Serving on a Committee: Make the Most of the Opportunity

September 24, 2012

The OITE starts preparing for the large events (like the NIH Career Symposium) about 9-12 months in advance.  When we can, we like to form committees of NIH fellows eager to help plan, organize and execute these events.   It helps us to get fresh ideas from the fellows’ perspective, and it gives fellows the chance to build valuable skills to highlight on their resumes.  Here are three ways to take full advantage of committee membership.

  • Leadership – Being on a committee gives you a chance to be a leader.  However, you have to take the initiative make that happen.  Vocalize your ideas by making suggestions for speakers, session topics, themes, etc.  Volunteer for tasks (especially if an organizer is needed), host speakers or moderate a session.
  • Administration –There is quite a bit of administrative work that goes into large events at the NIH.  Determining the number of rooms you need and how many chairs you need in each room; Deciding what sessions or speakers to put in what rooms; setting schedules and agendas for the whole event and the people participating in the event are only just a few examples.  Actively engage with the OITE advisor to make sure you can understand this process.
  • Networking –Networking is about laying the foundation for a relationship with someone.  Participate fully in all committee work and find common ground with your fellow teammates.  Make sure to greet and host speakers.  After the event find ways to cultivate networking connections with your fellow committee members, other event attendees, and speakers.

We have had a lot of people who serve on a committee later ask the OITE advisors for a letter of recommendation. We love to write strong letters for our committee members, so make sure that we see all the work that you are doing and how you pulled your weight in the team.

These are only a few of the skills you can establish while working on a committee.  There are others like writing, editing, advertising, analyzing and evaluating the event, and many more.  However, you won’t get the ones you want by just signing up to be on the planning committee.  Work with your OITE advisor to talk about your career goals and to identify which jobs on the committee will set you up for success.

We want you to have a great experience on a committee.  Do the best job you can, but make sure not to over-commit yourself.  Together we make the events that make training at the NIH special.


You Got an Interview, Not a Job Offer: How to Impress Your Way into a Position

September 17, 2012

Its interview season!  This time of year we seem to see an increase in the number of institutions hiring people.  Before they hire someone, they are going to interview at least a few people for each position.  This is why we set September on our Calendar for Career Success to be the month that you practice your interviewing skills.  Here are a few key Do’s and Don’ts you should be focusing on when practicing or preparing for an interview.


  • Know and understand what you are applying to do.  This does not mean just knowing what the job is called.  You need to know the specific duties associated with the position.  If you are uncertain going in to the interview, do not ask, “So what will I be doing?”  Instead, rephrase your question to show some understanding while asking for more clarification.  For example, “It is my understanding that I will be doing A, B and C.  Are there any other duties or responsibilities?”
  • Research the company/organization for which you will be interviewing prior to the interview.  Start with their web page to get a basic idea of who they are and what they do.  However, you need to read more than just their web page.  Use search engines and read reviews.  Use your network and ask people familiar with the organization to gain a more in-depth understanding.
  • Try to find out who is presently in the position.  This may help you gauge the experiences needed.  If the position is new to the company, research a similar position at another company. This may give you ideas on activities and programs that could be implemented in the position you are applying for.
  • Be careful of your body language, facial expression and your verbal tone of voice.  If you appear to be put off by a question, or uncertain of your answer it is going to be a negative against you when the interviewers are reviewing their candidates.
  • Answer questions in Situation/Task Action Result (STAR) format.  “When I was working for X, I needed to do Y.  I started by implementing Z, and working on A.  After a few months it was running smoothly and my supervisor was thrilled.” Read the rest of this entry »

NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Profile 21 – Health Science Policy Analyst

September 10, 2012

This is the twenty first 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: Dr Brenda Diane Kostelecky

Job title and company: Health Science Policy Analyst, NCI

Location: Bethesda, MD

How long you’ve been in your current job: 10 months

Postdoc subject, advisor and IC: NICHD, Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, morphology changes in mitochondria and their effects on proliferation, authophagy

What are you doing now?

I am a health science policy analyst at the NCI in the Office of Science Planning and Assessment. I did a 3-month detail there at the end of my postdoc and stayed on as a contractor.

How did you decide that you didn’t want to continue doing bench science?

I didn’t want to leave science but I couldn’t see myself at the bench for the long-term. I started to look for other options by joining the NIH Fellows Committee (FelCom) Career Development Sub-Committee. Read the rest of this entry »

Putting Together Your Job Package

September 4, 2012

If you have been following out Calendar for Career Success, you know that August is the time to put together your job packages.  Whether it be for an academic positions, a postdoc or a transition to a new career field, you need to have a competitive application.  We have provided some information below we feel will be helpful in this endeavor.