Slowing it Down: 4 Simple Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Day

April 6, 2016

Find yourself stressed out from work?Silhouette of a person sitting crosslegged looking toward sunset

Between the office/lab environment, mentor and mentee relationships, outside training and education, and life demands, it is all too common for stress to hijack your wellbeing. One quick effective way in dealing with life stress is to use techniques in mindfulness meditation.

A recent review of mindfulness interventions at the University of Cincinnati shows mindfulness techniques to be effective at creating positive change in stress and stress-related psychology and physiology, especially in the workplace. Benefits of these techniques are shown in a range of occupational positions, including healthcare professionals, undergraduate and graduate students, continuing education faculty, and community members.

Length of the surveyed interventions ranged from 8 hours to 32 hours, and outcome measures included: perceived stress, self-compassion, burnout, and positive and negative affect scales. Of the 17 mindfulness studies reviewed, 15 showed positive post-test changes in psychological or physiological measures related to stress. Despite limitations of sample size and variety of outcome measures, mindfulness meditation is shown to be a promising method for stress reduction in the work place

Wondering how you can utilize mindfulness techniques to improve stress?

Here are four simple ideas:

  1. Try spending 5-10 minutes a day generating focused and non-judgmental awareness of your breath. Common techniques include counting the lengths of your in- and out- breaths and aiming to increase this count, putting your hand on your chest to feel the flow of air through your lungs, and listening to the sound of your breath.
  1. Generate non-judgmental awareness of thoughts, or “purposefully paying attention to the present moment, with a non-judging, non-striving attitude of acceptance” (Sharma & Rush, 2014). Techniques include letting your mind go blank, and observing what thoughts arrive, and acknowledging thoughts that arise without judgment.
  1. Spend some time focusing on an object around you (for example a piece of food, a sentimental object, or an object in nature). Notice the detail in the object, how it feels, looks, sounds, and even smells. If you are in your office or the lab, there are websites and apps that allow you to choose a scene and set a meditation timer for as little as three minutes to take a quick mindfulness break. Check out calm.com for a preview!
  1. Spend 10-15 minutes each day stretching, while paying attention to how this stretching affects the way your body feels, and the way your mind feels. Some useful examples of gentle stretches: clockwise and counter-clockwise head-rolls, forward and backward shoulder rolls, mouth/cheek/eye stretches making “big” and “little” faces, and touching your toes!

If you are at the NIH, the OITE Mindfulness Meditation Group meets weekly every Thursday at 5:00 pm (except holidays) in the Graduate Lounge in Building 10 (Rm. 1N263).  This group is designed to be a time for you to slow down and connect with yourself and learn the benefits of meditation.  It’s a drop-in group, so it’s fine to come any Thursday that you can.

As we progress in our jobs and in our lives, stress will always be a factor, and so finding novel ways to respond to stress can be an exciting way to improve your day!

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4 More Questions To Overcome Blocks to Action

February 10, 2016

Image of a stick figure laying on a red question markIn an earlier blog post, we discussed John Krumboltz’s Happenstance Learning Theory and we offered four powerful questions for you to ponder. Questions aimed at individuals who feel stuck and need some help moving forward with their career goals.  If you haven’t read that post yet, then take a look here.

Krumboltz recognized that career paths are often formulated through a mix of small decisions, big decisions, and happenstance or luck. He didn’t believe that people should make one plan and stick to it. Especially, if that meant staying in an unsatisfactory occupation just because it was declared to be your goal at one point in time.

According to Krumboltz in the Journal of Career Assessment:
“In a nutshell, the HLT posits that human behavior is the product of countless numbers of learning experiences made available by both planned and unplanned situations in which individuals find themselves. The learning outcomes include skills, interests, knowledge, beliefs, preferences, sensitivities, emotions, and future actions.

The situations in which individuals find themselves are partly a function of factors over which they have no control and partly a function of actions that the individuals have initiated themselves.”

He encouraged individuals to initiate and engage in exploratory actions as a way of creating happenstance – these unplanned yet often beneficial events which can dictate our lives.  People often get stuck in doing this, so he created questions aimed at overcoming blocks to action.

Here are four more powerful questions for you to consider:

  • What do you believe is stopping you from doing what you really want to do?
  • What do you believe is a first step you could take now to move closer to what you want?
  • What do you believe is stopping you from taking that first step?
  • How would your life become more satisfying if you were to take appropriate action?

 

If you are a fellow in training at the NIH and would like to have more help to support your progress, we invite you to make an appointment  with an OITE career counselor.


4 Powerful Questions

April 8, 2015

Are you feeling stuck? Are you looking to recharge some aspect of your career and/or life?

Here are four powerful questions to ask yourself:

1.  What is a chance event that you wish would happen to you?
2.  What can you do now to increase the likelihood of that desirable event?
3.  How would your life change if you acted?
4.  How would your life change if you did nothing?

To learn more about these questions, continue reading a post from the OITE Career Blog originally published in May 2010.

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A desert background with questions marks scattered around.

Post written by: Anne Kirchgessner, LCPC, NCC, Career Counselor

Feeling stuck in your current job? Not sure what your next career step is? Here are some tips to help you make your own good luck and take advantage of both planned and unplanned career opportunities.

John Krumboltz, a noted career development theorist, considers ways to take advantage of both chance and planned events. He calls this concept Happenstance Learning Theory. His work takes into account that the careers of most people have been impacted by chance happenings as well as planned events.

In a recent article in the Journal of Career Assessment (Vol. 17, No. 2, May 2009), Krumboltz writes:

“No one can predict the future – everyone’s career is influenced by many unplanned events.”

He encourages people to remain open to exploring opportunities in order to move ahead in a positive way toward their goals.

The three steps Krumboltz suggests in controlling unplanned events are:

1. Before the unplanned event, take actions that position you to experience it.

Application: Be active in many ways. Join walking groups, attend professional meetings, start a book club, etc.

2. During the event, remain alert and sensitive to recognize potential opportunities.

Application: Keep your mind open to meeting people and finding new opportunities ALL the time, not just at career-related events.

3. After the event, initiate actions that enable you to benefit from it.

Application: Follow up, keep in touch, explore related opportunities.

Rather than say something like “I can’t do this because…” he suggests asking: “How can I act now to increase the chance of a desirable future event?”

Following are four questions that Krumboltz poses that may help you to look ahead in a more positive way to explore a new or future direction:

1. What is a chance event that you wish would happen to you?

e.g. someone might say “I want to meet someone involved in public policy.”

2. How can you act now to increase the chance of a desirable future event?

e.g. “I could join a group affiliated with this field, and/or search on LinkedIn for people currently working in public policy.”

3. How would your life change if you acted?

e.g.  “I would learn more about public policy and probably make some good contacts in the field.”

4. How would your life change if you did nothing?

e.g. “Hard to say for sure…” (But it’s likely that you could miss some opportunities to explore and move ahead toward your goals)

Answering these questions might give you more knowledge and the flexibility to take advantage of chance opportunities.

Krumboltz also believes that the goal of career counseling is to help people “learn to take actions to achieve more satisfying career and personal lives – not just make a single career decision.”


Building Confidence for a Successful Career in 2014

February 25, 2014

Almost everyone faces challenges with confidence in the workplace at some point in their life.  Challenges with confidence can be more noticeable if we live or work in a culture that is different from the one in which we were raised.  Our family, cultural background and personal preferences may also affect our comfort with expressing ourselves in a confident way.  However, one can stay true to their values and still learn to express themselves confidently.  Two key steps to increasing your confidence include:

1.       Identify areas where you feel both confident and unsure.

In an article in Science Careers, Sharon Ann Holgate offers many useful suggestions about developing confidence.  She notes, “For those with low self-confidence, establishing appropriate metrics and measuring your progress against them can be difficult, so make sure to involve people you trust to offer honest feedback and support …Conversely, seeking out constructive criticism is important whenever you are feeling supremely confident about your job performance.”

The take away message from her article is that confidence needs to be grounded in reality. Seeking support and feedback are essential because we can both underestimate and overestimate our abilities.

2.       Practice confidence-building activities.

There is some interesting research from Harvard which indicates that your body language not only affects how others see you, but also how you feel about yourself. A power pose is to stand in a posture of confidence – standing tall and upright with shoulders squared and back. The simple act of power posing can have a positive effect on increasing confidence and reducing stress.  Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, shares how this works in her TED talk.

Confidence is often built over time with repeated practice, so seek opportunities to continue to develop your skills.  Start small in an environment that feels safe to you and push yourself to work from there. The OITE has many workshops that could be a great starting point in developing your confidence.  For example, do you feel uncomfortable asserting yourself in lab? Then, make a note to attend the workshop Speaking Up: How to Ask For What You Need in the Lab and in Life.  Are you feeling less than confident about your English speaking skills? Then, be sure to come to the two day class on Improving Spoken English.

Whatever the issue may be — self-doubt happens for many.  When it comes up for you, make sure you take time to recognize it and then take steps to make it more manageable for yourself.


2014 Career Success Plan

January 10, 2014

Here at OITE, our continued resolution is to help trainees become skilled in a variety of core competencies.  We view these four competencies as vital to your career development.

They include:
1. Career Exploration and Planning
2. Communicating
3. Teaching and Mentoring
4. Leading and Managing

Our goal for the blog this year is to cover a variety of resources and projected outcomes for each of these core competencies.

One of the first we will tackle is career exploration and planning.  This often involves four phases: Exploration, Preparation, Action, and Adaptation.  You will most likely go through these steps more than once because one’s career development very rarely follows a linear projection. Look next week for a blog on the topic of career exploration and planning, specifically individual development plans.

Hopefully, by covering all four of the core competencies, we will help to establish a thematic framework as you continue to read the blog throughout the year.  We will label and categorize each new post accordingly, so that the blog becomes a searchable site for you to easily navigate.  In addition, we hope this gives you some inspiration as you set your own new year’s career goals.  For a more detailed view of the graphic, please click on the image to enlarge.

Diagram of four core competencies; including: Career Exploration & Planning, Communicating, Teaching & Mentoring and Leading & Managing


The Top 4 Things You Should STOP Doing on LinkedIn

September 23, 2013

A stop sign that has fallen overBy now you have probably realized that LinkedIn can be a powerful tool during your job search, but LinkedIn is not just another social networking site – it is the professional social network.  As in real-life workplace situations, judiciousness and professional courtesy should steer all of your activity on LinkedIn.  You have worked hard to make and keep a good impression in your lab and/or office.  The same should hold true on LinkedIn; you need to make and maintain a positive, professional appearance. A LinkedIn faux pas has the potential to damage your career path, so here are a few red lights to heed to along the way:

1. Stop using LinkedIn’s auto-generated templates.
LinkedIn pre-populates most message fields; however, that doesn’t mean you should keep the generic message as your own.  Whether it is requesting a connection or congratulating someone on a new job you should take the time to personalize your correspondence.  Using the auto generated “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” misses an opportunity to tell the person why you want to connect. Make it as specific as you can; for example, “It was great sitting next to you at OITE’s Academic Job Interviews Workshop on Monday.  I enjoyed chatting about your research at NCI and I’d like to stay connected.”

2. Stop indiscriminately connecting with people.
The people you choose to connect with are often viewed as an extension of yourself, so make sure you know who they are and why they want to connect with you. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t link in with an acquaintance or even a stranger; however, if making a request to add a cold contact, you must explain why you want to connect (which goes back to point # 1).

3. Stop clicking on things!
With just a simple click of a button, you can quickly and easily endorse the skills and expertise of your connections; however, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  An endorsement can be seen as baffling if you are endorsing an individual for something you have never witnessed them doing first-hand.  An endorsement can also feel more annoying than gratifying to the recipient if this is an area that they practiced years ago. Many also wonder, “Are you secretly expecting an endorsement or recommendation in return?”  In an effort to continue advertising the endorsements feature, LinkedIn frequently groups your contacts together and asks if you would like to endorse them all for skills they have on their profile in one fell swoop.  Use your best judgment and think before you click.

4. Stop doing nothing.
Doing too much on LinkedIn – reposting every article you read online that day or asking everybody for a recommendation – can be overwhelming to your connections and it can create a negative online impression.  Equally bad is doing nothing at all. If you are job searching, this could even be worse. So, take the time to set a well-cropped, professional headshot as your profile photo (note: pictures of you on a beach, holding your cat, or with a group of friends do not set a good first impression of you as a serious professional).  Update your contact information, your headline and then get out there! As with any social network, the premise is to participate, so don’t be afraid to contribute to the conversation.


NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Profile 14 – Research Scientist, Industry

April 30, 2012

This is the fourteenth 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: Michael Abram

Current position: Research scientist, Gilead Sciences, Inc.

Location: Foster City,CA

Time in current position: 11 months

Postdoc: Fidelity of HIV-1 replication with Stephen Hughes at NCI-Frederick

Day-to-day: I work in clinical virology. It’s about 50 percent scientific research, filling in knowledge gaps about HIV drugs that are soon to be FDA-approved or have recently been approved. My research focus is on understanding mechanisms of action and resistance to these drugs, and how they work in combination as antivirals. The remaining half of my job involves nonclinical regulatory work, such as contributing to new drug applications to the FDA and providing clinical virology support on Phase III studies for drugs that will soon be approved. This latter part of my job involves assessing resistance mutations that may be arising in human subjects and determining the effectiveness of these drugs compared to the current standard of care.

It’s always a balancing act. Spending time on one thing usually takes away from another. But while there never seems to be enough time, and there is frequently a sense of urgency to some responsibilities, I am really enjoying my job. No day is the same. I have brought new insights and fresh perspective, which is one of the qualities they were looking for. For the most part I’m allowed creative freedom in my position when around me there is a lot of repetition.

Read the rest of this entry »


NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Profile 4 – Scientific Program Management

November 1, 2011

This is the fourth 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: Tshaka Cunningham

Current position: Scientific program manager at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; adjunct assistant professor at Howard University

Location: Washington, D.C.

Time in current position: 2 ½ years

Postdocs: Cancer and HIV/AIDS with Jay Berzofsky at NCI; viruses and immunology with John Yewdell at NIAID

How I got my job: Every year I would update my CV and show it to people. I’d say, “Just to let you know, this is what I’m doing now, hope everything is going well with you.” That’s how my resume ended up at the VA. They got it from someone in my network. They called me up and asked if I’d like to talk about this research management position. It was very informal, over lunch. I hadn’t thought about that kind of work before. Once I realized what I’d be doing, I really liked it, because one of the things I like is mission-focused research, and what better mission than to help veterans who’ve served our country? It got me fired up. I applied for the posting.

 Unexpected directions: I did my doctorate at Rockefeller University, which was hard-core academia. Cutting-edge research in HIV biology. It was the best time in my academic life. Then I started a postdoc at the Institut Pasteur, but NIH offered more in the area I wanted to be in. My thinking was that I’d stay in academia. At the NIH, I learned that I’m not a traditional, basic researcher. I need application. I don’t feel that great unless I’m trying to cure someone. Now, at the VA, I get treatments out to people who need them.

“A-ha” moment: I took the Myers-Briggs assessment when I was at NIH and was shocked by the findings. [In a supplemental book that lists popular occupations for various personality types,] it didn’t have science as one of the careers for my type. It had other options like politics, business and administration/management. All my life, I’d felt like a science nerd. The test helped me recognize all these other interpersonal skills and preferences that I have. It pushed me out of the lab a little bit.  Read the rest of this entry »


REAL WORLD NIH: Thursday, June 24, 10:00 AM

June 21, 2010

Join us LIVE this Thursday for our first REAL WORLD chat with a current NIH trainee! The trainee joining us for this live, online chat on Thursday has been invited to interview for a position at the intersection of science policy, science communication, and grants administration.

To give you a better sense of the position, read through the following phrases from the job description:

  • Design and conduct evaluations that will examine many qualitative and quantitative endpoints that measure scientific productivity, scientific and public health impact, and economic return on investment
  • Write, review, and edit materials, at various levels of technical difficulty, for use in communicating information effectively and serve as the agency representative at meetings related to the areas of responsibility
  • Synthesize and simplify scientific information from all available sources into capsule narratives, determine appropriate presentation style and format, and graphically enhance scientific documents to more clearly demonstrate scientific concepts
  • Determine and implement the best approach for quantitative and qualitative assessment
  • Evaluate and communicate important scientific advances made by grantees to a diverse audience comprised of scientific professionals, congressional staff and committees, other federal, state, or local agencies and specifically-interested segments of the lay public
  • Develop and maintain contacts in scientific evaluation
  • Provide an assessment of a scientific field
  • Develop a needs analysis in which the current state of the science is evaluated and future needs are assessed

The trainee interviewing for this job has a few questions she’d like to ask before her interview takes place. Join our conversation this Thursday and have your questions answered…whether you ask them yourself or not.

REAL WORLD NIH

LIVE – Thursday, June 24, 2010

10:00am – 10:30am

Before Thursday, visit the link above to set an event reminder for yourself. After the chat, the text of the conversation will be available at the same site.

Join us for the discussion, send in your questions, or just sit back, read, and learn!


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.