A Decade and Counting, the NIH Career Symposium Celebrates 10 years.

May 2, 2017

On May 11, 2017 the OITE will again host the NIH Career Symposium! This year is special…we will celebrate its 10th anniversary.  This event is one of our favorites, it highlights the multitude of career opportunities for biomedical scientists—and in the past decade over 7500 graduate students, postdocs and fellows have attended the event to propel their own careers.  Our invited speakers tell us about their career paths, how they got their jobs, and advice to attendees as they plan their careers.

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The event is open and free to everyone, both NIH and non-NIH folks. It is intended for doctoral degree students and recipients. Just register to let us know you are coming!

We have a blog on how to navigate the day here: Getting the Most Out of Your NIH Career Symposium Experience and here: Career Symposium 2015 – #careersymp (Note our twitter handle will stay the same this year if you would like to follow along!)

We could not run the career symposium without the dedication of the over 700 speakers that have taken time away from their jobs to share their career insights. We have learned that many careers are a function of planned happenstance (FYI: never let a speaker tell you luck lead their job search). This year 99% of the speakers are NIH alumni.

We are also grateful to the over 200 postdocs and grad students who have helped plan the event since 2008. 125 of these former committee members are now alumni, in all career sectors (23% are in academics, 41% are in government, 34% are in industry and 1% are in non-profits). Committee members have blogged on how the career symposium has helped them on their personal career paths: Serving on a Committee: Make the Most of the Opportunity (watch for the call in September if you would like to help plan for the next event)

Since 2010 we have created a newsletter to share the highlights of each panel—each article was written by a grad student or postdoc. Read the synopses here: https://www.training.nih.gov/nih_career_symposium.

We culled out what we think are the best pieces of advice from the past decade of the NIH Career Symposium:

  • It’s not luck—you have to work at finding a job to make sure you are in the right time at the right place.
  • Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith that all is going to work out.
  • Any career you chose is the right decision, and is therefore not an alternative, may be the most liberating thing you do as postdoc.
  • When choosing your career path, it is important to remember that the only opinion that matters here is yours.
  • Good communication skills will not only advance your career in science writing but will also provide opportunities within science policy, grant administration, or to oversee research at universities.

So, we hope you can join us on May 11 for the NIH Career Symposium.  It just might be the catalyst to get you to the next stage of your career!

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The Power of Thank You

November 25, 2015

Cork board full of multi-colored post-it notes saying "thank you" in different languages.It’s the week of Thanksgiving. In the United States, this signifies a time of the year when many of us gather around a large meal with family and friends to not only celebrate, but also to reflect on things in our lives for which we are thankful.

Even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, this holiday can be a good reminder to stop and take a moment to be thankful. Studies have shown that cultivating gratitude is beneficial in numerous ways. Being grateful can help crowd out negative emotions, help foster a more positive mental attitude, and positivity has been shown to have huge physical and mental health benefits.

Not only can gratitude increase your sense of well-being, it can also play an important role in your professional trajectory. To clarify, we aren’t talking about the standard thank you letters that you send out after interviews or networking events, even though those are great and extremely important to continue sending. Rather, think about sincerely thanking somebody, which requires taking a moment to pause and acknowledge another’s assistance or even just to remark on the great work they are doing. Thank you notes not only make the recipient feel good, but it’s also a beneficial exercise for the letter writer.

As noted in the article “How thank-you notes can transform your career,” gratitude can be professionally powerful. Take the article’s example of Douglas Conant, the former CEO of Campbell Soup. During his ten years at Campbell, he helped turn the company around – he cut costs and implemented innovative marketing efforts all while improving employees’ engagement levels. How did Conant do all of this? Well, for the latter part, he wrote 30,000 thank you notes. He would take about an hour a day to write 10-20 thank you notes to employees at all levels of the company. He had a staffer help him find success stories to praise. Conant is quoted saying, “We’re trained to find things that are wrong, but I try to celebrate what is right.” His focus on strengths worked to help motivate employees and turn a lagging company around.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebooks’ CEO, took on a gratitude challenge in 2014. Zuckerberg celebrated Facebook’s 10th anniversary year by writing one thank you note each day. His reasoning was similar to Conant’s and he said, “It’s important for me, because I’m a really critical person. I always kind of see how I want things to be better, and I’m generally not happy with how things are, or the level of service that we’re providing for people, or the quality of the teams that we built.”

It can be easy to focus on the negative and dwell on what isn’t going right. In order to cultivate gratitude, we recommend an activity which was previously discussed in a blog post about enhancing optimism and resilience. During Thanksgiving, try this out:

Gratitude Visit and Letter
Close your eyes for a moment and think about a person who helped you out in the past. Perhaps someone you never properly thanked? This is a great activity to help you feel more positive because when you feel grateful, you conjure up a pleasant memory or association. Then, expressing that gratitude can help strengthen your relationship and can create more positive connections.   So, give that person a call, write them an e-mail or even drop by their office or home to say thank you!

If you try this activity out, comment and let us know. Thank you, dear readers, for continuing to follow and contribute to this blog!


Enhancing Optimism and Resilience in Your Job Search & Beyond

July 29, 2014

Picture of a group of blue sad faces with a yellow happy face in the middleAs we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, it can be really difficult to stay positive during a job search. However, positivity is often a key characteristic of the most productive job searchers and luckily, there are things you can do to help enhance your own optimism.

In the Job Search Resiliency video (part of the new OITE YouTube Channel) you will find helpful tips and strategies for finding ways to stay positive and optimistic if/when your job search doesn’t go as planned.

One takeaway (of many) from the video is to engage in positive psychology exercises.  Some of these exercises include:

  1. Gratitude Visit and Letter
    Close your eyes for a moment and think about a person who helped you out in the past. Perhaps someone you never properly thanked? This is a great activity to help you feel more positive because when you feel grateful, you conjure up a pleasant memory or association. Then, expressing that gratitude can help strengthen your relationship and can create more positive connections.   So, give that person a call, write them an e-mail or even drop by their office or home to say thank you!
  1. Three Good Things in Life
    Oftentimes, it is easy to identify all the things that went wrong in a day, or even all the challenges you are facing within your job search. Take a moment each day to balance out that perspective. Pause and reflect on all the things (big and small) that went well. Then choose three of these good things and write them down. We invite you to take it a step further and provide an explanation (why it was good and/or how it came about) for each good thing. You may find that you are the cause of many of these positive events.
  1. Identifying Signature Strengths
    Martin Seligman (Founder of Positive Psychology) and his research group have a website: authentichappiness.org.  This site includes information on learning and applying the principles of positive psychology to any domain, such as a job search. They also have a whole range of different surveys that you can take. We suggest taking the Signature Strengths Survey and noting your top five strengths.

    You can help combat negativity when you focus on not only identifying your strengths but also finding new ways to begin using those strengths more intentionally throughout your week. A logistical note about taking this survey: it is quite long as it has 240 questions and you can’t save it and come back to it, so be sure to take it when you have sufficient time. You do have to create a log in to access the surveys, but by participating you are actually paying it forward in a way by helping with their positive psychology research.

One final recommended exercise is to watch the full Job Search Resiliency video on YouTube. It’s a quick way to get even more information, including some key follow up resources.


Giving Thanks for our Readers: Why We Do What We Do

November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving!  The time of year where many of us celebrate with a ridiculous amount of food, American Football on television, food, family, food, friends, and did we mention food?  Also, and perhaps more importantly, it is a time of year where we focus on those things in our lives for which we are thankful.  Here are OITE, we are reflecting on why we are thankful for our jobs and give you all a sense of why we do what we do.

Many of us are trained as research scientists.  Others are NIH employees committed to education and training.  We remain involved in biomedical research while providing the research tools into the often overlooked part of your scientific life…the career part.  We understand the pressures to publish and the long and often unpredictable hours of the lab.  We appreciate the sacrifices you make to further science and to provide better treatments and cures for diseases.  It is that great appreciation that drives us to do what we do:  Help you have the successful career you desire.

We meet with many fellows either through our workshops or in one-on-one meetings to help you improve your career prospects, in any job sector.  We strive to take our understanding of the dynamics of lab life and couple that with our knowledge of career development to help provide the tools and guidance needed to succeed in whatever career path you choose.  We try to provide a positive influence and inspiration.  We help you prepare to become a PI by helping with your application package all the way through negotiating the offer.  We provide training on breaking into industry, from crafting the resume, networking tools, and transitioning to the new job.  And we also present career options along with ways to gain additional skill sets so you can pursue any career that excites you. 

Through helping others reach career goals in science, we get to be a part of advancing biomedical research, growing the broader workforce, and helping people lead fulfilling lives.  When all the pieces come together and we are able to help a fellow achieve career success, it is like getting that final bit of data that completes a paper.  We are grateful to be able to participate in your success.