New Year’s Resolution: Meet with a Career Counselor

January 1, 2016

Cork board with a white sheet saying "Resolutions: #1, #2, #3"It’s a new year and you are probably making resolutions in the hopes that 2016 will be a successful and productive year. For career-related resolutions, a good place to start within the NIH is the Office of Intramural Training & Education. Here at OITE, we often make resolutions of our own in order to help provide new resources. At the start of years past, we have created Career Success Plans as well Calendars for Career Success. However, often the first place to start with career development and planning is by meeting with a career counselor.

There are many reasons why you might want to meet with a career counselor. Even if you don’t meet with a career counselor, it is likely you are having career related discussions with mentors and advisors. Here are some things to keep in mind in order to make the most of those discussions.

Honesty is Key
Many people say things that are disingenuous simply because it sounds good or because it is what other people want to hear. For example, you may feel pressure from your physician parents to go to medical school or you might feel pressure from the PI you respect to go into an academic job. Individuals often struggle with internal micro-pressures as well as external macro-pressures regarding career choices.

These can compound into choices that don’t feel right to you and are often accompanied by a sense of confusion or ambivalence. It’s not fun to be in this ambiguous state, which makes it so important to find a safe place to express these struggles. Career counseling is often the space where you can honestly and effectively work through these challenges with a neutral third party.

Manage Your Expectations
A career counselor (or any one person for that matter) doesn’t have all of the answers for you. It will be important for you to seek out multiple career mentors. This is important because not only will you not click with everybody but it also helps to hear a variety of opinions and approaches.

Participate in the Process
Sometimes people think they will go to their mentor or a career counselor and they will receive the answer of what they should do next. That is just not how the process works. In order for it to be effective, you must participate in the process. In fact, it is imperative that you be an active participant. The most effective career counseling takes place when an individual comes in with an open and proactive mindset. You might not be in a stage where you are open to this process quite yet. That is okay and this usually becomes readily apparent early on in counseling. But, it is worth a try in order to assess your readiness for introspection and change.

Perhaps there is an obstacle standing in the way of moving forward toward your goals? Sometimes this is a concern about grades, lack of experience or confidence. It can be helpful to talk about these perceived obstacles with a career counselor to help you evaluate them and find a way to overcome them or find a path around them.

Avoid Analysis Paralysis
Assessing and thinking about your skills, interests, values and personality traits is a vital part of any career counseling process. It’s often one of the first steps; however, introspection only gets you so far. There will come a point when you or your career counselor will challenge you to move forward in the process. This is not always easy and it might come at a time when you don’t feel you have everything figured out quite yet. You will still need to take action. Career counselors can help you identify your goals as well as the first action steps to help you get started.

If your resolutions are career-related, we wish you the courage to be honest with yourself and the strength and determination to be a proactive participant in your own career development. At OITE, we hope we can be a part of your career success in 2016. If you are at the NIH, you can make appointment with career counselors here.

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A Note from Our Career Counselors

May 10, 2012

Post written by a guest blogger Anne Kirchgessner, Career Counselor in OITE.

In my role as a career counselor in the OITE Career Services Center, I often hear postdocs say something like “My mentor hasn’t done anything to help me get to the next step.” The sentiment is understandable.  Your PhD advisor may have taken a more active role in your search for a postdoc position.  Maybe your advisor made a call to get you your current position, or may have referred you to a colleague or collaborator.  This sense of security using your PhD mentor’s contacts may fail when you realize that the next step is a new game with new rules, requiring new skills and strategies for success.   In a recent article in Science Careers, David G. Jensen discusses the facts that the recognition and help we seek doesn’t always come from the top down.   It suggests looking at the bigger picture, collaborating, and finding satisfaction in work that you want to do, and taking charge of your own career decisions. 

Read the rest of this entry »


Top 7 Reasons That You Should Visit A Career Counselor

February 6, 2012

In the beginning of January, we posted a calendar with monthly steps to move your career forward.  The February task was to meet with a career counselor.  Here at OITE, we have two career counselors on staff.  Anne and Elaine were kind enough to introduce themselves on the blog a couple of years ago.  What makes them an enormous asset for you is that they exclusively advise scientists.  They understand the career dynamics of fellows here at NIH and researchers in general.  They have a wide breadth of knowledge and experience in career counseling and have already helped hundreds of fellows take the next step in their careers. 

Whether you know where your career is heading or not, meeting with a career counselor can help you be more competitive in fulfilling your career goals.  With the help of our two career counselors on staff at OITE, we have determined the top 7 reasons to visit a career counselor.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Way to Go: SMART Career Resolutions

January 8, 2018

SMART

Happy New Year!  It is that time of year to make career resolutions that you will accomplish during the next 12 months.  Two years ago, in the New Year Careers Blog we suggested that trainees make an appointment with a career counselor.   This year, to be more confident that you will accomplish your career goals , we suggest that you utilize the SMART goals strategy, Specific,Measurable, Achievable, Results driven, Time-specific when creating your resolutions.  Using this strategy will take you further..faster!  Here are some detailed examples for fellows to consider as you create your career resolutions for 2018.

Postbacs

General Resolution:        Apply or re-apply to Medical School

SMART Resolution:          By June 15, 2018 I will submit my completed error-free AMCAS or AACOMAS application for admission to medical school. I will have attended an OITE Applying to Medical School workshop, had a personal statement critique, reviewed and edited my AMCAS application, used MSAR to  identify a list of 15 medical schools (3 reach schools, 10 within in range and 2 safety schools), achieved my MCAT score goal by June 1, 2018 (before I apply), obtained all letters of references needed, have obtained sufficient direct patient care, research, and leadership experience.

Graduate Students

General Resolution:         Apply for postdocs

SMART Resolution:          On June 2, 2018 (or 6 months prior to completion of my doctoral degree of my) I will apply for at least 4 postdoctoral research fellowships with a clean, critiqued, error-free CV, application letter, research statement that I created utilizing OITE career counseling, workshops resources, talks with my PhD advisor, NIH PI, science professional associations, and researchers that I meet at conferences.

Postdocs, Visiting and Clinical Fellows

General Goal:                                    Start applying for jobs

SMART Academic Resolution:     One June 1, 2018 (or eight months prior to the last day of my post doc) I will apply for 2 academic jobs with an CV, Cover Letter, Research and Teaching statements, and a well-developed job talk presentation that have been critiqued by OITE staff and my PI.

SMART Industry Resolution:        One June 1, 2018 (or 6 months before post doc ends) I will apply to jobs in a chosen industry with my resume, cover letter that has been reviewed by an OITE career counselor. I will have had a mock interview for industry positions, attended the Career Symposium in May 2018, conducted 3 informational interviews

Please join the OITE team for our January Wellness event,  Setting Goals for the Upcoming Year, on January 18, 2018, 2:00-3:30pm, Building 50 Room 1227.

 


Considering a Career in Biomedical Data Science? What you need to Consider

December 4, 2017
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Word Cloud Created by Jodian Brown using the generator found at https://www.jasondavies.com/wordcloud/

Written by Jodian Brown, Ph.D., Computational Chemistry, IRTA Postdoctoral Fellow OD/OIR/OITE, National Institutes of Health

Data science – it is a field of study that has exploded over the past few years. Consequently, there is a lot of interest from our trainees. To provide tangible insights into strategies trainees can undertake to transition in this field, the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) recently hosted a panel workshop on Careers in Data Science and Computational Biology.

To some the field of data science may seem new, yet, a core group of scientists may oppose that notion. This core group includes, but is not limited to, computational biologists/chemists, bioinformaticians and even geographers. These professions have been harnessing computational approaches and power to make sense of scientifically-relevant data for decades. However, the exponential rise in smart technology (such as smart phones and smart cars) has been linked to a significant surge in the need for persons that can use computational approaches and power to efficiently use and analyze large amounts of all types of data. And from this need is born the term data scientist. Harvard Business Review dedicated an article centered on the role of this job in the 21st century.

A tangible percentage of this rise in generated data can be attributed to biomedically-relevant sources. Over the past two decades, advances in scientific tools and techniques (e.g. high-performance computer clusters, molecular structure elucidation, and genomic sequencing) have drastically increased the data and knowledge within the biomedical enterprise. Thus, at this juncture we need scientists who can integrate their scientific background and interests with computational tools and approaches to tackle these vast data.

What skills should you consider developing if you are interested in pursuing a data science career? During the Careers in Data Science and Computational Biology workshop four main pillars important to this transition in data science were identified as:

  1. ability to understand and employ mathematical and statistical approaches
  2. programming ability
  3. at a minimum, peripheral knowledge of computer architecture
  4. ability to effectively communicate your work

Translation of the above pillars into practical approaches may include taking mathematics/statistics courses (e.g. machine learning or deep networking) as well as learning programming languages such as Python or R. The next step after improving your mathematics and computer language knowledge is to find a project of interest that ideally is related to your research and use available computer resources to execute project. Often, learning about computer architecture may occur on the fly but it is strongly recommended that you commit to understanding the basics. Various computer platform, analyses and visualization software are freely available (watch video of workshop for some suggestions). Here at the NIH there is a number of resources that you may access. The NIH’s High-Performance Computing (HPC) team offers several free classes (which provides introductions to supercomputing in science and Python) as well as maintaining the HPC cluster that some trainees may access with the appropriate project and proper approval from supervisor (Note: PIs pay for such use). The NIH Data Science Mentoring program accepts applications from NIH individuals who want to mentor or be mentored in data science. For more information on this mentoring program (which needs mentors) you can contact Ms. Lisa Federer via her email lisa.federer@nih.gov or Dr. Ben Busby at ben.busby@nih.gov. Dr. Ben Busby is also a great resource for those with proficient programming abilities who would like to apply them to hackathon projects.

A noteworthy caveat is that skills listed above may be easier to acquire if you are earlier in your career (e.g., postbac and graduate student) as you may possess more time and/or flexibility with regards to your research responsibilities. In contrast, senior trainees such as postdocs and research fellows may have more time constraints and project responsibilities. Nonetheless, if you are a senior trainee or employee it may be amenable to construct data science projects that are directly related to your research. Furthermore, the application of user-friendly computer software is highly recommended if an extensive programming background is not present.

The landscape of data science is broad and the depth of skills involved will depend on the subspecialty. A researcher in data science may be responsible for generating, extracting, analyzing and/or visualizing data and/or developing the tools to do so. Most data scientist positions will often rely on more than one of these subtasks. Thus, as you begin to explore and acquire skills in the field of data science, you can determine your preference of being on the side that makes “biomedical sense” of the data or that develops the tools or both.

The panelists at the OITE-hosted Careers in Data Science and Computational Biology workshop provided great insights into the advantages of having data science skills whether you are interested in an academic or non-academic career.  In addition, specific tools that trainees can assess and use to improve their data science skills were highlighted during the panel discussion. A video recording of this workshop can been found here.

Finally, remember that there are other resources, including career counselors who are happy to talk with you about career exploration, are available here at the OITE. You can schedule an appointment with one of our career counselors via visiting this link.


Making Career Searches Less Scary

October 30, 2017

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During a recent OITE workshop on the topic of career planning, trainees from all levels described finding the job search process “scary” and had feelings of  fear and stress regarding approaching the next steps.  For post bacs, applying to graduate, medical and other professional schools can sometimes feel like an uncharted maze at Halloween.  For post docs and visiting fellows, hearing the scary stories about pursuing academic careers, making the big step into industry, or searching for jobs in the US and abroad country is akin to walking in the dark in uncharted territory.  To add to previous OITE Halloween posts, here are some suggestions to help you slay the ghosts and goblins that are perceived to lurk in the career decision making process.

Do Not Go Gentle (Onto) That Good Career Path:   Put on your cloak of confidence –Allow others to help you learn what is next. 

A career counselor will help you confront myths and arm you with career realities that will empower you to forge ahead and fearlessly apply for opportunities and conquer interviews. You can also re-assess your career decisions and make healthy career choices through using individual career advising and assessments to discover how your interests, skills, and values relate to your career goals and career options.  Wellness advisors can help you manage stress and become resilient professionals through mindfulness exercises that are helpful at managing the stressors associated with the journey.

Researching the necessary qualifications and gaining experience will make career maze is less scary

Aim your flashlight towards the journey ahead by gathering practical information that you need about the career path you are embarking on. Conduct career research (websites, workshops, professional meetings), set up informational interviews with scientists, and utilize the videocasts and blogs found on the OITE web page to train for the trek.  Gain additional experience and skills through fellowships, OITE skills workshops, FAES and other options if you discover you need them. Create a timeline and strategy plan will help you to fearlessly navigate through the maze.

Unmask your talents

Create resumes, CVs, cover letters, personal statements and applications that clearly emphasize your strengths and skills. It is extremely important for scientists at all levels to include your leadership, teamwork, collaborations, communication, and community involvement in addition to your science and research skills.  Visit the OITE resume and CV and cover letter guide to help expose the broad range of skills that you bring to the position.

Use Career Tricks and Treats

It’s time to strut your stuff! Set out to interview at the doors of many schools and or positions.   Learn how to interview well by practicing the STAR technique of behavioral interviewing during a practice interview for graduate school and jobs.  This is a proven method of describing your past experiences, transferrable skills,  and discussing your experience with collaboration, teamwork, leadership, and problem solving and diversity.  Other tricks include, learning how to network, negotiate, and/or develop solid presentations of your research. To sweeten the deal, write effective thank you letters, a welcomed treat to those who have taken time to interview you.

 Have Halloween Fun!

Trainees are encouraged put on your costumes and stop by OITE Trick or Treat celebration on Halloween on October 31, 2017 between 11:00 and 12:30pm to celebrate you and also learn about how our services can help you in your career preparation.  Also hear about some of OITE’s staff’s scary job search stories.


How to Have Productive Career Counseling and Pre-professional Advising Sessions

September 11, 2017

Many of our NIH post bacs, postdocs and graduate students ask the question, “What can I expect from my counseling or advising meeting?”   To answer this question fully is to realize that the route to having successful counseling and advising sessions, like any relationship, is a two-way street.

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The services that these career services professionals provide to you will come from one direction. For example, review the OITE blog post on reasons to seek career counseling. You may want to meet with a pre-professional school advisor who provide advice and suggestions for strategizing your approach to applying and gaining admission to the graduate (PhD) or professional schools (MD, MBA, JD, MPP, MS) programs. Often these are professionals who possess the degrees for which they are advising and/or give advice on school choice, entrance exam testing (i.e.: MCAT, DAT, GRE, etc.), course selection and prerequisites, personal statement review, and practice interviews for specific professions.

What you bring from the opposite direction (as a trainee) will truly enhance your experience, help you to meet half-way, and work together towards achieving your career goals. Here are some suggestions about how you can prepare to make the most of your sessions.

Ask good questions: review basic information before coming to the session

  • Visit the OITE webpage and review the various resources.
  • Read OITE Career blog, related to the topic for which you are seeking counseling and advising.
  • Visit the OITE webpage for prior events and videos on job search strategy topics such as, networking, CV and Cover Letter writing, and information on a variety of career paths for scientists.
  • Review  OITE resources for applying to MD, PhD, MD/PHD, programs or taking the MCAT, GRE.
  • Attend and NIH sponsored programs that are advertised by the various institutes of health.

Bring updated hard copies of documents to your session

  • Print and bring a copy of documents such as CVs, resumes, cover letters personal statements, teaching philosophies and research statements, etc.  Advisors like to write on them directly.
  • Follow suggestions and make any recommended changes/edits before your next meeting.
  • You will need to make the changes to your documents so it is in your own words. This is in your best interest so the document is genuinely from you.

Prepare for mock interviews beforehand

  • Review OITE video casts and blogs on interviews for medical school, graduate school, academic, or industry jobs, etc.
  • Ask for help answering questions that you are having difficulty with.
  • Schedule a practice interview at least one month prior to beginning actual interviews. This will give you time to practice after receiving constructive feedback.
  • Continue to practice your answers after your mock interview implementing any suggestions made by the advisor/counselor.

Do your homework

  • Follow any suggestions for next steps and referrals provided by your advisor and counselor. Attending workshops or visiting websites, conducting informational interviews, and meeting with alumni are other opportunities that career professionals may suggest.
  • Make any recommended changes to your documents before your next session.
  • If you are having difficulty, be sure to tell your advisor so we can continue to help you.

Of course, we recognize that sometimes it isn’t easy to determine the specific reasons why you are coming in. So, if you are having difficulty with any of these suggestions, then just answer the question, “What brings you in?”  Rest assured that your counselor or advisor will “take you where you are” and  happily guide you towards your goals.

 

 


Where Do I Begin? Industry Careers for Scientists

February 13, 2017

One of the most challenging questions that developing scientists must answer is, “Should I pursue an academic or industry career?” For some, the pursuit of an academic career  is their path of choice.  For scientists who wish to pursue industry careers, the answer is more difficult to come by because they lack sufficient knowledge of how to pursue the variety of careers in industry.

This OITE Archives post will help scientists to answer this question by providing suggesting the following OITE Archives to begin gathering information about career paths for scientists.    To begin, read the following articles about moving from Industry to Academia and the Top 10 Myths about careers in industry discussed by guest blogger, Professor Brad Fackler.

Next, read through several of the recently published OITE Career Options Series blogs about popular careers for scientists. The information is still relevant and worth reviewing as part of your career decision-making process.

For those who have an interest in working abroad, here are several blogs that will open your eyes to career global opportunities for scientists

If graduate or professional school is needed as part of the pathway to an industry career the following posts will be helpful.

Will a Master’s Degree Get You Where You Want to Go?

Getting In: Everything You want To Know About the Graduate and Professional School Applications

We encourage you schedule informational interviews with NIH alumni and scientists employed in industry to learn more about how they made the transition.  Schedule an appointment with a career counselor to learn more about careers and how values, interests, skills, and lifestyle and how they factor into your decision.   Finally, attend our various career development programs such as the NIH Career Symposium to gather career information from NIH alumni help you make this important career choice.


NIH OITE Alumni: Where Are They Now? Director of Career Services

October 17, 2016

dumsch_amandaName: Amanda Dumsch

Job Title & Organization: Director of Career Services; SAIS Europe, Johns Hopkins University

Location: Bologna, Italy

What was your job search like?
I wasn’t actively job searching; however, a former boss emailed me a link to an open position at SAIS Europe.  I didn’t pay much attention to it at first and I actually sat on the email for over a month. Then, one day while I was at the National Career Development Association Conference, I suddenly decided it couldn’t hurt to send in my cover letter and resume. The process moved seemingly quickly after that.

How did you make the decision to take an international job?
It was actually a difficult decision for me because I was in an enviable position. My job as a career counselor at the OITE was fantastic. I was happily employed in a job that I liked working alongside people I respected. So, I worried and wondered. How could I walk away from that? I also lived geographically close to my family, so the prospect of moving an ocean away – on a different continent – stressed me out.

Making the decision took time and I did a lot of things to help get clarity. I made pros and cons lists; I journaled about it; I spoke to career counselors; I talked to trusted colleagues; and I conferred with loved ones constantly.  I even reread some of the very blog posts that I had written about decision-making, including:

Making a Career Decision? Use the CASVE Cycle

3 Decision-Making Tips

Decision-Making Activity — Prioritizing Grid

As a feeling decider, the decision ultimately came down to a gut feeling that this was the right next step for me in my life and my career. Sometimes stress and worry still kick in though and I panic, What if I made the wrong decision?  But, I try to take a moment to breathe and remind myself that I can always make a new decision if needed in the future.

What have you learned from this process?
There is an adage “opportunity knocks at inopportune times” and I have often thought about this line because it felt so applicable to my situation. Perhaps more than any other time in my life, I had committed to multiple projects through the end of the year. So, moving felt very disruptive to all of the plans (professional development courses, the NYC marathon, trips) that I had scheduled.

As a planner, it can be hard for me to make adjustments when something new comes up, but I learned to be more flexible and adaptable. The fact that this something new was so life changing felt exciting… and stressful.  I remind myself that almost everyone struggles with transitions and even positive change can create stress.

Any final thoughts?
While at the NIH, I had almost 2500 individual appointments; in these meetings, I had the chance to meet with trainees at all levels – postbacs, graduate students, and postdocs. I met smart and ambitious individuals doing remarkable work at and away from the bench.  Many of my meetings focused on transitions; helping people transition both to and away from the NIH.  I was constantly impressed by the trainees that I had the privilege of working with and I was especially struck by the visiting fellows.  Their courage to move to a different country, learn a new language, and adapt to a new culture was inspiring to me.  I look forward to experiencing a new way of life in a new part of the world, but the people I met at the NIH will always be dear to me.


What Anchors Your Career? A Look at Work Motivations and Values

September 12, 2016

Image of a boat dropping anchor

In the world of career development, we often discuss the importance of assessing your skills, values, and interests. Today, we are going to focus primarily on career values because while it is such a priority, it is also an oft overlooked piece of the puzzle.

What are Career Values?
You can see general categorizations of career values at O*NET. Another site which compiled a list of career values is Monster.com, which you can access here.  They broke it down into intrinsic and extrinsic values. Here is a snapshot of some of the options:

Intrinsic Values
– Working for a cause I deem worthy
– Experiencing adventure/excitement
– Having an opportunity to be creative
– Engaging in very detailed work

Extrinsic Values

– Making a certain amount of money
– Being in a position of authority/power
– Working in an aesthetically pleasing environment
– Being recognized monetarily or otherwise for contributions


How Can You Identify Your Career Values and Motivations?
There are many ways to begin identifying your career values. It can often be helpful to discuss this with a career counselor or mentor who can work with you to prioritize your values. However, some people benefit from structured exercises/activities to help them create their list of career values. It is important to recognize that you will probably create a long list of things you “Always Value” in a career; however, in order to be realistic, you will need to truly assess what your top values include. Try not to choose more than 3-4 values as your top priorities.

One other way of thinking about career values comes from Edgar Shein who created an assessment about Motivation and Career Anchors. He described career anchors as the unique combination of perceived career competence, motives, and values.  He put forth eight core career anchors. See which one you would choose as your primary and then secondary career anchor.

Career Anchors

  1. Managerial
    This type’s primary concern is to integrate the efforts of others and to tie together different functions in an organization. They welcome the opportunity to make decisions, direct, influence, and coordinate the work of others.
  2. Technical Expertise
    This type prefers to specialize in their skill and they enjoy being challenged to exercise their talents and skills in their particular technical or functional area. They feel most successful when they are recognized as an expert.  They tend to dislike being moved into managerial positions.
  3. Autonomy/Independence
    This type dislikes being bound by rules, hours, dress codes, etc. They enjoy setting their own pace, schedule, lifestyle and work habits. They often dislike the organization and structure of a workplace and often end up working for themselves.
  4. Security/Stability
    This type seeks security and stability in their jobs. They look for long-term careers, geographic stability, and good job benefits. They dislike personal risk and often personally identify with their work organization which makes them reliable employees.
  5. Entrepreneurial/Creativity
    This type thrives on creating something new and/or different, whether a product or a service. They are willing to take risks without knowing the outcome. They enjoy work where success is closely linked to their own efforts as the creator.
  6. Service/Dedication to a Cause
    This type wants to undertake work which embodies values that are central to them (e.g. make the world a better place to live; help a cause; etc). They tend to be more oriented to the value of the work than to the actual talents or areas of competence involved.
  7. Pure Challenge
    This type likes solving, conquering, overcoming, winning. The process of winning is most central to them rather than a particular field or skill area.
  8. Life Style Integration
    This type’s primary concern is to make all major sectors of their life work together in an integrated whole. They don’t want to have to choose between family, career or self-development. They seek flexibility and strive for a well-balanced lifestyle.

In whatever way you choose to think about it – career values, career motivations, career anchors – these are ultimately the key factors that drive you when making your career decisions.  Remember too, that these can change depending on where you are in your life-span life-space, so you might need to reassess over time.