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.

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Assessing Your Skills, Values & Interests

April 15, 2014

Three overlapping cirlcles. One circle reads "Interests," the other "Values," and the last "Skills"Whether you are a postbac, graduate student, postdoc or clinical fellow, you probably have wondered how to blend your individual interests, values and skills into a satisfying career. Self-assessment is an integral part of an effective career planning process and involves asking yourself about your:


Skills

-How good am I at different lab techniques or giving talks?
-How are my language, mentoring, training, writing and communication skills?

Interests
-What interests me? For example, do I prefer running the experiment or writing up the experiment?

Values
-What is important to me in a job? For example, do I need to have a lot of variety or do I prefer to have a pretty consistent schedule?
-What do I value? For example, do I value having autonomy and independence or do I value being a member of a team?

 

There are many ways to assess your interests, preferences, values, skills and priorities. Here are a few resources to consider:

1. Career Counseling
If you are part of the intramural program at the NIH, schedule an individual meeting with a career counselor in the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) to talk about your career goals and preferences and ways to do some formal self-assessments which will help you develop a plan to reach your goals. Not at the NIH? Check with your institution, graduate program, or postdoc office to see what is available for you.

2. Developing an Individual Development Plan
MyIDP.org is a free site designed especially for PhDs and it provides:
– Exercises to help you examine your skills, interests, and values
– A list of 20 scientific career paths with a prediction of which ones best fit your skills and
interests
– A tool for setting strategic goals for the coming year, with optional reminders to keep you
on track

3. Planning for Career Satisfaction and Success
This videocast and materials from this past workshop will help you understand how your personal interests, skills, and values contribute to your future career success. A major theme is taking ownership of your decisions. Important topics include: the importance of career decision making, self-assessment, transferrable skills, networking, defining success, personal needs, work/life balance, and defining short-term and long-term goals.

4. Completing Online Self-Assessment Exercises
There are many free self-assessment exercises to help you identify your goals, values, skills and motivations for work.
a. The LifeWork Transitions site offers many great activities. Step 3 – Redefining Your Self: Passions, Preferences, Purpose is especially helpful in assessing your life and work values.
b. Steward Cooper Coon offers many free online tests, including:
Career Values Test
Motivated Skills Test

5. Attending the Workplace Dynamics Series
The Workplace Dynamics Series offered through OITE is another tool to help you with self-assessment around areas like communications skills, teamwork, conflict and diversity.

Self-assessment is not an easy process and it won’t happen overnight. Give yourself the time, space and energy to be introspective. Knowing your skills, values and interests will allow you to be a more effective job searcher because you will have a sense of roles that would or would not be a good “fit” for you. Having a good idea of your own values and interests can help prioritize your professional goals. This focus will allow you to ask better questions during informational interviews and employment interviews alike.


Re-Applying to Medical School

April 30, 2018

The decision to re-apply for medical school naturally brings mixed feelings.  You should be congratulated for the investment of time, effort, and expense that all applicants invest during the application process.  For those of you who are on waitlists for admission this cycle, there is still a possibility for matriculation this year.  Simultaneously, it is time for you to consider re-applying.

You Are Not Alone

The reality is that in 2016, the AAMC reported that there were over 49,000 medical school applicants.  From that pool of applicants, fewer than half matriculated into their first year of medical school.   Dr. Bill Higgins, Pre-Professional Consultant in the OITE, suggests that you address the following questions to decide if you should re-apply to medical school.

Ask Yourself: What were the strengths and deficits in my application?
Never just reapply without addressing the problems in your application. Can these be remedied prior to the next application cycle?   Take ownership of this process and do not re-apply with the same application you used previously.  Schools will appreciate the persistence towards the goal of admission to medical school; however, you should re-apply with a new and updated AMCAS application.  Preferably, you will also show a marked increase in clinical hours, new publications or awards, and or an increase in your science GPA and MCAT scores.   You will need to update your AMCAS application including your 15 experiences, personal statement, and references.

Remember the golden rule: apply early in the cycle (during the month of June)!

Am I creating a convincing personal statement about my preparation for medical school to a selection committee?
It is recommended that you revise your personal statement.  As you review your statement, instead of asking are your telling a story, ask yourself if you are providing appropriate proof and examples to the selection. To get you started, review the blog regarding writing a persuasive personal statement.

Is it in your best interest to re-apply for the next cycle?
Be honest with yourself and decide if is better to apply during this cycle or apply or in one-year so that you are applying when your application will be at its strongest.

Did you overlook applying to schools that could be a good fit?
Make sure you have a realistic understanding of your credentials and the admissions requirements at various medical schools.  Factor in each school’s metrics (Science GPA and MCAT scores), mission, curriculum as well as your desires for a medical education, and your values.

Do I need to apply to a pre-medical post-baccalaureate program?
Completing a pre-medical post baccalaureate program can be the most effective way to gain the qualifications needed for medical school acceptance.  If you have determined that you need to increase your science GPA, gain clinical or research experience, re-take the MCAT, and/or need more support through the process, then there are a variety of programs that would suit your needs.  Visit the AAMC post-baccalaureate programs information site which describe the various programs nation-wide.

Have you considered related health professions? Graduate programs?

You may want to consider additional health care career options if you have not gained entrance to medical school after several attempts or if you have an interest in another field.  In fact, in 2015, the AAMC published an updated report on “The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2013-2105.”  The conclusion of this study suggests, “that the demand for physician services is growing faster than physician supply and that by 2025 demand will exceed supply by 46,100 to 90,4000 physicians.” While the demand for physicians will grow, so too will the demand for other health-care related positions like nurses or physician assistants.   You may also consider applying Doctor of Osteopathy programs or pursue doctoral education in a scientific career as well.

Did you attend OITE workshops and utilize pre-professional advising services?
If you are at the NIH the OITE Career Services Center provides pre-professional advising, career counseling and a host of workshops and programs that will support your decision to re-apply. For example, you can attend the next workshop, Filling Out the AMCAS workshop on May 8, 2018. If you are not at the NIH, check with your college or university for these services or at a community or private counseling center in your community.


Before Accepting an International Job Offer

April 23, 2018

Picture of international flagsIn last week’s blog post, we discussed considerations for properly evaluating a job offer. On top of all those points, there are more things to consider if it is an international job offer. Here are some questions to ask:

  1. How and in what currency will you be paid?
  2. Will relocation costs be covered? Both to the new location and return?
  3. What else could they assist with in terms of relocation?
  4. What are the parameters of the commitment? If something comes up and you need to leave the job/country, what would they do to help? Would you be liable in some way if you needed to end the contract early for emergency (or non-emergency) reasons?
  5. Many international jobs mean that an organization has offices worldwide. Perhaps you won’t be working in the headquarters. What does this mean for your reporting structure? Will you have multiple reporting lines? Are these dotted line connections?
  6. If working with multiple offices worldwide, what are the expectations for weekly meetings/ check-ins? For example, an organization has an office in North America, Europe, and Asia and there are weekly staff meetings every Monday at 9:00 AM EDT/3:00PM CET. This means if you are one of the colleagues in Asia, you will have to log into meetings at 10:00PM on Monday nights. How would you feel about this?
  7. What kind of insurance is provided? Does it cover travel to neighboring countries? Does it cover you when you are in your home country? Does it cover repatriation if you become ill?
  8. What is the official (and unofficial) working language of the office?
  9. Will there be an English-speaking (fill in the blank with your language of choice) representative of the organization to assist with your in-country orientation and initial setup?
  10. Will you be offered an orientation before starting work?
  11. If needed, will this orientation include language and cultural classes to assist with your acclimation?
  12. Inquire about potential taxes owed in your new country as well as in your home country.
  13. Does your company offer any tax equalization benefits (usually only applicable if on a contract with your home country)?
  14. For example, if you are on an American contract working abroad, would you get credit for time in relation to Social Security?
  15. Are accommodations or a housing subsidy included in the job offer? If not, how will the organization assist you in finding housing?
  16. Can your employer sponsor your partner and dependents?

In addition to these specific questions about the job itself, it is important to consider your life outside of work and to evaluate how this move could have a larger impact on you and your life.

  1. How will the move impact your hobbies/values?
  2. What are the cultural differences that may impact your lifestyle? (Example: does the country prohibit alcohol?)
  3. What are the cultural underpinnings that may impact the way you are perceived in the job? (Example: countries where women’s access to education/employment may be severely limited and hence it impacts the way female employees are perceived by their male and female colleagues/clients)
  4. Even if your employer can sponsor partners/dependents, what exactly will they do during the day while you are at work?
  5. Does the country you’re moving to afford the opportunity for you to practice your faith?
  6. Are there organizational affiliations that are important to you that you’ll be asked to forfeit by taking the job? (Example: volunteering with specific organizations; engaging with community groups)
  7. The availability of therapists and support groups vary quite a lot by the country and region you are in. How will you cope if you don’t have easy access to groups (example: Alcoholics Anonymous, LGBTQ, etc.)
  8. Will you have dietary challenges in the country (vegetarian/vegan/gluten free)?

Have you taken a job abroad? If so, what do you wish you had asked or known before doing so? Comment below with your own questions and tips for others considering international job offers!


Which Medical School Should I Choose?

March 26, 2018

It is exciting to receive offers to attend medical school.  Simultaneously, it is stressful to have to choose which medical school to attend.  It is natural to experience a mix of anticipation, excitement, and fear of making a mistake as you make this career decisions. Here are some suggestions to help you make this important career decision.

Med school pci

Revisit your criteria for choosing a medical school

Look over your original criteria that you developed when choosing a medical school.  You can go beyond the national rankings of medical schools ask yourself, has anything changed, become better clarified, or new come up that will influence your decision?  Be sure to factor in your personal impressions from your interview, opinions that you received from medical students, your desires from medical school training, and your values .

For MD/PhDs

You may want to consider such things as location, time allotted for research and clinical, the faculty you will be working with, and the opportunities for conference and presentations.  Review the following article for additional criteria to use when choosing a medical scientist training program.

Attend the Second Look programs

One of the main reasons that medical schools hold revisit or “Second Look” programs is to give admitted students another opportunity to learn about their school without the pressure of an interview.  This is time well invested by Deans, faculty, medical students, staff and other campus departments  who come together to put on their best show with the goal of helping you to experience what it will be like to matriculate in their school.   If you attend you will have a second opportunity to ask questions of students, sample classes, tour learning facilities, learn about housing, libraries, research, ask more questions about financial aid, and other resources without the burden of interviewing.  In the instance where two or more schools have conflicting second look dates, you will have to choose the one that you need to visit most. Before you go, review the AAMC article that discusses several questions that medical students wished they had asked when selecting a medical school.

Use a weighted decision- making ranking system

To look at your decision more objectively, use a ranking system to evaluate the schools on key criteria that you have identified.

Step 1    Make a list of the criteria that you must have in a medical school

Step 2   Using a scale of 0-5, rank each criterion using 5 as the highest correlation

Step 3    Add up the numbers in each column

$ Funding Family Housing Research Options Diversity Great Peers Total
School 5 4 4 4 5 21
School 3 0 3 4 5 13
School 0 5 5 3 5 18

These are a few additional criteria that will help you with make this decision.   Feel free to make an appointment with an OITE career counselor or premed to further help you with decision making. We encourage out expanded readership to utilize resources in your community for similar assistance.


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.


Answering Diversity Questions During an Interview

August 22, 2017

As you prepare for graduate, professional school or job interviews, you may be asked a question related to diversity. Interviewers are very interested in selecting candidates who are aware of and who will contribute to the diversity mission of their organization.  Have you practiced how you will answer diversity-related questions?  In Career Services, we have seen trainees range in their comfort level about addressing diversity topics.  Some trainees have several experiences to answer these questions, that said—many others are unsure how to approach answering the question. Perhaps they do not feel well-versed in diversity-topics, may be from a majority or underrepresented group and wonder how to respond, feel that are being asked to disclose personal information, are unclear about why they are being asked the question, or how to structure their answer.

Here are some possible questions that you may be asked:

  • How do you define diversity?
  • Do you have experience with diversity in this field?
  • How will you contribute to the mission of diversity and inclusion in our company?
  • How will you enhance the inclusion and diversity of your colleagues/peers?
  • Have you had to address a diversity issue while at work?
  • How will you bring diversity to the classroom at our university?

Prepare Early.  Research and build your vocabulary related to diversity and inclusion.

Explore scientific organizations, newsletters, professional journals or Google related to diversity and inclusion issues.  In general, diversity relates to the range of human uniqueness, including race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs.  Inclusion is the behavior of increasing the involvement and empowerment of individuals in a group to create a culture of belonging.  Ask yourself, what are the issues in your current and/or future profession?  What is your knowledge of disparities, diversity issues in research or treatment, the recruitment of a diverse workforce, serving a broader public.  See the OITE blog post about how those on the academic job market can respond to diversity statements that are requested by many teaching positions.

Are diversity questions illegal to ask?

Good question!  In general, diversity questions are asked to all applications equally by interviewers who have had training because there is an explicit mission to enhance the diversity and inclusion mission of their organization. You do not have to disclose personal information to answer a diversity question (i.e.: your age, ethnicity, etc.). However, with  illegal questions you are being asked to disclose personal information about your race, gender, sexuality, age, disability status in such a way that it does not speak to your strengths for the position.

What perspectives can I take to answer the question?

Once you are familiar with the issues above, re-read the wording of the question to determine what is being asked of you. If you do not have experience, then be honest and say so.  Go on to describe your awareness of diversity issues and specifics of how you plan to address them in the future. Answering this way will put you in in a positive light to share additional skills and experiences or connections to the position that will enhance your application.  For example, you could communicate leadership skills, teamwork, community service, other experience that you have or a program that you would like to start.   Here are some perspectives to consider taking:

  • Connect your experience and goals to their mission statement or programs they are already involved in? Give an example.
  • Discuss skills or abilities that you bring and how they will be useful to encourage a culture of inclusion.
  • Discuss an ethical in your profession that affects people differently.
  • Explain something from your personal life and describe specific ways that this it will help you in that organization
  • Think of diversity more broadly because diversity can include international experiences, experience with various age groups, and/or rural, urban, mountain communities that may have unique needs and resources.

Try using the SAR technique

Use the behavioral interviewing technique called SAR (Situation, Actions, Result) as a strategy.  This technique is based on the philosophy that if you have done it in the past, then you will repeat it in the future. It helps the interviewer envision the behaviors they are likely to see you doing to support the mission of diversity and inclusion while there. Get Involved Now

One of OITE’s goals is to create a culture of inclusion among our diverse scientist trainees.  The OITE leadership group creates quarterly get-togethers for all trainees.  Please join us for the upcoming OITE Trainee Unity Day, August 23, 2017 from Noon -1:00pm in building 50, Ground Floor Conference Room. The NIH Academy programs are designed for participants to explore and address health disparities. The Workplace Dynamics series prepares NIH trainees for leadership roles through a series of 5 workshops including the Workplace Dynamics V: Diversity in a Multicultural Society.. The OITE affinity groups are available to NIH trainees and their allies related to such affinity groups as international and visiting scholars, LGBTQ, trainees of color, and those who have families.  The NIH also creates community through SIGS (Scientific Interest Groups) where participants join from across the NIH Institutes on topics of interest to scientists.

Please feel free to visit the OITE Career Services website and take part in career counseling, pre-professional advising and schedule a mock interview to get prepared for graduate school, post doc, and job interviews. If you are beyond NIH, we recommend looking in your respective colleges, universities, workplaces, or larger communities to connect and find services.


How to be Confident in the Job Search

July 24, 2017

Two of the most frequent questions that fellows ask during career counseling are, “For what jobs do I qualify? “or “Should I apply for this job?”. To answer these questions, career counselors begin with helping fellows to identify and speak assertively about career from their career trajectory that are factual and grounded in reality.  For example,  as a NIH fellow, you will have developed several core competencies which may include research, academic and scientific writing, speaking, grant writing, teaching, mentoring, leadership, management, and ethics training among others.  Also, fellows can speak clearly about their skills, motivations, achievements, values and experience that they have already developed without sounding too shy or overly confident.  In 2012,  Science magazine published a blog article, ” Successful Careers: A Matter of Confidence,”  that goes into more detail about this reality for scientists.

o-CONFIDENCE-facebook

In OITE, our goal is to help you develop more confidence about your career options and the job search and recommend taking the following steps. If you take these steps, you will be able to answer the questions positively and with confidence.

1.Identify and practice talking about your accomplishments, skills, interests and values.

  • Keep an on-going list of accomplishments and skills that you have gained through your education, training, and work.
  • Develop more understanding of factors related to workplace dynamics and communication. OITE offers a leadership workshop series to help. https://www.training.nih.gov/leadership_training
  • Include work, family and lifestyle needs into your decision-making
  1. Update your CV/Resume to reflect accomplishments, your skills and experiences.
  2. Explore various science career pathways in the sciences and note those of interest.

Some of the most common science career paths include intellectual property, science writing, regulatory affairs, outreach and education, technology transfer, science policy, principal investigator and entrepreneurship and academia. One effective way to begin exploration is to complete the myIDP assessment is self-report instrument that asks the test taker to respond to several smaller career scales related to their science related interests, values and skills.  A report is generated that and how these skills match up with the broad spectrum of employment sectors in science. The myIDP also includes overviews of many career paths in science with links to articles, books and professional associations that describe these career paths.

4.Compare and match your experience and skills to the qualifications listed in job ads

  • Begin to read multiple job descriptions and job openings. Underline/highlight key skills and qualifications in the job description that describe the type of experience the employer is seeking.
  • Reflect on your experience to identify skills that match the description and highlight those skills for your resume/CV.

5.Get involved in your institute/center committees, FELCOM, Scientific Interest Groups (SIG).

  • Obtain leadership and teamwork roles and strengthen your communication skills often prized by employers.
  1. Reach out to professionals who work in the career sectors that interest you.
  • Conduct informational interviews Talk to individuals who work in the job sectors and positions that interest you to learn more about specific skills and knowledge that helps them to do their work.
  • Email/ talk with at least 10-15 people to assess the fit for you in specific organizations and job roles.
  • The more people you talk with the more you will understand what specific jobs involve. You will make contacts in the fields that interest you and potentially find out about jobs that you might never see posted
  • Use your university networks, NIH researchers and alumni, professional society networks, andhttps://oitecareersblog.wordpress.com/?s=linked LinkedIn to find professionals to talk with.
  1. Schedule a mock (practice) interview with a career counselor, mentor, and/or colleague to practice your skills.

For NIH fellows, feel free to make an appointment with an OITE career counselor for if you need further help getting started or evaluating your approach.  Similar services can be found in your home institution or in the community for readers beyond the NIH.

Anne Kirchgessner MSEd. is a Career Counselor with NIH’s Office of Intramural Training and Education

 


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.


Welcome Summer Interns: OITE Blogs of Interest

June 19, 2017

 

The Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) of the NIH extends a warm welcome to the Summer 2017 interns. Over the next few months, you will engage in many unique opportunities in biomedical research that will encourage you to consider pursuing careers and further graduate study in the field.  As you are settling in to your lab and meeting your PIs and fellow trainees, we want to make sure that you are aware of a variety of helpful blog posts that will help you to maximize your summer experience.

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Getting oriented to a new lab and role as a researcher is both exciting and somewhat challenging for summer interns. We suggest reading the blog Understanding the Impact of Change to learn about the key factors associated with any transition.  Next read Making the Most of Your Transition to the NIH.

One of the challenges in most careers is how to achieve a healthy work-life balance. The OITE Director and our wellness programming staff encourage you to review our model of wellness and managing stress as part of your training to be a successful scientist.

Meeting your new mentor is another opportunity that you will have this summer. To prepare yourself for this essential growth opportunity, we suggest reading the blogs on Identifying Mentors and Learning How To Make the Most of Mentoring Relationships.

Career decision making and pursuing graduate or professional school options are also areas that which you will embrace during the summer.  In addition to utilizing the resources at your college and university during the academic year, the OITE Career Services Center has career counselors who will help you explore you assess how your values, interests, and skills relate to healthy career decision making and/or develop CV, resumes, and practice interviewing skills.   We also offer pre-professional advisors who will help you to prepare you to apply for graduate or professional school.  Stay tuned for a blog post that will prepare you for the Graduate and Professional School Fair on July 18, 2017 where representatives from a number of schools will come to NIH to meet you and share information about their programs.

We look forward to working with you this summer. Visit the OITE website for further information.  For our readers who are alumni or outside of the NIH, we encourage you to seek similar services through your training director, or your college and university or in the community.