Preparing to Negotiate Non-Academic Job Offers

October 22, 2012

In our last blog post we talked about negotiating for an academic job search.  This week, we will highlight tips for negotiating any non-faculty position.  Like last week, this blog post is intended to give you an overview of how to prepare for negotiations.  For more in-depth information on negotiating for non-academic job offers, view our video here.

Salary: Salary is probably the first thing on everyone’s mind when they think about negotiations.  The biggest question you have is “are they paying me fairly?”  For the most part, organizations are not trying to low-ball you.  It doesn’t make sense to pay you so far under market value, that you leave the organization faster.  That being said, they are looking to get you for the lowest amount of money they can. To make sure you feel like you are getting what you are worth you should connect with your network in similar jobs and organizations to see what salary you should be getting.  Ask these people, “I am looking at a job at organization X.  The position is described like this (insert a brief description here).  I think the salary should be $A-$B.  Do you think that is reasonable?”

Another resource for salary information is salary comparison sites:  Glassdoor.com, monster.com, and salarywizard.com are all good sites.  Be cautious though, sometimes the information is not as updated as you would like.  These sites are good places to start, but you need more information.  Understanding the cost of living changes in different areas of the country is also important.  $80K in the DC area is a lot different than $80 in Topeka.

You should always try to ask for additional salary, but be prepared to give them reasons on why you deserve more.  You may bring a particular skill set, be losing money by taking this position, or just have an understanding based on your salary research that the number they offered is too low.  They may say no to your request, but they can’t say yes if you don’t ask.

Benefits: Sometimes you can negotiate other benefits like time off.  The biggest thing here is to understand what you are worth or what you would be losing that you current employer gives you.  For example, if in your last job you had 15 days off (including some federal holidays), but the new jobs offers you 12 days.  This is now a negotiable item, either to add more days or to add more salary for the days you missed.  Also, if you have religious holidays that you need, this is the time to ask.  Industry jobs have other benefits that are negotiable such as bonuses, profit sharing and stock options. You may be able to get education payments if you need additional training.  Relocation costs are sometimes included, and if they are not you can try to negotiate them.  Moving cost span from a flat payment to full help with finding a house/childcare/packing services.

Typical non-negotiable benefits include health care benefits, other insurance benefits, flexible benefits and retirement packages.

Spousal/Partner hires: Your negotiation can also include help for a position for your other half.  We have seen this work, and not work depending on the organization.  Have a clear idea of what your partner wants to do, the types of jobs that they would like, a list of organizations that their skill sets fit into, and a current CV/resume in order to help your new employer to make the best connections.

Salary review: A good thing to do is to work out a plan that your salary will be looked at in 6 months to a year in order to see if your performance warrants a salary increase.  We know someone who did this and after six months got a $20, 000 raise.

The original job offer will likely be by phone or email, as will most of your negotiations.  Get the final deal in writing!  Nothing is final until it is written down and signed by all parties.

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Preparing to Negotiate an Academic Job Offer

October 9, 2012

If you have been following our Calendar for Career Success, October is the month to prepare yourself to negotiate a job offer.  Because the preparation for negotiating an academic position versus a non-academic position is so divergent, we are going to cover them in separate blog posts.  This week, we will give a brief overview of how to prepare for negotiating academic job offerings.  For more in-depth information, watch the videocast or view the slides from the latest OITE workshop on negotiating an academic job offer.

As you prepare to interview for academic jobs, it is important that you are preparing to negotiate an offer for those positions as well.  Often times the initial negotiation occurs verbally during or shortly after your interview(s).  You may be asked to provide information regarding your needs before the institution is willing to make you an offer.  Thus, it is important that you do your homework and be prepared to know what is reasonable.

Research what a typical offer looks like.   On-line databases can be a good place to start, but you need “real-world” data as well.  Many state universities publish salaries of current faculty.  Also, the Association of American Medical Colleges salary surveys are great resources for knowing your worth.   For those at the NIH, the OITE has the AAMC book that we welcome you to come in and use.  If you are outside the NIH, check to see if your institution has an online subscription to the AAMC web site.  Then you will need to determine your three salary numbers:  Ideal, acceptable and unacceptable.

Understand all the components of an offers. Is your salary is for a 9-month of 12-month appointment? Most 9-month salaries are paid over 12 months, but the duties associated with that salary (e.g. teaching), might only be for 9 months of the year.  You will want to ask if there are realistic ways to find support for the summer months to supplement that salary?  Is it a base salary with the possibility of bonuses?  Will the salary be fully supported by the university?  If not, how much will you be expected to provide from grants and when?  What about insurance (health, life, disability, etc.), retirement plans, sick days, vacations, holidays?  Almost all Universities have a standard benefits package, but you will want to know the details of that package to know if you will need supplement it on your own if it does not meet your needs. Read the rest of this entry »


Making Career Searches Less Scary

October 30, 2017

halloween-475x336

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.


LinkedIn and Tuned-In: How Social Networking Helped a Post Doc Alumna Find an Industry Job and Her Authentic Self

July 17, 2017

Post Doc Alumna:             Anu Nagarajan, PhD

Industry Position:            Senior Scientist

The OITE interviewed a NIH postdoctoral alumna who successfully landed a position in industry.  She shares her career exploration process, job search strategies, and knowledge that she gained about her employability as a professional scientist.

OITE:   Tell me the story about how you began to search for career options as post doc.

Anu:   In 2015 I started to feel a bit lost as a post doc.  I needed mentorship and wanted to know more about a broad range of related careers.  Simultaneously, because I had a newborn, I was also struggling with making a career choice for my family.

OITE: How did you go about getting the help you needed?

Anu:   Job search is a job in itself and managing multiple active projects in the lab, while figuring out strategies to manage both family and work left me feeling like I could not invest the much-needed time to do a job search. I did some soul searching and determined that there was a mismatch between my personality/values and the career and the work life balance I was seeking. It takes a while to figure out which components of your skills and interests you want to carry forward in your career, especially when you are trying to figure out a new career path for yourself.  So, I met with an OITE Career Counselor and began to learn about myself, my skills, and MBTI and I learned that I can do a lot of things that aligned with my values and personality.  These included, education, outreach, helping, mentoring, giving to others plus research in the sciences.  When I told my career counselor that I did not have the time to search for a job on top of my other work commitments, my career counselor advised me to create a Linked In account in order to easily explore jobs and easily create an online network.  I put in all the skills I have and want to carry forward.

OITE:   That is true, social networking sites like LinkedIn are potentially efficient ways to increase your visibility and connect virtually with colleagues and potential employers.  Was it difficult to complete your profile?

Anu:  It was hard for me to do this because I had to put my accomplishments out there!  At that time, I didn’t feel I was strong enough, honestly because when you are juggling at lot at work and personally, it’s hard sometimes to see how many skills you actually have. So at that time I didn’t feel that I was “up to the mark. “

Shortly after I completed my profile.  I felt good about my achievements as I populated the skills sections with science and other accomplishments. Soon after, people began endorsing me on LinkedIn and began adding me to their Profile which was great!  I added peers, faculty, and members into my LinkedIn network. I also joined the professional groups, where I went to grad school, worked previously, and professional organizations.

OITE:  What else did you learn by using LinkedIn?

Anu:  An unanticipated side effect of this was that is that I became more confident of myself!  I got 4 papers out, I went to conferences, and added researchers and representatives that I met from pharmaceutical companies to my LinkedIn links. I also started using the NIH Alumni Database. I met a professor on faculty at a local university who added me to his LinkedIn page who later became a key link to several more opportunities.

Talking to other people was so motivating to me!   To see how other people viewed me was huge!  This helped me to stay motivated, have a more realistic idea of who I am.  I realized that I am good at a lot of things.   The first thing I wish to share is that it is important to reach beyond your immediate lab group to gain perspective on your strengths. Your lab group might be great in giving feedback about your work, but you need a wider network of people, other scientists, mentors, and peers to endorse your skills and later promote you.

OITE:  How did LinkedIn help you land an industry position?

Anu:  I got a message through LinkedIn from an HR manager at a major scientific company who asked if I am interested in the company, to send her a CV and she set up a meeting with one of their group leaders.   I agreed, and during the discussion, I learned more details about the position and the areas of expertise they were looking for. The group leader was also in the same professional network as my other peers, so they already knew about my background and training.

Next, the HR manager and group leader invited me to give an on-site job talk to the group about my research and met meet one-on-one with the scientists, all of whom had PhDs and postdoctoral experience.

OITE: Was it a traditional job talk format like in an academic interview

Anu:  Yes, it utilized a job talk format.  Since this is a software company whose products are used by pharmaceutical companies for drug design, I focused my talk on my problem-solving skills, where I highlighted several methods I have used over the years to address many scientific problems, including some related to drug design.  Their science is solid and accomplished.  I hold them in high esteem.  Their products are state of the art and I have used them before as well.

After this interview, I proceeded to candidacy. I provided my references who included my doctoral academic advisor, a mentor and senior professor who knew my skills, and my current PI at NIH.  The following week, I was offered the job by the group leader who said, “we’d love to have you, we hope you will take the job!”

I negotiated for two weeks to evaluate the offer. During this time, I obtained more input about their research by talking to other members of the team. I also talked with my partner about the offer and what we needed for our family.

OITE:  When you talked with them, did you decide to negotiate?  If so were you able to negotiate everything that you needed?

Anu:   Yes except I must relocate to the city where they are headquartered.  However, I negotiated a later start date so that I had time to locate housing for my family. I also received time to attend conferences, publish, to work from home and telework which will contribute to work and family balance.

OITE:  What words of wisdom would like to share with fellow scientists from your experience launching a career search and landing an industry position?

Anu:   My main message is, feel confident about yourself and your accomplishments. A person who didn’t know me reached out to me through LinkedIn.  Networking is about being yourself and knowing what you are capable of.  It is important to have people who are impressed by you and promote you in your network.  Finally, I learned that I interviewed more confidently because I was being my authentic self.

As scientists, we have a one-track mind and think we only a few career options that will work for us. But once I started talking to people, I figured out what my priorities were in terms of what values, skills, and interests I wanted to carry forward in my career. OITE workshops and staff were a huge help!  Look up people on NIH Alumni database and cold contact them for informational interviews. Usually, people are open to informational interviews because you are from NIH. It’s not weird (I used to think so).

Please visit the OITE for more information about career counseling and other services for NIH trainees and fellows.  We also encourage fellows and our readers who are not with NIH to access services through your college or university or in your communities.


FROM THE ARCHIVE: Boo! Why Job Searches are So Scary

October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween from OITE!Image of two bats, a ghost, a pumpkin and the word "Boo!".

Today is a day for tricks, treats and all things spooky. While we hope you will enjoy the spirit of this holiday in your personal life, we also invite you to think about your professional life and what part of the job search scares you.

Job searching can feel like navigating your way through a haunted house – it can be riddled with false doors, creepy detours, and hair-raising events.  As proof of this, read some Job Search Horror Stories as shared by OITE staff.  Many questions can come up during a job search: What in your professional past, if anything, haunts you? How spooked are you by networking? What eerily hard questions have you received during an interview? How frightened are you about finding the perfect job?

The questions and doubts that arise during a job search are very common.  You are opening yourself up to new opportunities, which is often synonymous with change. Plus, you are putting yourself and your professional accomplishments out into the world for consideration.  You are pulling back the mask; on a superficial level, it is easy to understand how the job search can make an individual feel vulnerable, exposed, and anxious.  The anxiety and risk aversion associated with this process can cause individuals to procrastinate.  Like a ghoul you can’t shake, there can be a nagging voice in your head reminding you that you need to be doing more.

Brain research has repeatedly shown that humans try to maximize rewards and minimize threats – we often condition ourselves to avoid pain or resistance.  Often times, we also avoid what is most important to us.  Many scientists tend to be perfectionists, and this can be a debilitating attribute for a job search. We all want to choose the perfect job, create the perfect resume and negotiate the perfect salary.  Fear that we will fall short can cause us to avoid those activities and procrastinate.

Take some time today to think about the ghosts of your job searching past.  Remember that there are a lot of “tricks” to job searching, so be sure to utilize the “treats” from OITE. We are here to help you at every stage along the way and can hopefully begin to help demystify a scary process.


Equal Pay Day

April 14, 2015

Today, April 14, is 2015’s Equal Pay Day. This date (104 days into 2015) symbolizes how far into the current year in addition to the entire previous year women need to work in order to earn the same amount that men earned during the prior year. That is roughly 21 weeks of extra work for equal pay. A pay gap exists in nearly every industry — even in high-paying STEM fields, women are shortchanged.

pay-gap-in-STEM-01-infographic


EQUAL PAY ACT OF 1963

When President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, a woman made 59 cents in comparison to the dollar a man made. Fifty-two years later, there has only been a 19 cents improvement. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average, women now make 78 cents per dollar in comparison to men for the same work. Although, according to the National Women’s Law Center, this gap is even worse for women of color. African American women earn only 64 cents and Latina women earn only 55 cents for each dollar earned by males. The National Committee on Pay Equity has a chart of the wage gap over time. While the gap is closing, it is moving at very slow rate.

Some will argue that women tend to choose different jobs and that more women work in lower-paid occupations. Another argument is that women often leave the workforce during their working prime and/or they cut back to part-time diminishing their earning potential. However, even when these factors are equalized a pay gap of about 9% persists.

LILLY LEDBETTER FAIR PAY ACT OF 2009

Lilly Ledbetter was one of the few female supervisors at a Goodyear Tire plant in Alabama. She worked there for close to two decades eventually retiring in 1998. However, after receiving an anonymous note revealing the salary of three of her male counterparts, she filed an EEOC complaint. Her case went to trial and due to the severe pay discrimination she suffered, she was awarded $3.3 million dollars. Her case eventually reached the Supreme Court, where it was denied because she did not file suit within 180 days of her first paycheck. Ledbetter will never receive this restitution from Goodyear. She is quoted as saying, “I’ll be happy if the last thing they say about me after I die is that I made a difference.” She did and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill President Obama signed into law. It works to give people who experience pay discrimination more time to file a complaint.

With all of this history in mind, it is important to remember that the pay gap still exists today. Even the recent Sony email hacking revealed pay disparity amongst Hollywood’s leading male and female actors. So, what can you do to help? Recommendations for companies and policy makers can be found here and here. However, on an individual level, improved negotiation skills can help close the pay gap as well. One can learn strategies in order to help better negotiate and advocate for fair pay on their behalf.


Turning Down a Job Offer

May 5, 2014

Part two of a two-part series written by guest blogger Dr. Phil Ryan, Director of Student Services at the Office of Intramural Training and Education.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had used LinkedIn to promote my candidacy for a position that I was offered, but ultimately decided to decline. I wanted to share with you some of the factors I had to consider and how those factors made me change my priorities for my next job. We all have our own priorities — I listed and rank ordered mine. I learned through this experience that my listed professional priorities did not even contain my highest priority.

Throughout the interview process for this particular position, I absolutely loved the people I interacted with. The director of the office seemed like a fantastic boss and mentor. The people in parallel positions would have been fantastic coworkers. The few people that the position would supervise were hardworking and dedicated to the students they served. There was passion from every person that worked in the office. The position itself almost felt tailor-made for me. I left the on-site interview very excited about the position and preparing myself to share the good news with my wife and children.

The job fit all my listed priorities. It would be a great next step in my career and would put me in an institution with lots of opportunities to continue to advance my career. The benefits were outstanding, which is especially important for my family as we have two young boys and a third child due very soon. I felt confident I could negotiate the salary to be fair based on expected cost of living in that area. The job was a pretty standard 40 hours a week with limited travel. This is a must since being home with my family is important to me. Also, it was closer to both my family and my wife’s family and number of our best friends. Based on these critera, I would be a fool to turn down the position.

So why did I turn it down? After my on-site interview, I drove around the city in which the job was located. I realized the city really lacked energy. It was a nice day and yet, there were no people outside talking to one another. Businesses were not busy. Schools were just getting out and children were not playing in the parks. Parents were not talking to each other. I did not detect a sense of community. I am a scientist, so I realize that all this was basically an n of one and thus, I couldn’t make a conclusion based on two hours of observation. Luckily, I had a friend who lived in that city for seven years and had recently moved away. I gave him a call and while he did have nice things to say about the city, he confirmed that my observations were pretty consistent with what he and his family had experienced while they lived there.

There was one more factor that initially seemed like a big advantage. The city was two hours from everything! It was two hours from a major metropolitan area with all the culture, life and experiences that comes with big cities. It was two hours from a renowned national park and other outdoor adventure opportunities. It was two hours from snow skiing, water skiing, fishing, hiking, camping, professional sports teams, etc. It sounded great on paper. However, those two hours were a very lonely two hours. It was that city and then two hours to anything else. I tried to justify that while we may not have the most exciting life and community to live in, we would be two hours from all that excitement and all those friends. But the truth is, when you have small children, two hours is a long time. I realized that we would not be traveling those two hours very often and the city we would live in was the city that would help shape my children as they grow up. It would be the community that would support my wife and me. It would be the atmosphere that we would celebrate in good times and depend on in bad times. I know my wife and my children better than anyone and it turns out that my number one priority is providing the best life possible for and with them. This city was not that. So while the job and the people I would work with were amazing, it turns out my top priority is my family. My list of priorities in a job now reflects that.


Boo! Why Job Searches are So Scary

October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween from OITE!Image of two bats, a ghost, a pumpkin and the word "Boo!".

Today is a day for tricks, treats and all things spooky. While we hope you will enjoy the spirit of this holiday in your personal life, we also invite you to think about your professional life and what part of the job search scares you.

Job searching can feel like navigating your way through a haunted house – it can be riddled with false doors, creepy detours, and hair-raising events.  As proof of this, read some Job Search Horror Stories as shared by OITE staff.  Many questions can come up during a job search: What in your professional past, if anything, haunts you? How spooked are you by networking? What eerily hard questions have you received during an interview? How frightened are you about finding the perfect job?

The questions and doubts that arise during a job search are very common.  You are opening yourself up to new opportunities, which is often synonymous with change. Plus, you are putting yourself and your professional accomplishments out into the world for consideration.  You are pulling back the mask; on a superficial level, it is easy to understand how the job search can make an individual feel vulnerable, exposed, and anxious.  The anxiety and risk aversion associated with this process can cause individuals to procrastinate.  Like a ghoul you can’t shake, there can be a nagging voice in your head reminding you that you need to be doing more.

Brain research has repeatedly shown that humans try to maximize rewards and minimize threats – we often condition ourselves to avoid pain or resistance.  Often times, we also avoid what is most important to us.  Many scientists tend to be perfectionists, and this can be a debilitating attribute for a job search. We all want to choose the perfect job, create the perfect resume and negotiate the perfect salary.  Fear that we will fall short can cause us to avoid those activities and procrastinate.

Take some time today to think about the ghosts of your job searching past.  Remember that there are a lot of “tricks” to job searching, so be sure to utilize the “treats” from OITE. We are here to help you at every stage along the way and can hopefully begin to help demystify a scary process.


NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Assistant Professor at UPenn

September 30, 2013

Name: Elizabeth Grice, PhD

Job Title & Company: Assistant Professor of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania

Location: Philadelphia, PA

How long you’ve been in your current job: 1 year, 8 months

Postdoc Advisor, IC: Julie Segre, NHGRI

What do you do as an Assistant Professor?
It’s varied. When I first started, I did a lot of stuff setting up my lab and hiring people. Now, that I’ve hired people and they’ve become accustomed to the lab and I’ve trained them, they are a lot more independent. So, now I spend a lot of my time writing grants and manuscripts. I have found that I spend a fair amount of time traveling and talking about my research with people at other universities or conferences.

What do you research?
We work on microbiome, especially related to skin health and disease. One area that we focus on is wound healing and how the microbiome influences wound healing. We recently published a paper in PNAS showing that an arm of the immune system called complement actually modulates the skin microbiome and vice versa.  So, that was kind of cool to get my first big paper since my start in my lab.

What are the most important skills that you utilize in your current position?
I think the writing skills are really important as are the communication skills. Oral and written communication skills are key because a big part of your job is selling your research so that you can get funded and get publications.  The other part, which I didn’t necessarily anticipate, is being able to manage people. Right now, I have six people in my lab and I am responsible for them and I have to be sure that they are doing their jobs. Being able to successfully manage a research program really depends on these two skills. Of course, on top of this, you need to have ideas and an excellent scientific background.

How did you develop your communication and management skills?
I wrote a K99 grant which helped a lot. I realized that this is what I wanted to do because I really enjoyed writing the grant and I did enjoy writing the manuscripts when I was a postdoc. This was one of my favorite parts. I didn’t enjoy the bench work as much as much as taking my ideas and putting them into a coherent story.

I took a grant writing class through NIHGRI and I also participated in Lori Conlan’s Management Boot Camp, which was really helpful. I also draw on a lot of advice from my colleagues at Penn and other professors that have labs. This can be especially helpful to get input on how to handle different personnel/management scenarios.

What is your favorite aspect of your current job?
I really like the flexibility and the freedom and the fact that I go to work every day and get to do exactly what I want to do. Of course I have deadlines and I have to write grants, but they are all things that I am interested in and I really like that. I love that I have a goal (up for tenure in five years). I have mentors who advise me along the way and my chair is very helpful, but no one tells me what to do – I am in charge of my own destiny and my own time. I also like collaborating with people. The research in my lab is highly multidisciplinary and I get to collaborate with unique people from different areas that I never thought I would get to work with.  For example, for a proposal for the US Army, we are looking at what types of volatile organic compounds are produced from the skin microbiome and how those compounds affect the attractiveness of people to mosquitoes, which can cause diseases like malaria. So, although I never thought I would be doing this, it is fun because the team includes an organic chemist, a mosquito expert and a statistician. It is fun to draw on the expertise of other people.

What has been the hardest aspect about transitioning into this career?
The hardest part has been managing people and I am still grappling with my style and how I should do it. I often wonder if I should be more hands on, more hands off, all the while realizing that different people respond differently to different types of management.  I never had people working for me before, so it has been something that I have had to get used to and I am still figuring it out. I actually think more senior professors are still figuring it out too – it is a challenge for all.

What was your job search like?
My job search was crazy and stressful. I applied to every place that had an opening that was within my range of interest and it also had to be somewhere my husband was willing to move. I didn’t apply anywhere where I wasn’t willing to move and I ended up interviewing at 12-13 places and the interview process is just grueling for each place. It is usually two days long; one day, you give a seminar and the next day you give a chalk talk. In between all of those, you are constantly meeting with people, even during your meals.  I squeezed all of my interviews into a short time span of three months, so it was just really exhausting.  I didn’t know how many interviews I was going to get or how many offers I was going to get; there is just no way of telling and I wanted to be sure I was going to get an offer eventually, so I just applied to a lot of places.

What are the most important soft skills needed for your position?
In a postdoc, you are so focused on getting papers out and getting your scientific skills together, it can be easy to forget that ultimately you are going to need to be able to hone your communication and people skills. I was really lucky because my postdoctoral advisor, Julie, got so many invitations to speak at different place and she wasn’t able to speak at all of them, so she would send me sometimes. That was really helpful because it not only helped me with my presentation skills, but also helped me to network and get my name out there. To get a job, you have to do a considerable amount of networking which I am not great at, but I know this was always stressed during seminars. If you do a lot of talks and posters, then people come to you and things seem to start falling into place.  My mentor did a great job thinking about my career development and introducing me to people who might be important to know. If Julie hadn’t been so proactive and such a good mentor, I don’t think I would have been nearly as successful in my job search.

How did you prepare for the interview?
I did practice the chalk talk portion, which I think is really important because the chalk talk is really your plans for your research and what direction you are going to take.  You can’t use slides, so you have to think about how you are going to communicate that and how you are going to sketch it out on the blackboard.  Practice with people who have seen and judged these types of talks before.

Any last bits of advice?
Be prepared because it’s a hard path to go down unless you absolutely love what you do and love your research. You need to live and breathe your research because it is a lot of hours and it is a lot of work. Unless you are totally invested in it, it’s probably not going to work out, you probably won’t be happy.

This is not a field you go into for the pay, but remember you have the power of negotiation. I remember reading somewhere that only 7% of women negotiate their salary and when I read that, I was right in the middle of negotiation and I made sure to try to negotiate my salary and I felt ridiculous doing it because I thought “Well, that’s enough money, it’s more than I make now.” But you can always ask for more — whether it is space, equipment, money, salary, startup funds. I think it is important to negotiate, but then again, if you ask for a lot, they are going to expect more. Always be sure you are given the resources to do the best job that you can do. You need the resources to succeed.


Getting the Most Out of Your NIH Career Symposium Experience

May 7, 2012

Post written by a guest blogger Lillian Kuo, Postdoc at NCI.

It’s time for the 5th Annual NIH Career Symposium on Friday May 18th, 2012!  This is an action-packed day of panel speakers and skills blitzes to provide insights into the myriad of professional career options for biomedical scientists.  Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of the event.

 Before the Symposium:

  • Take a look at the Agenda and decide which panels and skills blitzes you’d like to attend.  Use the Panel Descriptions to give you an idea of the topics that will be covered.
  • Look at the list of panelists and prepare a list of questions you would like to ask. Please remember that this is not a job fair.  This is an opportunity for you to gain information about your next step in your career.
  • Keep an open mind!

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