For 2012 we focused on your Career Calendar: A month-by-month plan to making your career a priority. For 2013, we will shift gears. Instead of focusing on a future career, we will focus on the skills you use now as a way to improve your current job performance. There are four groups of skills that we think all trainees need to have for success in their careers. Throughout the year, we will provide advice and point out resources that will help you become competent in these skills.
Communication: We communicate with people everyday: Writing papers, sending emails, giving presentations, or discussing ideas in meetings. In almost every job, the ability to share thoughts and ideas clearly with others is a necessary competency.
Career Readiness & Exploration: Starting your career search requires a strong set of skills: From preparing for job interviews and writing cover letters, to networking and using social media for finding jobs or opportunities for collaborations.
Leadership and Management: Any position that requires managing people requires effective teamwork skills. Are you the president of your student group, or supervising others in your lab? Then you need leadership skills. Not only do we need strong people management skills, but you also need project management skills, such as being able to set realistic milestones for your research or thesis, and then hitting those deadlines.
Teaching and Mentoring: Teaching and mentoring skills help us share knowledge with others, and go beyond the classroom setting. More experienced employees often share knowledge and information with newer ones, which helps the entire team or organization be more effective.
Of course, there is one last skill set that trainees need, and that would be research skills and knowledge of your specific field. This includes having detailed knowledge of your research area, how to conduct specific experiments, and being able to apply testable, scientific hypothesis to questions in your field. While the we cannot provide specific advice for all the different types and fields of research tacking place in NIH labs, we do think it is important that you evaluate your own skills and take advantage of resources and opportunities that allow you to develop your research competencies this year too.