First Week on the Job in Industry

March 6, 2018

Congratulations!  You succeeded in landing your first position in industry after NIH and, like most trainees, you are experiencing a mix of emotions in anticipation getting started.   For many of you, not only is this your first “real job” after your graduate school and postdoc, it is your first job outside of academia.  This blog will provide suggestions of what to expect during your first week and offers some do’s and don’ts in support of a successful transition from the comfortable routine of NIH lab to the work world.



Week Prior

Like many adventures, preparation in advance will be essential to your success in your new position.  Give yourself at least one week’s time after you leave NIH to prepare to begin your new position. During this time, you can relocate, establish your new home, assemble your wardrobe, and take care of personal and family business. Complete any pre-work (articles, projects etc.) that your boss recommends before your first day.  Bring any forms of identification (usually two) for your first day. We also suggest carving out some personal time, to de-stress and engage in wellness activities so you can start your job refreshed.  Consider doing a practice commute before your first day to assure that you will be on-time and know the directions.  Typically, your new boss or HR manager will provide you with a place to report, a contact person, an itinerary of what to expect that day, and where to park (if needed).

First Day – Onboarding

You have arrived (preferably about 15 minutes early), are well-dressed, and are prepared to approach the day with a fresh positive attitude. More importantly, prepare to meet lots of people!   Your new supervisor (or someone that they appoint) will welcome you, introduce you to your co-workers, show you to your workspace, and take you to lunch.  You will also meet many important people (office assistants, IT, HR etc.) who are charged to get you prepared to communicate with your coworkers and succeed in the company.  Expect to fill out paperwork, get pin-numbers, get yourself established with payroll, establish an email account and telephone number, get ID cards, obtain security clearances, obtain parking passes, and obtain access to any facilities you will need.  Someone will take you on a tour of the facilities and escort you to any meetings that have been scheduled for you.  Also, expect to be enrolled (that day or in the first week) in a New Employees Orientation that will introduce you to company culture, provide you with instructions for how to enroll in benefits (Health, Dental, Vision, etc.),  and inform you of resources available to you as an employee.  During down time  settle into your new space, read any materials that you were given,  and enjoy some quiet time.  On your way home, be sure to say goodbye to your boss and team.

First Week – Establishing yourself as a team member

Beginning with your second day continue to get established in your new work environment by learning about your first work activities  and completingion of the onboarding process (most likely takes longer than one day).  Approach each new day with the goals of being alert, asking good questions, behave collaboratively, and to begin contributing to the team’s success (without overstepping).  The following are suggestions for the remainder of the week to help you become successful.

To Do

  • Meet your co-workers casually, in meetings, and over lunch. Prepare a short introduction to use including your new title, where you came from, and your department.
  • Begin to set up a calendar and To-do list that includes time to meet with your new supervisor and team.
  • Be observant and learn about office norms (arrival and departure, dress code, meeting etiquette etc.).
  • Attend all orientations that are scheduled for you and complete paperwork on time.
  • Look interested and be attentive in meetings. Ask many questions
  • Contribute to office discussions – minimally at first, but enough to show you are engaged
  • Begin a list of SMART goals to accomplish during your first 90 days

Things to Avoid

  • Don’t arrive late or leave early. Communicate with your boss or administrative assistant if there is a conflict (inclement weather, etc.) so they are aware.
  • Try not to call in sick or be absent unless it is crucial. Why? You need to earn sick leave.
  • Don’t use your cell phone or I pad, or earphones. This non-verbal behavior will be interpreted as aloof, closed off, disinterested and disrespectful.
  • Don’t sit in your office or eat alone. Seek out an opportunity to be a collaborator and team player
  • Don’t be silent. Add something to the conversations to show engagement in meetings
  • Don’t agree with office gossip or speak negatively about co-workers, work environment, boss, culture. It is better to say “thanks for the heads up”
  • Don’t ask your about future promotions additional positions in the company. Focus on the current position

Getting a new position in industry is exciting.  Following these simple suggestions can help you start off in a positive manner and be prepared for success.  Visit our videocast and learn more about starting a faculty position.   Feel free to chat with an OITE career services counselor to discuss starting your job in more detail.





Thank You Notes

November 21, 2017

Heads Up!  With Thanksgiving, right around the corner, it is a terrific time to remind those of you who are (or will be) interviewing for professional schools, jobs and fellowships to send thank you notes.  One of the standard steps of applying for opportunities, this type of professional correspondence is often overlooked by applicants.   In many situations, a thank you note can be influential in moving you to the next stage in the process, or even obtaining an offer.  As written in a previous blog, giving thanks is very powerful for both the writer and receiver(s).  Here are some suggestions to help you craft a strong thank you letter.

Thank You

Who?      Send your letters to the primary person (Dean of Admissions, PI, manger, HR, or faculty member, student) who worked with you to coordinate your interview. If you met with more than one person, you can either send one letter addressed to the primary person and the committee/group who has interviewed you or individual letters.  Thank your interviewers after each telephone, Skype, or video interview and after second and final rounds.  Thank you notes can also be sent to acknowledge a network contact, mentor, informational interviewee, or recommendation writer.

 What to Include?      Thank you notes should be a short (one or two short paragraphs), signed and sent by you, to each opportunity that has interviewed you. While a hand-written personal note has historically been preferred, in today’s market, due to electronic application and communication during the job search process, it is appropriate to send an electronic thank you letter.  Simply thank the interviewers for their time interviewing you, emphasize something that you learned or positively experienced during the interview, and briefly restate your interest in the position and it match with your skills and interests.

 When?      It is best to send your note within a few days after your interview. Sending an electronic letter is quick and can be beneficial because decisions for positions are made within a few hours to days after your interview.  If you send it via US mail, that will take longer to be received and your interviewers will appreciate it as well.

Why?     Also, as part of job search etiquette, we know that are very appreciative and professionally thankful to those who appreciate their efforts to hire them.

 How?      It is best to send an electronic thank you letter to assure that your letter is quickly received and easily can be added to your electronic file, and/or forwarded to the others on your interview. Handwritten letters or notes (sometimes bought in a store) are appropriate and will be well-received as well.

Please feel free to visit the OITE website to schedule appointments with career counselors and to learn about additional programs and resources to prepare you for your job search.

Making Career Searches Less Scary

October 30, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

Unmask your talents

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

Use Career Tricks and Treats

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

 Have Halloween Fun!

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


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

September 11, 2017

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


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

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

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

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

Bring updated hard copies of documents to your session

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

Prepare for mock interviews beforehand

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

Do your homework

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

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




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.


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.
  • 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, and 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



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.


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.


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:

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!