‘Tis the Season for Your Career Development

December 17, 2014

The holiday season is a time when many of us are trying to finalize year end work projects on top of managing personal obligations.   While trying to handle holiday stress, it is easy to lose sight of your own professional goals during this time of year.

Many job seekers protest, “No one’s hiring right now, anyway!” or “I’ll just start job searching in the New Year.” Whatever the excuse, the holiday season is actually a great time to focus on your own career development.  Here are a few reasons why:

Holiday Networking
Your inclination may be to wait until sometime after the holidays to dedicate time to your search; however, the holidays are actually a great time to begin networking. The increase in holiday parties allows for you to cross paths with people you haven’t seen in a while as well as connect with new individuals. Take advantage of December and the increased association with family, friends, and other groups.

The other advantage during this time of the year is that you have a reason to reconnect. Whether through holiday greeting cards or emails, it is the perfect chance to help sustain professional relationships. Just be sure to personalize these greetings and don’t fall back on a general mass email.

Holiday Vacation
More free time and a lighter work load can allow you to accomplish a lot more than you normally would. Use the holiday season’s lull to get caught up on a few things. Fine tune your resume, cover letters and LinkedIn profile.  Research new companies to target or make a list of potential contacts.  Or maybe, you’ll want to use this slower time to pause and reflect on the past year and what you are hoping to accomplish in the upcoming year.

Holiday Traffic
No, not that traffic! The traffic on the roads might be horrendous as you travel during the holiday season, but the website traffic to job search sites decreases dramatically in November and December.  While your competition is sitting around a fire sipping eggnog, you can be submitting your application now.  This often means that you are looked at within a smaller pool of candidates. You also have the added benefit of getting in before the peak application times of January and February.

The holidays can be a special time of the year and it can be a great time to relax and rejuvenate. It doesn’t mean that you have to put your search on hold though. Using this time wisely can help prepare you for career success in the New Year.  However you celebrate the holidays, the OITE wishes you the best!

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Handling Holiday Stress

December 8, 2014

For many, the holiday season is joy-filled and terrific. Some of us however, experience the holiday blues as we feel loneliness, reflect on the past year, and possibly dread an upcoming and uncertain new year. Rates of depression and anxiety tend to spike during the holiday season. If you are already experiencing stress in other areas of your life, then you may be especially vulnerable to holiday stress this season.

The holiday season often brings twinkling lights, and at the same time long to-do lists and a variety of different stressors:

  • Family: managing family dynamics and expectations, having them over, being separated from them or traveling near or far to be with them can all be anxiety-causing events.
  • Money: financial demands like buying gifts for everybody or travel costs can dampen the holiday spirit tremendously.
  • Kids: how to teach them the true value of giving during the holidays when everything seems to revolve around receiving?

So here are a few tips to help you handle the holiday season this year:

  1. Prioritize. Setting clear expectations for what you want from this year’s holiday season is key. Knowing and managing these expectations will be your first line of defense against stress.
  2. Stick to your budget. If you are always stressed out about buying gifts, change the rules this year. Maybe just one gift per person? Maybe just a limited monetary amount? No gift at all – only the kids? Consider what you want and talk to your family to come to an agreement.
  3. Plan ahead. Make a list of things that need to be done and set aside specific times/days when to do it. Plan the menu and shop for it in one trip.
  4. Be willing to say no and/or ask for help. Do not overwhelm yourself with events and activities you won’t be able to enjoy because you are mentally already three steps ahead. Don’t hesitate to ask others for help!
  5. Don’t forget your own health. Overindulgence during the holidays usually adds to your own stress and guilt. Your immune system might also be lowered from added stress and the arrival of cold/flu season. Try to exercise, get plenty of sleep, listen to soothing music or even get a massage.

At the end, don’t forget what the holidays are about: spending time with loved ones, family or friends. Hope you have an enjoyable holiday season!


How Micromanagers can Deflate Your Confidence

December 5, 2014

“How do you prefer to be managed?” is a common interview question. Generally, it is answered with some variation of, “I prefer to be given autonomy on my projects and not be micromanaged.”

Webster’s online dictionary defines micromanaging as “manage[ment] especially with excessive control or attention on details”. But how do you really know if you are being micromanaged? Especially while in a training position, this perception can be quite subjective. One person might label their PI a micromanager and another could describe that same person as a very available, hands-on supervisor. And what causes micromanagers to feel the need to control every project?

Often micromanagers want to be involved in every aspect of a project because there is an underlying fear that it won’t be done the right way. Or, they may expect people to handle projects and problems exactly as they would, no matter how viable alternative solutions may be. Overtime, a prolonged micromanagement supervisory style can cause an employee to internalize the insecurity that their boss distrusts their work products. Micromanaged employees also often become apathetic and disengaged from their work because they have become conditioned to believe that their ideas aren’t worthy of consideration. They realize their contributions aren’t valued and consequently, their productivity and morale often plummet. This lack of confidence can even bleed over into job interviews as the employee moves on from this group.  The job candidate questions their actions and can’t necessarily see clearly what skills they could contribute. No matter the job or what stage of your career, confidence is a key component of success.

Micromanagement of certain time-sensitive or especially important projects can be rationalized if not overlooked. As a trainee, you can probably surmise that there are other stressors causing your supervisor to put extra stress on your work at that moment. In the world of science, the current funding climate can cause severe financial stressors for PIs as they try to ensure they will have funding for everyone in the research group. It is also worthy of noting that there tends to be a lack of management training as individuals rise in the scientific ranks.

How can you begin rebuilding your confidence and positivity after working for someone you would define as a micromanager? Realize that it might take time, but assess where you are at in the moment. Meeting with a career counselor can help you objectively review your situation and identify new tools for coping — whether that is by starting a job search or finding new ways to manage your work environment.