NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Profile 12 – Assistant Professor, University of Colorado, Denver

March 26, 2012

This is the twelfth in a series of profiles about recent NIH postdocs who have found an array of jobs, from academia to industry to communications and beyond, in the U.S. and abroad. What do they do now, and how did they get there? What challenges did they face, and what advice do they have? Read on to find out.

Name: Brian Berman

Current position: Assistant professor of neurology, University of Colorado Denver

Location: Denver, CO

Time in current position: 15 months

Clinical fellowship: Movement disorders with research focus on functional imaging with Mark Hallett at NINDS

Job search in a nutshell: This opportunity presented itself to me when I wasn’t looking. Less than a year into my fellowship, I met someone at a conference who was leaving the position I’m in now. I checked in to see if there might be an opening for me. Then it was a cascade. For some frame of reference, I started looking at other opportunities. There were a couple of other jobs I considered. One was near my wife’s hometown and one was in Florida. I also thought about whether it was a better idea to gain experience elsewhere first. I was definitely looking for an academic science position, but I was hoping to get some sort of transitional funding prior to taking one. I realized that I could potentially leave the NIH ahead of those plans, and if so I would need the right support.

A balancing act: I’m not sure UC Denver was thinking about other people [for this position], but they did start to become impatient [as the months passed]. They wanted an answer one way or the other. I was stuck waiting and working to get a contract at another institution so I could better compare the two opportunities. It was not easy. I had to delay UC Denver until I was certain about the other position. The timelines didn’t line up perfectly. When you start the interview process, you should try to have a number of possibilities that are roughly in the same course so you don’t have to wait long after an offer to hear about the others. For me, it was down to the wire.

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Using Your Networking Map

March 21, 2012

If you have been following the blog calendar, you have been thinking about your career, and maybe have even met with a career counselor.  That means (hopefully) that you have a few ideas about career options, and some questions that an informational interview might help you answer.   Now that you have filled in your networking map, it is time to ask those you know if they know anyone you could talk with.

Say you are pondering a career in industry.  Your first two circles will be the easiest place to start and will most likely yield your best results.  After you have worked through your first two circles, go through your next circle and think about people from biotech and pharmaceutical companies you have met (or even people on the attendee list that you did not meet) at conferences and meetings. Or perhaps in this circle is a professor from a past institution that you know had a postdoc transition to a company.  This is also the place to search the OITE Alumni Database for former fellows who share NIH connections.  Then the final circle, people in the community, is where you let anyone you know help you find an introduction (you never know who your neighbor knows until you ask).

Now, you ask, “I have been thinking about career paths in industry, do you know anyone who has taken this path?  Would you introduce us?”  The key here is that you need to be able to ask specifically for what you want; your network cannot read your mind.  You cannot assume that they know you need a job, and thus will introduce you to everyone in their contact list.  You have to be proactive to obtain the introductions you need.

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NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Profile 11 – Senior Consultant

March 12, 2012

This is the eleventh in a series of profiles about recent NIH postdocs who have found an array of jobs, from academia to industry to communications and beyond, in the U.S. and abroad. What do they do now, and how did they get there? What challenges did they face, and what advice do they have? Read on to find out.

Name: Rebecca Dunfee

Current position: Senior consultant, Booz Allen Hamilton

Location: Arlington, VA

Time in current position: 2 months

Postdoc: How pandemic influenza interacts with the host antiviral response, with Jeffery Taubenberger at NIAID

My story: Up until about 7 months ago, I thought I was going to be an academic researcher running my own lab. I had been a postdoc for 3 ½ years then and I knew I would have to start looking for a job in the summer. I knew I wouldn’t be competitive for an academic position because I had almost no publications or abstracts at that point from my postdoc, having switched topics between my Ph.D. and my postdoc in a field that became highly competitive. I didn’t want to do another postdoc. So I considered other career options, such as science policy.

I wasn’t really thinking of consulting. I thought in consulting you work tons of hours and don’t do anything interesting. Then OITE had its annual career symposium. I’d always gone to the academic sessions in those events, but this time I tried different ones. In the consulting session, the presenter said it’s really about problem-solving. That was a revelation for me. It was exactly the kind of things I like to do. I started considering consulting as a career path.

How I got my job: OITE had its career fair in June. I thought, I’ll just go and see what sort of companies are there and pass out some resumés. I really didn’t think I’d get a phone call. That’s not how it’s supposed to happen. You’re supposed to know somebody who knows somebody. But [Booz Allen Hamilton] called 1 month later and said they’d like to interview me. We had a phone interview. Three weeks after that they set up an in-person interview. Then they offered me the job.

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Creating your networking map

March 5, 2012

For your 2012 Career Plan, the March topic is to work on your career network.  In the past alumni spotlights, 9 of 10 have mentioned networking as a key component of getting their jobs.  You know that this is an important part of your professional skills, but the task often seems daunting.

Understanding who you know and how they can connect you to who they know is a bit like a treasure hunt.  Think of your map as a set of concentric circles.

The first circle is people from your research group.   Add to the list everyone in your group now, and those that have left before you (even if you did not work in the lab at the same time you share the common thread of your boss).

The next circle is often overlooked: people in your scientific life.  Write out the people in the groups on your floor (and if you have not yet met those people—go and meet them now).  Next add in folks in your Lab/Branch and people from your Institute that you have met at retreats.  Then, add to this list people from past labs.  Add your classmates from graduate school, including those that were 2-3 years ahead of you that you interacted with.  

Further out is people in your scientific community.  Folks you have met at conferences, or who at least were at the same conference and are on the attendee list (you can always say: “We both went to AACR in DC in 2011, sorry we did not get a chance to meet….”).  Also here would be people your current or past bosses know, or other people in the closer circles.

Finally, don’t neglect the final circle…people in the community.  You never know who your mom/neighbor/friend etc knows.   People have used a family member who is secretary at a law firm to find connections in industry or connected fellows with their neighbors who share similar interests.  Add all of these people to your map.

Construct your map….and we will be back with how to utilize it next week.  We will chat about how to add to your map, use it at conferences, for informational interviews and more.