Would You Wear This at Work?

April 29, 2019

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Open-plan offices have become very popular in recent years and they seem to be the go-to option for most tech companies, especially in Silicon Valley. Some companies, like Facebook and Netflix, even tout that not even their CEO has an office. The open office plan was supposed to be less expensive for organizations and conducive to lighter, more open and collaborative companies. Organizations felt that if they removed walls, they would increase visibility and communication among employees and teams. Small startups, large corporations, and co-working spaces all jumped on the bandwagon.

Increasingly though, more and more research is proving that open-plan offices are problematic. Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban, at Harvard Business School and Harvard University, studied open office plans and found that employees spent:

  • 73% less time in face-to face interactions
  • 67% more time on email
  • 75% more time on instant messenger

Not only did open-plan offices decrease social interactions, it also decreased productivity. Employees are finding it difficult to have conversations with colleagues out in the open in front of everyone. Plus, employees are increasingly distracted and having a harder time focusing on the work at hand. The visual and noise distractions have been shown to severely slow a worker’s processing of even simple tasks. These distractions are so present that companies like Panasonic are marketing new product solutions.

Wear Space is akin to horse blinders for humans and it helps limit your peripheral vision. Noise cancelling headphones are also included in the apparatus. This is intended to be one solution to help an employee regain a bit of the privacy and focus that is lacking from an open floor plan.

Would you wear these at work to help you focus? What other tricks do you enact to help you maintain productivity in your office/lab? Leave a comment below.

 

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The Biggest Mistake on PhD’s LinkedIn Profiles

April 22, 2019

14Many PhD students and postdocs wonder if they really need a LinkedIn profile. Very often they are told by their advisors that using LinkedIn is a waste of their time. Perhaps it might not be the best go to website for academic job searches; however, if you are exploring any non-academic options, then you need to start using LinkedIn.

To ignore this huge platform would be a mistake and especially disadvantageous for an industry job search. Recruiters are actively sourcing job candidates via LinkedIn. With 590 million users worldwide, one of the keys to standing out is maintaining an active presence on the site. Another key to effectively marketing yourself on this site is to use keywords effectively.

With that in mind, the biggest mistake PhDs make on their LinkedIn profile is often one of the first things a viewer will see – your job title. If you are seeking non-academic positions, you should remove “PhD Candidate”, “Graduate Student”, or “Postdoctoral Fellow” from your LinkedIn headline.

When recruiters search, your headline and professional summary are the first things to appear and recruiters aren’t usually headhunting for a lab’s new postdoc. In fact, if you keep your actual title as your headline, you probably won’t even appear in the recruiter’s search because LinkedIn uses algorithms to help sort profiles based on relevant keywords and skill sets.

Instead of having your actual title listed, consider the jargon of the industry you are targeting. Don’t feel beholden to past academic titles. Add in keywords for the industry positions you are targeting. This could mean a running list of key skills and areas of interest. This will quickly signal to recruiters the types of positions you would be interested in and can help ensure that you will start showing up in their searches.

Examples include:

Research Scientist – Project Manager – Science Communications and Outreach – Event Planning

Or

Microbiologist – Health Policy – Global Health

In conclusion, LinkedIn weighs your headline and professional summary very heavily, so when creating your profile, be sure to pay extra attention to those sections.


Career Exploration Road Map

April 15, 2019

career exploration road map 300dpi

The career exploration road map is a tool that was developed by Bill Lindstaedt and Jennie Dorman to help students/trainees visualize the career exploration process and track their progress. This tool was initially developed for graduate students and postdocs at the University of California, San Francisco, but is now available for all to use.

The road map is intended to be career neutral as it is often understood that many trainees are considering both academic and non-academic career fields at the same time. The map guides you through six different stages of career exploration with a color to match each stage.

1. Self-Assessment (green)
2. Investigation (yellow)
3. Reflection (orange)
4. Synthesis (red)
5. Job Search (purple)
6. Reassessment (blue)

It is a board game style which walks you through key questions you should be asking yourself at every stage of the process. For example, in the first self-assessment stage, questions include: What am I interested in? What am I good at? What is important to me/What do I care about? What careers do I have a hunch I might like? What careers fit my interests, skills, and values?

The creators designed this specifically to help break down the process into more manageable steps. We all know that thinking about career exploration is important – vital even – to future success, but it can feel so overwhelming and time-consuming. Career exploration and decision-making is rarely a linear process hence the map’s circular outline. You may find yourself going through each stage multiple times for varied different options. While that can feel frustrating, it is also a part of the process that helps you eliminate bad choices and zero in on good fit options.

If you are feeling stuck and unsure about where to go with your career, give the questions in the career roadmap a try; and remember, if you are at the NIH, you have access to a variety of career resources and services, including many workshops/events as well as one-on-one career counseling. If the career roadmap is of interest, you might find the OITE workshop on Planning for Career Satisfaction and Success particularly helpful as well.


Using Online Job Simulations for Career Exploration

April 8, 2019

13Are you considering a career in medical writing? Intellectual property? Program management? Regulatory Affairs? Science Education and Outreach? And beyond?

If so, you should check out online job simulations which allows individuals to test out various jobs. It can be difficult to find internships or detail opportunities that allow you to see if a field is a good fit for you in real life. And while informational interviews are fantastic, they don’t allow you to try things out for yourself. This is where an online job simulation can be of help.

You can explore information about a variety of careers of interest to scientists, such as science policy, university administration, editing, etc. and then you can choose a simulation that gives you instructions for typical job tasks in that field. Currently, there are thirty-one simulations on the site, but more seem to be in the works.

Thi Nguyen, Associate Dean for Graduate Career and Professional Development at Washington University, led the development of these job simulations and notes that each task was reviewed by professionals working in the field to ensure authenticity. The purpose of these online simulations is to help scientists understand what a career actually looks like and whether they would enjoy typical tasks. Many postdocs have also found a newly discovered confidence about their skills sets by completing simulations.

Each simulation is designed to take between 4-8 hours and participants have deliverables to provide. Initially, this might seem like a bit time commitment and a lot of work; however, it is a key way to more fully explore a field. The deliverables are not evaluated and Nguyen encourages students to focus more on the process and not the outcome by asking, “Did you find yourself hungry to learn more about it? Did you find yourself in a little internet rabbit hole because you had fun?” If you were engaged, perhaps that is an indicator that this might be the right fit for you; if you were bored, it might be worth exploring other options.

As noted in a Science Careers article, Luisalberto Gonzalez became interested in becoming a patent agent after attending a career panel, but he still felt unclear about what the job entailed and whether he would even be qualified. He completed one of the online simulations and noted that it helped him understand that he could probably start his job search sooner rather than later. After completing the simulation, he felt assured he already had the skills necessary to make a career pivot.

Have you tried an online simulation? If so, comment and let us know how it was for you.


Are Millennials the Burnout Generation?

April 1, 2019

12In her viral BuzzFeed essay, “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation,” Anne Helen Petersen thoroughly details how economic and social demands/constraints have led millennials to feel burnt out. Unlike previous generations, millennials accrued more education, more debt, and were more willing to put career progression ahead of anything else.

Millennials are seen as the generation to have killed various objects and industries. One example is the diamond industry. Many millennials are not getting married and, if they do, it is later in life and partners rarely have the financial stability to spend on a diamond engagement ring. But, many millennials feel the promises made to them growing up have been killed off, too.

Petersen notes millennial “parents – a mix of young boomers and old Gen-Xers – reared us during an age of economic and political stability. As with previous generations, there was an expectation that the next one would be better off – both in terms of health and finances. But as millennials enter into mid-adulthood, that prognosis has been proven false.” This doesn’t seem to be afflicting a generational few, but rather is seen as the condition for the whole. This feeling of instability and of always needing to catch up is the basis of the generational burn out millennials are experiencing.

Petersen argues that burnout is “not limited to workers in acutely high-stress environments. And it’s not a temporary affliction: it’s the millennial condition.” It can be seen by the high numbers of people patching together jobs in a gig economy operating on their own schedule but without health care or paid time off. It can be seen as “academics teaching four adjunct classes and surviving on food stamps while trying to publish research in one last attempt at snagging a tenure-track job.”

Older millennials had their early careers rocked by the dot com bust. It was even worse for millennials entering the job market during the 2008 recession. But, it seems many millennials still have this underlying feeling of constant anxiety that they should be doing more to optimize their time and their work in order to try and get ahead. Even self-care techniques like getting an oxygen facial or keeping a bullet journal are implemented to help you become a better person but do little to help ease your burnout.

Petersen addressed this point on Twitter when she tweeted:

THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE WILL NOT CURE YOUR BURNOUT

THE HEADSPACE APP WILL NOT CURE YOUR BURNOUT

DRUNK ELEPHANT WILL NOT CURE YOUR BURNOUT

Petersen’s essay doesn’t actually offer any solutions to help you cure your burnout. Rather she asks the reader in earnest:

“So what now? Should I meditate more, negotiate for more time off, delegate tasks within my relationship, perform acts of self-care, and institute timers on my social media? How, in other words, can I optimize myself to get those mundane tasks done and theoretically cure my burnout?”

Many other generational groups have argued that millennials aren’t the only ones that experience burnt out. Jonathan Melsic, a Gen Xer, wrote an article “Millennials Don’t Have a Monopoly on Burnout” where he contends that Petersen understates the scope of the burnout problem stating that about a quarter of all U.S. workers exhibit symptoms of burnout – it seems to be a societal problem, not a generational one.

If you are feeling burnt out, or if you want to understand the psychological landscape for millennials a bit better, Petersen’s BuzzFeed essay is a must read.