Before Accepting a Job Offer

April 16, 2018

Table with a croissant and black coffee with a woman writing in her daily planner.It can be easy to get swept up in the excitement of a job offer and immediately say, “Yes, I’ll accept!” During the interview, you probably already learned a lot about the organization and role; however, it is imperative that you take even more time – once an offer is in hand – to get clarity on job specifics. If you have recently been offered a position, here are some points to consider:

  1. Negotiate and confirm your salary while exploring options for bonuses.
    Salary negotiation can be stressful, but this is the only time in the entire job process when you can do it – take advantage! Here are some past blog posts on how to prepare when negotiating non-academic job offers and academic job offers.
  2. Clarify your title and the reporting structure for your role.
    This sounds pretty basic, right? It is surprising though how many times at OITE we hear trainees say they didn’t realize they’d be reporting to a postdoc or staff scientist instead of the PI. Make sure you are clear on the actual hierarchy within your new position and assess this person’s management style. Will it be a good fit for you?
  3. Understand your benefits and when they start.
    Employees have come to expect certain benefits be associated with their job – health coverage, retirement, commuting costs, tuition assistance, etc. Recognize that these benefits can widely vary between organizations. Additionally, they might not kick in immediately. Some organizations have a probationary period that you first must successfully complete. For example, at a new employee orientation, an employee was shocked to learn that health coverage didn’t start for two whole months. A delay in benefits can be costly, so be sure to ask these questions before you sign on the dotted line.

  4. Know how your performance will be evaluated/measured.
    What will be the main priorities for your role? In the first six months? First year? Are there certain metrics you will be required to meet? Even if the job isn’t in sales, many positions now quantify results they expect employees to hit. Ask this specific question now, so you aren’t surprised later. Also, try to ascertain if there are expectations to be “on” evening and weekends.One great way to do this is by…
  5. Meet your future colleagues.
    You have met your boss and your boss’s boss, but if you still haven’t met the team you will be working with day in and day out, then this should be a red flag. While it might not be completely transparent within the first meeting, you can get a glimpse of the work culture and office politics by meeting your future co-workers, either individually or in a group. This can also be a good chance to ask insightful questions to see if this work environment will ultimately be the best fit for you. Be sure to check out this past blog post on “Five Steps to Evaluate Organizational Culture Before You Accept the Offer”.

If you need more help evaluating a job offer, feel free to make an appointment with an OITE career counselor. The OITE can serve as a resource and sounding board as you embark on your decision-making process.

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Family: An Important Influence in Career Decision Making

April 11, 2018

 

In recent weeks, many of our trainees have received offers to attend graduate school or for academic and industry jobs.  Others are making decisions about where to apply and what career paths to choose. While exciting, it also can be stressful to choose among various options and offers.  Here are a few family related questions that trainees bring to counseling sessions.

What are the best jobs for scientists with families?

We are returning to our home country to be near our family raise our children.  How can I go about finding a job abroad?

Should I disclose that I have a family during my interview?

Will you help me find job in industry because I need to make money to take care of my family?

My family wants me to be a doctor.  I want to do something else.

Will my family be able to live with me in graduate school?

How can I investigate school systems for my children when I accept a job?

I cannot decide if I want a master’s or PhD because I want to have children and don’t want to be in school for a long time.

What are the best companies for families?

We are an LGBT couple, what are the best places to work?

My parents are aging, so I need to be near them while raising my current family.  I need flexibility in my schedule which seems impossible as a scientist. What are my options?

As you can see from these questions, the impact of family can change over the course of your time as a trainee preparing for a career in the sciences.  Career counselors often encourage clients to engage in self- reflective assessment at each stage to help our clients make better informed career decisions with more confidence.  Here are a few questions to reflect upon:

Who is in your family currently?  Has this changed (i.e. marriage, children, extended family)

What people in your life encouraged/discouraged/challenged you in your career pursuit?

What messages did you receive from your family about your career choice? Ability to pursue this career?

What is going on in the world around you now that will impact your career choice?

Are you the first to pursue this path? Is your career choice the same as others in your family?

Will family be relocating with you during this choice of careers?

Have you considered housing, cost of living, school systems?

Are three expectations of your partner/spouse relative to your career choice?

In what way will your extended family be involved in your career plan?

 

The OITE provides a variety of programs and services that support trainees with families.  Feel free to make an appointment with a career counselor to discuss these or related to your career decision.  Visit our website to look at resources for trainees who are also parents and read the OITE Careers blogs “To Share or Not To Share: Family Planning in the Job Market and Scientists as Parents: A Balancing Act . If you are part of our extended readership beyond NIH, we encourage you to pursue similar services in your community.

 


FROM THE ARCHIVE: Keep Stress From Derailing Your Work and Life

April 3, 2018

Post written by Sharon Milgram, Ph.D., Director, Office of Intramural Training and Education at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.

Many of our trainees are currently managing the anxiety and pressures that accompany the job and graduate/professional school application process. This From the Archive post will offer insightful perspectives and strategies that will help you manage these pressures effectively.

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Stress is inevitable – in our relationships, at home and at work, pretty much all around us. At NIH our stresses include experimental roadblocks, bureaucracy, paper and grant rejections, the school/job search process, difficult workplace relationships, and/or the craziness of juggling our work and life. On top of these normal (and expected) workplace stresses, many of us are now experiencing a high level of stress related to the uncertainty of future government policies, here and abroad.  While some stress can be helpful, driving us to work hard and focus on things that are important to us, too much stress is counter-productive leading to sleepless nights, negative coping strategies, frayed relationships, and illness. Now, more than ever, we all need to pause and consider how we respond to stress and how we can work together as a community to manage the stress that seems to be swirling around us. I often talk with NIH trainees and staff about managing stress and wanted to share some insights from those discussions.

I will begin by laying out a brief model for wellness we developed here at OITE that is rooted in acknowledging that we need to focus on multiple elements to truly lead a healthy and less stressed life.  This holistic approach to wellness prompts us to consider four areas – our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual selves.

Wellness Model

Physical wellness includes things such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritional meals, exercising, avoiding harmful substances, getting regular health care, and taking breaks when we need them.  Mental wellness involves modifying unhelpful thought patterns (e.g., ruminating about the past/worrying about the future vs. paying attention to the present, perfectionism, comparing ourselves to others, negative self-tapes), as well as practicing self-affirmations and allowing the mind to engage in new things that interest us.  Emotional wellness focuses on being able to recognize and feel our emotions, expressing our needs honestly and directly, asking for help when we need it, creating and staying connected to a supportive circle of friends and family, and demonstrating compassion for ourselves and others.  Finally, spiritual wellness is about cultivating what gives us a sense of deeper meaning, purpose, and connection in our lives.  For some people this is done through religious beliefs and practices, while for others it is found in non-sectarian areas, such as nature, the world of science, social justice initiatives, creative endeavors and so on.  Whatever the arena, spiritual wellness involves having a connection to something beyond ourselves, seeking out resources that nurture us spiritually, investing time in what is most meaningful to us, reading books and/or watching inspirational media, and engaging in activities that support our life’s purpose.  It also means learning how to be a human being instead of a human doing.  It’s important to pay attention to all four areas as any one area affects our well-being in the other three.  Holistic wellness also involves increasing our mindfulness or awareness of how we’re doing in each area in order to practice good self-care.

After looking carefully at my own wellness practices and noticing some important gaps, I started experimenting with some new approaches. I am sharing my new strategies here, and hope you will share yours in the comments section, with the hope that more explicit discussions about wellness will help all of us all have an easier time during these stressful times. I recently compiled a playlist of upbeat songs and am trying to take more mindful walks (physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness). I realized I needed to stop reading the news at night and have replaced surfing the internet with a good novel or calm conversation with my wife (mental and emotional wellness). To learn more meditation strategies (a big struggle for me!) I participated in a class where we meditated each time we met (mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness).  My most fun wellness addition — I am learning to box! This is one exercise that totally takes me out of my head while relieving huge amounts of stress (physical and mental awareness). We all have a different set of wellness practices that work for us; let me know what wellness practices work for you; perhaps your ideas will inspire others!

Resilience is defined as the ability to grow and learn through setback and difficult times. The foundation of resilience is wellness and a foundation of wellness is community. If you wish to bring your most creative and resilient self to work (and beyond) each day, make an investment in your future by engaging with your colleagues at work and by finding sources of community at home.  Also, join us next week for our Tune in and Take Care workshop focused on stress management, wellness and resilience on the Bethesda campus and watch for offerings on other campuses as well. Get involved in groups on campus and make an effort to get to know the people around you. And get out there and move…. sing…. dance…. paint…. meditate…. connect…… pray…. hike…. whatever makes you more resilient and happy!

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Visit the OITE website to learn about the variety of services offered to trainees.  We invite you to join us for the Spring 2018 Tune in and Take Care workshop or our weekly Mindfulness Meditation workshops.  Also, check out the new Graduate Student Discussion Group, the Postbac Discussion Group or the Post Doc Stress Discussion Group.  We invite our readers beyond NIH to access similar services in your community to help you with ongoing wellness and stress management.

 


Which Medical School Should I Choose?

March 26, 2018

It is exciting to receive offers to attend medical school.  Simultaneously, it is stressful to have to choose which medical school to attend.  It is natural to experience a mix of anticipation, excitement, and fear of making a mistake as you make this career decisions. Here are some suggestions to help you make this important career decision.

Med school pci

Revisit your criteria for choosing a medical school

Look over your original criteria that you developed when choosing a medical school.  You can go beyond the national rankings of medical schools ask yourself, has anything changed, become better clarified, or new come up that will influence your decision?  Be sure to factor in your personal impressions from your interview, opinions that you received from medical students, your desires from medical school training, and your values .

For MD/PhDs

You may want to consider such things as location, time allotted for research and clinical, the faculty you will be working with, and the opportunities for conference and presentations.  Review the following article for additional criteria to use when choosing a medical scientist training program.

Attend the Second Look programs

One of the main reasons that medical schools hold revisit or “Second Look” programs is to give admitted students another opportunity to learn about their school without the pressure of an interview.  This is time well invested by Deans, faculty, medical students, staff and other campus departments  who come together to put on their best show with the goal of helping you to experience what it will be like to matriculate in their school.   If you attend you will have a second opportunity to ask questions of students, sample classes, tour learning facilities, learn about housing, libraries, research, ask more questions about financial aid, and other resources without the burden of interviewing.  In the instance where two or more schools have conflicting second look dates, you will have to choose the one that you need to visit most. Before you go, review the AAMC article that discusses several questions that medical students wished they had asked when selecting a medical school.

Use a weighted decision- making ranking system

To look at your decision more objectively, use a ranking system to evaluate the schools on key criteria that you have identified.

Step 1    Make a list of the criteria that you must have in a medical school

Step 2   Using a scale of 0-5, rank each criterion using 5 as the highest correlation

Step 3    Add up the numbers in each column

$ Funding Family Housing Research Options Diversity Great Peers Total
School 5 4 4 4 5 21
School 3 0 3 4 5 13
School 0 5 5 3 5 18

These are a few additional criteria that will help you with make this decision.   Feel free to make an appointment with an OITE career counselor or premed to further help you with decision making. We encourage out expanded readership to utilize resources in your community for similar assistance.


How to Write a Persuasive Personal Statement

March 19, 2018

It that time of year when applicants to medical schools are feverishly writing and re-writing drafts of their personal statements for medical school in anticipation of applying in June. To help our readers with this awesome task, Dr. William Higgins, Pre-professional Advisor with the OITE, has provided some suggestions that will help you to make a stronger case in favor of your admission to schools.

Persuade

To write a persuasive statement, Dr. Higgins encourages applicants to think about two main questions, “Why do I want to go into medicine?” and “How have I prepared myself to be successful?” In other words, applicants need to know that admissions committees are reading through thousands of essays looking for experiences that enabled you test the various roles (direct patient care, research, science, leadership, teamwork, service,) that a medical student and future physician will take on. Then you can select your key experiences that will persuade the admissions committee members that you have a strong foundation that has prepare you to succeed in medical school and as a physician.

When you are sitting down to begin writing your statement, Dr. Higgins urges you to stop and recognize that “generation of the content is a separate process from generating the actual text and words. Do not do them at the same time.”   Spend some time writing down and organizing your ideas and insight first. Then and only then, begin composing the text. Forego the writing strategies that are used in creative writing where you were “encouraged to use free writing, flowery language, complex sentence structures, and unfamiliar and artificial style.” For example, instead of writing write, “McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup” you would simply and directly write that, “McBride fell 12 stories…” Higgins suggests that a using logic and clearly worded statements to persuade your reader is appropriate because “medical or professional school essays must flow but don’t have to be a story.”

Dr. Higgins provides the following strategy to create a flowing and persuasive personal statement:

Step One: Do not write! Schedule time to generate the content.

  • DO NOT attempt to simultaneously brainstorm and start to write!
  • Find time when you are not under stress
  • Jot down your various ideas/experiences on notes (post-it notes) and place them on the wall or a large white board.
  • Use concrete examples from your life experiences that excite you

Step Two Choose key experiences and place them order that will create your argument

  • Organize your post-it notes on the wall
  • Select 1-2 themes of your essay
  • Then re-organize them determine the flow to persuade your audience
  • Start with the most important points (those that the admissions committees want to hear)
  • Note key phrases and catch words

Step Three: Start Writing Your Essay

  • Write an opening paragraph that forecasts what you are going to tell the reader during the statement.
  • Focus on key experiences. You don’t have to include everything. Do not rewrite your activities list.
  • Be clear and direct (i.e.: Tell them what you want them to know) No need for flowery language or many adjectives
  • Use the active voice and strong verbs.
  • Write often during scheduled times
  • Write positive statements and avoid negative ones. For example, don’t write, “I didn’t want to attend medical school or be a medical doctor initially…”
  • Eliminate unnecessary words such as, “Based on, In terms of, Studies have shown, Doctors are, It is thought to be, what happened was…”
  • Use correct punctuation
  • In the conclusion link back to your opening argument or thesis

Step 4  Proof Read and Edit

  • Put the essay away for 2 days before re-reading and editing
  • Read it aloud. TRUST YOUR EARS
  • Check for linearity
  • Underline the subject and verb in each sentence. Is the verb in the active voice, strong, appropriate for the subject?
  • Check each paragraph for structure, transitions, etc.
  • Check for continuity
  • Use spell check.
  • Schedule an appointment with a OITE advisor or counselor review your essay. Ask a peer.

Visit the OITE for all workshops and programs related to applying to professional schools. Seek similar services in your region or from your primary institution if you are part of our extended reading audience.


First Week on the Job in Industry

March 6, 2018

Congratulations!  You succeeded in landing your first position in industry after NIH and, like most trainees, you are experiencing a mix of emotions in anticipation getting started.   For many of you, not only is this your first “real job” after your graduate school and postdoc, it is your first job outside of academia.  This blog will provide suggestions of what to expect during your first week and offers some do’s and don’ts in support of a successful transition from the comfortable routine of NIH lab to the work world.

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Week Prior

Like many adventures, preparation in advance will be essential to your success in your new position.  Give yourself at least one week’s time after you leave NIH to prepare to begin your new position. During this time, you can relocate, establish your new home, assemble your wardrobe, and take care of personal and family business. Complete any pre-work (articles, projects etc.) that your boss recommends before your first day.  Bring any forms of identification (usually two) for your first day. We also suggest carving out some personal time, to de-stress and engage in wellness activities so you can start your job refreshed.  Consider doing a practice commute before your first day to assure that you will be on-time and know the directions.  Typically, your new boss or HR manager will provide you with a place to report, a contact person, an itinerary of what to expect that day, and where to park (if needed).

First Day – Onboarding

You have arrived (preferably about 15 minutes early), are well-dressed, and are prepared to approach the day with a fresh positive attitude. More importantly, prepare to meet lots of people!   Your new supervisor (or someone that they appoint) will welcome you, introduce you to your co-workers, show you to your workspace, and take you to lunch.  You will also meet many important people (office assistants, IT, HR etc.) who are charged to get you prepared to communicate with your coworkers and succeed in the company.  Expect to fill out paperwork, get pin-numbers, get yourself established with payroll, establish an email account and telephone number, get ID cards, obtain security clearances, obtain parking passes, and obtain access to any facilities you will need.  Someone will take you on a tour of the facilities and escort you to any meetings that have been scheduled for you.  Also, expect to be enrolled (that day or in the first week) in a New Employees Orientation that will introduce you to company culture, provide you with instructions for how to enroll in benefits (Health, Dental, Vision, etc.),  and inform you of resources available to you as an employee.  During down time  settle into your new space, read any materials that you were given,  and enjoy some quiet time.  On your way home, be sure to say goodbye to your boss and team.

First Week – Establishing yourself as a team member

Beginning with your second day continue to get established in your new work environment by learning about your first work activities  and completingion of the onboarding process (most likely takes longer than one day).  Approach each new day with the goals of being alert, asking good questions, behave collaboratively, and to begin contributing to the team’s success (without overstepping).  The following are suggestions for the remainder of the week to help you become successful.

To Do

  • Meet your co-workers casually, in meetings, and over lunch. Prepare a short introduction to use including your new title, where you came from, and your department.
  • Begin to set up a calendar and To-do list that includes time to meet with your new supervisor and team.
  • Be observant and learn about office norms (arrival and departure, dress code, meeting etiquette etc.).
  • Attend all orientations that are scheduled for you and complete paperwork on time.
  • Look interested and be attentive in meetings. Ask many questions
  • Contribute to office discussions – minimally at first, but enough to show you are engaged
  • Begin a list of SMART goals to accomplish during your first 90 days

Things to Avoid

  • Don’t arrive late or leave early. Communicate with your boss or administrative assistant if there is a conflict (inclement weather, etc.) so they are aware.
  • Try not to call in sick or be absent unless it is crucial. Why? You need to earn sick leave.
  • Don’t use your cell phone or I pad, or earphones. This non-verbal behavior will be interpreted as aloof, closed off, disinterested and disrespectful.
  • Don’t sit in your office or eat alone. Seek out an opportunity to be a collaborator and team player
  • Don’t be silent. Add something to the conversations to show engagement in meetings
  • Don’t agree with office gossip or speak negatively about co-workers, work environment, boss, culture. It is better to say “thanks for the heads up”
  • Don’t ask your about future promotions additional positions in the company. Focus on the current position

Getting a new position in industry is exciting.  Following these simple suggestions can help you start off in a positive manner and be prepared for success.  Visit our videocast and learn more about starting a faculty position.   Feel free to chat with an OITE career services counselor to discuss starting your job in more detail.

 

 

 


Learn to Negotiate Before Your Interview

February 16, 2018

In recent weeks, many well trained and educated fellows have been offered positions in industry and other non-academic settings.  While that is good news, some were caught off guard because they were asked about salary requirements, start dates, or seemingly offered the position.  Traditionally, large corporations and academic departments extend job offers by telephone after the interviews are over and you are at home, eagerly awaiting the call.  However, during some industry interviews in small or medium sized companies, they may ask you these questions as part of the interview. They can be asked by a range of interviewers including hiring managers, scientists, CEOs or HR staff.  Understandably, trainees may feel unprepared to answer such questions during an interview, and therefore fear they are making a mistake that could cost them negotiating leverage and even the job.  Here’s how to prepare to professionally and confidently address these questions.

persuasion-vs-negotiation-750x422

Assume the employer is in your corner  While tricky, this is a part of developing your relationship with the company and answering an interview question.  So approaching it from a positive place will benefit you.  When speaking with recruiters, many say that they are hoping to land the best and brightest talent and are eager to make you a good offer that you will accept.  Therefore, they are asking what you would like to have in advance, so they can begin to craft an appealing offer.

Learn how to negotiate and what is negotiable before you interview Review the archived OITE Careers blogs about preparing to negotiate and the ABC’s of Negotiation.  In general, this will help you to know the process.

Prepare to answer salary questions If you are asked about your salary requirements, you can craft a response based on your research of salaries for scientists in that area or company, and give a mid-range versus an actual salary number.  If they ask you about your current salary, you can be honest, and also remind them that it is for a postdoctoral fellow and not the current market rate for someone with your credentials.

Know when you can start  Before you interview for any job, think about what is an ideal start date for you.  Usually, it is preferred that employees provide a two-week notice of your departure from the job.  Typically, more time is often needed.  As a postdoc you will need to plan for transitioning your responsibilities in lab to help the PI continue in the research after your departure. Also factor in your time for packing and relocating.

Time to Evaluate the offer  Usually companies will give you one if not two weeks.  Don’t make a rushed decision or give them any indication that you have accepted the offer. It is to your advantage (and theirs) that when you accept the offer, you will be comfortable settling into the position.  We suggest reviewing the archived OITE presentation, and attending a future Industry: Negotiating Offers and Making the Transition workshop to learn how to evaluate an offer.  If you have other interviews scheduled that you would like to honor, it is good to be clear that you would like to honor those interviews before you accept the offer.

If you need further assistance, make an appointment with an OITE career counselor to ask questions and or have a mock interview appointment to practice your responses.  If you are part of our extended readership, contact a career professional in your institution or local area.