them) and their energy is externally directed; whereas, introverts tend to be energized by their inner world (own ideas, thoughts, concepts) and their energy is internally directed.

Instead of thinking of this as a label, it might be more helpful to view these preferences as a continuum. If the descriptors for introverts or extroverts have never fully resonated with you, it might be because you are a slight extrovert or a slight introvert – an ambivert.  Arrow pointing in either direction. On the left is "Introvert." In the middle is "Ambivert." On the right is "Extrovert."

Ambiverts are those who fall relatively in the middle of being introverted and extraverted. They can slide up or down the spectrum depending on the context, situation and people around them. This is often referred to as situational introversion. They tend to identify with characteristics of both personality traits and can even adapt depending on the situation. Some have likened it to ability to be ambidextrous with your personality.

The article “Not an Introvert? Not an Extrovert? You May Be an Ambivert” in the Wall Street Journal describes the ambivert as:

  • Knowing when to listen and when to talk
  • Moderate in mood – not overly expressive or reserved
  • Adaptable to situations
  • Socially flexible

We could add to this list with research findings from Professor Adam Grant. Grant works at the Wharton School of Business at Penn and he published an article entitled, “Rethinking the Extraverted Sales Ideal: The Ambivert Advantage.” He found that, contrary to popular belief, strong extroverts are as bad at sales as strong introverts. The ambiverts did the best by a wide margin.

Interested in finding out if you are an ambivert? Take this quiz to find out!


MD/PhD: Is it Right for You?

August 4, 2015

A few weeks ago, OITE hosted NIH’s Graduate & Professional School Fair. One of the sessions focused on MD/PhD programs and how to decide whether it is the right program for you. If you missed it, the presentation can be found online.

The goal of most MD/PhD programs is to create physician-scientists who aim to spend about 80% of their time on research and 20% of their time on clinical care. Most MD/PhD programs are training you to enter research-oriented careers. If you have no interest in research, an MD/PhD might not be the best fit for you. Remember also that MD physicians can conduct research and many MDs pursue research fellowships during their training. Many MD/PhD applicants falsely believe that they will spend about half of their time in the lab and half of their time in the clinic. This is not true until maybe fifteen or so years into your career.

So, how can you decide? First and foremost, allow yourself ample time to gather information in order to make this decision. Before undertaking any further education, it is extremely important for you to consider your own interests and career plans.

Is doing translational research and making discoveries really important to you? If yes, perhaps you are leaning toward an MD/PhD. Are you more drawn to basic research and the idea of running a lab within the biological science field? If yes, perhaps you are leaning toward a PhD. Or maybe you are most interested in working with people in a clinical setting? If so, an MD or other medical training program might be the best fit for your long-term career plans.

Many prospective applicants wonder whether an MD/PhD is worth it for them. Some big considerations are the financial and time commitments. On one hand, an MD/PhD program is longer and generally takes seven to eight years to complete. However, on the upside, they are generally pretty well-funded. Another consideration is the level of competition. Medical school is difficult to get into and MD/PhD programs are even tougher. There are approximately 20,000 MD students and 600 MD/PhD students. These statistics aren’t meant to deter, but rather to highlight that MD/PhD students are a unique group. It is important to be focused yet realistic. Ultimately, your path will be decided through a mix of your interests, motivations and aptitudes.

The AAMC has a lot of resources about MD/PhD programs and they have even compiled a list of frequently asked questions. It is definitely worth checking out here. However, it can often be helpful to talk through your options with mentors or advisors. Do informational interviews with people who have an MD/PhD to see if this would be the right fit for you. If you are at the NIH, you can also meet with medical/graduate school advisors or career counselors within OITE.


NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Assistant Professor

July 27, 2015

**TWO-PART SERIES — Part 2: Job Search**

Name: Veronica Irvin

Job Title & Organization:  Assistant Professor; Oregon State University, College of Public Health

Location: Corvallis, Oregon

What was your job search like?
I really did want to get back to academia but I was also realistic that I might not be able to. I definitely had other career options in mind because I knew how difficult it was to find a tenure-track faculty position. Not only that, my position is actually hard money, which is even harder to find.

So, I tried to keep my options open in terms of career field, but I was also willing to move anywhere in the country. If you are fixed on a certain geographic area, that can be limiting. While I was at the NIH, I really focused on publications. I didn’t have any grants going to the university. Coming from the NIH, there was only one mechanism that I could apply through which was the K’s and the university was very forgiving of that because they also realized that by being at the NIH, I was aware of the grant process. So, during my postdoc, I focused on publications and that did matter quite a bit. I know that is what everyone says but it really is that way. It is just easier for them to see what you have done and to count. I also think that networking is important, but networking only takes you so far. My postdoc advisor could help me look at job postings and let me know if he knew anybody in that department or university and what that might actually mean when you look at the job descriptions. He helped me decipher the nuances between them and would help point me to his contacts at universities and on search committees.

Can you tell us about your timeline? How early did you begin your job search?
I attended almost every single training that I could from OITE. I cannot say how helpful they were. Specifically, I went to one that Sharon Milgram facilitated on Applying for Tenure Track Positions. She had mentioned that you should apply one year before you are ready, and I think that is some of the best advice I have ever been given. You have to apply to tenure track positions in the fall, almost one year prior to starting. So, I applied one year before I was ready and it was a great experience because you have to write your research statement and teaching philosophy. It was a great activity to sit down and realize where my holes were and how I wanted to try and focus my next year’s work in my postdoc. It took a lot of time to put together an application for a tenure track position, so I was glad that I started a year out. My postdoc advisor told me that you should consider this: every position that you apply for is one less paper you will get because of the amount of time you have to spend tailoring your application for that university and the job description. I think that helped me a lot because I went online and read a lot about OSU and I knew people who worked there, so I asked them a lot about it. So, applying one year before you are ready is really useful because you get to see what goes into preparing a tenure track application and then it still gives you a year to fill in the holes that you see in your application for the next year. And what happened for me is I actually ended up getting the job during my first year of applying. When I wrote the application, I never thought I was actually going to get this job but I was still so happy I did it because it really did help me focus.

You mentioned publications mattered a lot in your academic job search. Does that mean the quantity, quality or both?
I know this is hard to hear but for a research position or for a research-intensive university, it is still so true. Everyone says both, but it is hard to do it all. First of all, it is really hard to get into really good journals. For example, I don’t have any papers in Science or Nature or JAMA and you don’t necessarily have to have that. I think that one paper in JAMA or Science will help you tremendously. So, I had multiple papers in the next level journal and I still think that they were very good journals but they weren’t the top seven. For me, it was having multiple papers in journals that matched the research disciplines I was focusing on.

What was the interview like?
So, everything happened very quickly for me. This university posted early, the due date was October 15th. I was called within a week for references and then a week later for a phone interview. I did a phone interview with four to five individuals probably a month after I applied and then I heard back two weeks later for an in-person interview.

I flew out in January for the two-day interview process. Essentially, it was from 7:30 am to 7:00 pm each day. I met with someone for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In between meals, every moment was scheduled with meeting and interviews. I started off with the search committee and then the directors of the school. Then I did a presentation about my research which was an hour total. Next, I had an interview with the dean and I also met with a bunch of different faculty from within my school. The deans and directors asked a lot of questions about productivity and what courses I could teach and ideas for the future. The other faculty I met with were really trying to assess if I was going to be a good colleague. These interviews were a lot more low key and more about trying to see if you have common research interests. My feeling about those interviews was that they were trying to see if I was going to be a good fit and if I was going to be able to contribute to meetings and communicate with them. Some concerns could arise if there was nobody that you could collaborate with on your research. If that was the case, then that could be a hiring downside.

Is there anything you wish you had known going into this interview?
No, because I had asked a lot of people about their experiences interviewing and I also practiced interviewing at the OITE. I also went over my research presentation with people who had interviewed and/or worked in academia, so I wasn’t really surprised by anything in the interview process. But one question that others had warned me about getting and which I actually got in my interview was, “How do you bring diversity into the classroom? How do you bring diversity to your research?” Diversity was undefined and vague.

In hindsight, would you have changed anything about your search? Any last bits of advice?
My job search worked really well and I was fortunate to get a job during my first year of applying, but even if that hadn’t happened, I am so happy I started a year out. I can’t say how helpful that was in focusing me during my last year of my postdoc. I took the advice of applying a year before I was really ready, so everything felt like practice to me. Actually, during my interview, I felt really calm because I didn’t think I was going to get the job and I thought it was just good practice. My postdoc advisor gave me great advice before I flew out for the interview, he said, “Just have fun.” At this stage, they aren’t flying you if they really don’t like you and they aren’t trying to embarrass you. It helped take the stress off because I met so many people during my interview and there was no way I could know everybody’s research background.

In terms of advice: I would try to talk to faculty at the university within the same college or school who have the same dean because they will have a sense about how decisions are made regarding teaching load and money goes within the college/school. Talk to people (of course they can’t be on the search committee) to see what advice they would give. Once you have a phone interview, you will know who is on the search committee. I would look for other people and call or email them, or even better ask colleagues for referrals. That way you can know what kind of support they got their first year and it will make it clearer for you.

***

Last week, we posted Part 1 – Job Overview.

 


NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Assistant Professor

July 22, 2015

**TWO-PART SERIES — Part 1: Job Overview**

Name: Veronica Irvin

Job Title & Organization:  Assistant Professor; Oregon State University, College of Public Health

Location: Corvallis, Oregon

How long you’ve been in your current job: Started in September 2014, so I’m in my second term.

What is your role as an Assistant Professor like?
It’s a tenured track position, broken up between teaching, advising, research, scholarship and service. The first few years I have a reduced teaching load to get introduced to the system and develop my course syllabi.

What courses are you teaching?
This term I am teaching Program Evaluation for MPH students where they design an evaluation plan for a real-world health program. They work with a stakeholder in the community at a health department, a non-profit or a community organization, who is implementing a health program. The students design an evaluation that fits around the needs and the timing of the project, including some of their outcomes. It gives the students experience working within the community and a realistic picture about what timing and financial constraints are in a real-world setting.

The other course is a writing class for undergraduate students. In our university, they want to give students a chance to learn writing not only from the English Department but also learn what is common in your specific genre or discipline. Seniors will actually do a writing course with non-English department faculty to learn writing methods. The university actually provided me with a course on how to learn about teaching writing.

How did you come to choose this as the next step after your postdoc? Has a tenure track faculty position always been your goal?
I have always been leaning toward academia. That is where I was from prior to my postdoc. I really enjoyed my postdoc at the NIH and I was really thinking about whether I wanted to stay in more of an administrative role within research or go back to academia. In academia, I really liked the idea of working with students one-on-one and I liked the prospect of having a little bit more freedom about what your research will focus on. I really did miss working with students which is what I had done prior to the NIH as a graduate student.

What do you consider the most important skills that you utilize in this role?
Definitely writing skills and it is important to listen and understand the priorities of not only the students you are working with but also with the community organizations you are engaging. If I really want a student to have another opportunity with a community organization or a clinic, I really have to stop and think, “Why would this clinic want this student?” I need to make sure it wouldn’t be a time burden for them and analyze the benefit that each party could receive from this partnership.

What about soft skills?
How to write effective emails and how to have a one-on-one discussion with a student are some skills I use a lot. Many times, things come up in a student’s personal life which they have to come and talk to you about. Or, it can be a discussion on grades and having to explain why they may or may not get an ‘A.’ So, I think those conversation skills and being able to respond to emails whether it is department-wide or between you and a student are very important.

What is your favorite aspect of your current job?
I really enjoy engaging with the students and working to tailor the program for each student. There are some students who want to do more statistics/design versus students that want to do more community outreach/organization. It helps to tailor their courses and research experiences to help them be better prepared to land a job.

The university is the number one employer in the community so there are a lot of bonds between the university and the community, which is great. For me, it has been a process of starting slow and trying to make and establish those connections. That has taken a few months and I am still not quite there yet, but relationship building can take time.

What has been the hardest aspect about transitioning into this career?
Moving the research that I was doing at the NIH and trying to get it started up here. Finding out what will and what won’t work here has been challenging. One of the challenges is that we are located in a smaller city so for a lot of health promotion or public health research, you are now working with a smaller representation of the population. I have been trying to adapt whether I can do some of the research from OSU but with a population that lives elsewhere or can I tailor some of my research questions to match the population that lives here.

How has the orientation to this role been? What has the process been like for new faculty and how have you been supported?
There are lots of orientations and at our university, they gave us no teaching the first term in order to give us time to go to all of these new meetings, whether it was meeting with the IRB or others.

But it is important to note that I asked about this during my interview. It is important to ask good questions during your interview. My university actually has a formal mentoring program for new assistant professors. So, when I came in the fall, they worked with me to identify two faculty members who I wanted to work with for either teaching or research. So, I meet with them separately at least once every other month. The goal is to become tenured in five years, so they also help you make sure you are on the right track for that. I speak with my mentors about what I have done and my goals for the rest of the year so that I can make sure I have had a successful first year on the track to becoming tenured.

***

Next week, we will post Part 2 – Job Search.


Skype First Impressions

July 8, 2015

Do you have a Skype interview coming up? In a previous blog post, we went into great detail about how to prepare for a Skype interview. 

Now, here is a quick video with some tips on how to look your best on interview day. Don’t have time to watch the video? Check out the pre-interview checklist here as well as these four key tips on how to look and sound your best.

  1. Find a quiet place with no distracting sounds.
    Turn off your phone ringer. Mute the TV.  This can be hard to do if you are interviewing at home with kids or pets running around, but it is imperative to plan accordingly for uninterrupted interview time. Make sure you also keep other programs closed on your desktop that might ding alerts about calendar reminders or emails.
  2. Locate a good background and keep the camera at eye level and an arm’s length away.
    Think about your surroundings and what will be visible on the screen.  It is best to be positioned in front of a wall free of clutter or personal items.
  3. Good lighting is imperative.
    Make sure your lighting is aimed at you and not behind you; otherwise you will appear as simply a silhouette.
  4. Make sure YOU look good.
    Convey the right first impression and dress as you would for an in-person interview.  Even if that means a blouse and blazer on top and pajamas on the bottom.

Do you have other suggestions from your own experience? Let us know with a comment below.


How Rude! Minding Your Manners at Work

June 29, 2015

We have all seen rude behavior at work. The co-worker who becomes absorbed into their phone mid-meeting or the colleague who doesn’t clean up after themselves in a shared space. What do you consider rude work behavior and do you feel it is on the rise?

A growing number of psychologists do and they are conducting research on incivility in the workplace. Polls are finding that most Americans feel civility has declined, not just making the workplace unpleasant but ultimately having an impact on work productivity and well-being — even beyond the cubicle.

A professor from Georgetown University, Christine Porath, wrote a recent NY Times op-ed, “No Time to Be Nice at Work”. The author remembers seeing her “athletic dad” in the hospital with electrodes strapped to his chest. She couldn’t help but wonder how this had happened and she believed it was related to work stress as “for years he endured two uncivil bosses.”

In part, her hunch was confirmed by a study published in 2012 which showed that stressful jobs increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by 38%. Another poll of 800 workers on the receiving end of bad behavior found that half intentionally decreased work effort, 65% admitted performance decline and 12% quit.

AARP compiled a list of the top work offenses, including:

  1. Not saying hello
    Ignoring or not acknowledging a co-worker
  2. Acting superior
    This could include belittling someone’s ideas or suggestions in a meeting
  3. Inappropriate work language
    Using profanity or offensive comments
  4. Gossipping
    Some may call it venting, but talking about people behind their backs only leads to a toxic work environment
  5. Having sharp elbows
    Being overly ambitious or driven without regard for others in your lab/office
  6. Misusing email
    Either in frequency or in tone. Emails can often be misread, so if discussing a sensitive topic, have a conversation in person

They chose to stop at six, but what would you add to this list? Leave a comment below with what you think is the worst work offense.

Rude behavior often falls outside the scope of basic workplace policies, making it difficult (but not impossible) to remedy the behavior. To be fair, most people don’t know they are being rude. They may be so preoccupied with work that they forget their behavior has an impact on others. So, what can you do if a co-worker is being rude?

  1. Call them out on it.
    If possible, address the inappropriate behavior in the moment. A bad behavior unaddressed will most likely become a pattern. If you need time to collect your thoughts, then do so, but ultimately you need to have that conversation.
  1. Have a goal for the conversation.
    You will need to convey what you want to happen going forward. What is the behavior that needs to be addressed? What are your expectations post-conversation? Think about this on your own so you can articulate it to your colleague. For example, does your co-worker constantly interrupt you? Say so as diplomatically as you can and note that you expect this behavior to be curtailed going forward.
  2. Thank your co-worker for listening to you.
    This should be a respectful conversation not a confrontation. Return this respect by allowing them to voice explanations or any of their own concerns.
  3. Move on.
    Hopefully, now that the issue has been addressed, it will be resolved. Don’t let feelings of resentment linger; however, if you continue having issues, seek help from managers or mentors. You don’t have to endure an uncomfortable work environment. If you are at the NIH, there are many offices to help you, including: the Ombudsman, CIVIL, and EAP.

 


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