What Luck Really Looks Like

May 21, 2012

If you attended the 5th Annual NIH Career Symposium last Friday, you heard about how many professionals in a wide variety of industries got their job.  You probably heard more than a few panelists say they got their job by “luck.”  However, if you listened to their whole story, you would have realized that they made their own luck.  What you did not hear was a panelist say, “I worked in the lab all the time.  One day, this person that I had never seen before came into the lab and said, ‘Hey, you want this job?’” 

A common response from our panelists to the question, “How did you get into the field you are in now?” was something like the following:  “Really, I kind of got lucky.  I was volunteering with this organization…” or “I was serving on this committee…” or “I was working on this council…” all followed by “…and I started to develop these skills,” or “…and I meet this individual who worked where I now work.”  They did not sit idle waiting for providence to shine upon them.  Most of their stories share a common theme; they were out working to develop skills and gain experience doing what they wanted to do.    

Their “luck” was not random chance.  The second century Roman philosopher, Seneca, is credited with the saying, “Luck is where the crossroads of preparation and opportunity meet.”  While opportunity had to present itself, the panelists from the career symposium were doing the right things to be in the right places at the right times.  The panelists may feel “lucky” to have the jobs they have.  They enjoy what they do and they are excited by the new challenges they face.  But, they had done the work to be prepared to take advantage of that opportunity when it came.  Their word of choice may have been “luck,” but their story was one of preparation meeting opportunity.  They made their own luck.  How will you make yours?


A Note from Our Career Counselors

May 10, 2012

Post written by a guest blogger Anne Kirchgessner, Career Counselor in OITE.

In my role as a career counselor in the OITE Career Services Center, I often hear postdocs say something like “My mentor hasn’t done anything to help me get to the next step.” The sentiment is understandable.  Your PhD advisor may have taken a more active role in your search for a postdoc position.  Maybe your advisor made a call to get you your current position, or may have referred you to a colleague or collaborator.  This sense of security using your PhD mentor’s contacts may fail when you realize that the next step is a new game with new rules, requiring new skills and strategies for success.   In a recent article in Science Careers, David G. Jensen discusses the facts that the recognition and help we seek doesn’t always come from the top down.   It suggests looking at the bigger picture, collaborating, and finding satisfaction in work that you want to do, and taking charge of your own career decisions. 

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Getting the Most Out of Your NIH Career Symposium Experience

May 7, 2012

Post written by a guest blogger Lillian Kuo, Postdoc at NCI.

It’s time for the 5th Annual NIH Career Symposium on Friday May 18th, 2012!  This is an action-packed day of panel speakers and skills blitzes to provide insights into the myriad of professional career options for biomedical scientists.  Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of the event.

 Before the Symposium:

  • Take a look at the Agenda and decide which panels and skills blitzes you’d like to attend.  Use the Panel Descriptions to give you an idea of the topics that will be covered.
  • Look at the list of panelists and prepare a list of questions you would like to ask. Please remember that this is not a job fair.  This is an opportunity for you to gain information about your next step in your career.
  • Keep an open mind!

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