Career Options Series – 10 Fields to Explore Further

May 20, 2019

The OITE Career Options Series within this blog is intended to give you a snapshot overview of different career paths. The goal of this blog series has been to help trainees explore a variety of different options by connecting you to relevant resources. After all, a large part of making a good career decision is done by gathering information about each field of interest.

Here are ten careers that you can further explore within the series:

  1. Public Health
  2. Science Policy
  3. Technology Transfer
  4. Regulatory Affairs
  5. Bioinformatics
  6. Science Education & Outreach
  7. Industry Careers
  8. Biomedical Data Science
  9. Physician Assistant
  10. International Careers

Of course, we encourage you to follow up this online research by conducting informational interviews with individuals in each field. Search the NIH Alumni Database to find alums from the NIH doing similar work.

Is there a field you would like us to highlight within this Career Options Series? Leave a comment and let us know what we should focus on next.

 

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Using Online Job Simulations for Career Exploration

April 8, 2019

13Are you considering a career in medical writing? Intellectual property? Program management? Regulatory Affairs? Science Education and Outreach? And beyond?

If so, you should check out online job simulations which allows individuals to test out various jobs. It can be difficult to find internships or detail opportunities that allow you to see if a field is a good fit for you in real life. And while informational interviews are fantastic, they don’t allow you to try things out for yourself. This is where an online job simulation can be of help.

You can explore information about a variety of careers of interest to scientists, such as science policy, university administration, editing, etc. and then you can choose a simulation that gives you instructions for typical job tasks in that field. Currently, there are thirty-one simulations on the site, but more seem to be in the works.

Thi Nguyen, Associate Dean for Graduate Career and Professional Development at Washington University, led the development of these job simulations and notes that each task was reviewed by professionals working in the field to ensure authenticity. The purpose of these online simulations is to help scientists understand what a career actually looks like and whether they would enjoy typical tasks. Many postdocs have also found a newly discovered confidence about their skills sets by completing simulations.

Each simulation is designed to take between 4-8 hours and participants have deliverables to provide. Initially, this might seem like a bit time commitment and a lot of work; however, it is a key way to more fully explore a field. The deliverables are not evaluated and Nguyen encourages students to focus more on the process and not the outcome by asking, “Did you find yourself hungry to learn more about it? Did you find yourself in a little internet rabbit hole because you had fun?” If you were engaged, perhaps that is an indicator that this might be the right fit for you; if you were bored, it might be worth exploring other options.

As noted in a Science Careers article, Luisalberto Gonzalez became interested in becoming a patent agent after attending a career panel, but he still felt unclear about what the job entailed and whether he would even be qualified. He completed one of the online simulations and noted that it helped him understand that he could probably start his job search sooner rather than later. After completing the simulation, he felt assured he already had the skills necessary to make a career pivot.

Have you tried an online simulation? If so, comment and let us know how it was for you.


Interviews at Consulting Firms

March 18, 2019

Consulting as a general label can feel very vague, especially given that it is a huge and diverse industry. There are many different types of consulting firms and areas of practice within one firm. Some management consulting firms specialize in giving advice on business strategy and operations (downsizing, acquisitions, restructuring) while others are known for their expertise in specific industries like technology.

No matter the firm or the focus area though, consulting firms mainly run on their people and the intellectual capital they possess. Consultants are branded as smart problem-solvers who are expected to deliver results and firms look for candidates with these skills:

Top 5 Consulting Skills

  1. Analytical skills with a keen problem-solving ability
  2. Interpersonal skills and an ability to work well on a team
  3. Strong communication skills – both oral and written – especially presentation skills
  4. Creativity with a leaning toward an entrepreneurial spirit
  5. Ability to cope with pressure while maintaining flexibility

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How These Skills Are Tested in Interviews
Most consulting firms have a standardized and rigid interview process which consists of several stages for an applicant. Generally, you can anticipate an initial phone screen and multiple rounds of in-person interviews, where there will be two areas of focus: case interview and behavioral/fit interview.

Phone Interview – A preliminary phone screen is usually a half-hour conversation with either an HR representative or a consultant/partner. Expect a mix of standard interview and behavioral questions. Sample questions could include:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Walk me through your resume.
  • Why Firm X?
  • Why City Y?
  • Why consulting?

Behavioral/Personal Fit Interview – Don’t minimize the importance of your answers during this portion of the interview. You are often being evaluated for your fit with a particular team as well as the overall culture of the firm. Many firms report using the “airplane test”. This is when the manager will ask themselves, “In addition to having the qualifications and technical skills to do the job well, would I want to be stuck on an airplane or in an airport with this person?” Sample questions could include:

  • Tell me about a time when you exhibited leadership.
  • Give me an example of a time when you solved a problem creatively.
  • What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
  • What role do you normally assume within a group/team?
  • Tell me about a mistake that you made recently.
  • What is the last book you read for fun?

Case Interview – This is often an interviewee’s most dreaded part of a consulting interview, but it needn’t be if you remember that there is often no right or wrong answer. In a case interview, the interviewer will present you with an open-ended business problem or issue and ask you to discuss it or solve the problem.

There are two types of case interview methods:

  1. ‘Go With the Flow’ Cases (most common) – Your job is to ask the interviewer logical questions that will enable you to make a suitable recommendation. You are driving the discussion.
  2. Command and Control Cases – The interviewer guides the discussion and the case has a lot of quantitative work and brainstorming components.

Cases can cover any number of topics. It will be important for you to answer using a framework. Familiarize yourself with common frameworks; many samples can be found in books like “Case in Point” or “Crack the Case” as well as fee-based websites like AcetheCase.com. For case interviews, remember to ask questions and clarify any of your assumptions. It is extremely important to externalize your internal thought process as you lay out your strategy for answering the question at hand.

 


International Careers

October 15, 2018

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Many people aspire to have an international career and this opportunity is no longer reserved only for career diplomats. Science, medicine, business, and education – to just name a few – are all fields that have more global career mobility than ever. Biomedical research has always had great reputation for being a very diverse and international field.

An international job search, though, can be more difficult and lengthier overall. It is challenging when you are thousands of miles away and most of your initial interviews are over Skype. Additionally, customs and etiquette around networking tend to vary widely by culture. For example, North Americans tend to feel more comfortable with the idea of networking; even more so than their western counterparts in Europe. However, many of the job search engines that you are used to, like Science, Nature, LinkedIn, and Indeed, have an international reach and can be an effective way to seek out positions abroad.

Like anything in life, there will be pros and cons to your decision to work abroad. It will likely have a large impact not only on your professional life but your personal life as well. If you are considering an international job offer, be sure to read this post “Before Accepting an International Job Offer”. A job in a new country can afford you the chance to improve your cross-cultural communication skills and competencies. Although, this learning might come because of “mistakes” you make at your new job. Rapidly replying to an email might be okay in your home country; whereas in you new country, it might be seen as rude and the proper etiquette would have been to reply in person. Other factors like how emotionally expressive and/or confrontational you are in communicating tends to vary widely by region and country. See our post on “Negotiating Across Cultures”. When accepting a job abroad, remember that there will be growing pains and moments when you don’t feel as competent as you did back at home. Having a job abroad also likely means that your job and visa (ability to live in that country) are linked. If for some reason you hate your new job and need to leave, you will have less job flexibility and it might mean heading back home.

The experience in the global market place, your increased professional network, and a chance to see life and work from another perspective is unmatched when you take a job abroad. The challenges can help build your resilience and experiencing a different way of doing reserach can open your mind up to a whole new range of possibilities — exponentially expanding your worldview.

If you are at the NIH, be sure to check out the International Opportunities Expo 2018 this week. You can find out more information about the event here, but this is an excellent chance to meet and network with science and technology representatives in order to explore research, funding, and career opportunities abroad. If this is of interest, you might also be interested in Science Voices From Home, which organizes brown bag series and different webinars on finding international opportunities. These are categorized by country and recent ones have included Brazil, Australia, India, Canada, and Sweden. If you would like to find out more about this series, you can contact OITE.

 


Becoming a Physician Assistant

July 23, 2018

rawpixel-577480-unsplashA growing number of postbacs have indicated an interest in becoming a physician assistant (PA). So, what does this career path look like?

A PA is an advanced practice medical provider who is licensed to treat illness and disease. Depending on the state, PA’s can prescribe medication and order diagnostic tests for their patients. Generally, they examine patients and practice medicine on teams with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers. In some extremely rural areas, a PA may even be the primary care provider at a clinic where a physician may present only one to two days a week. Laws and regulations on these practices vary by state in the U.S.

It is important for individuals interested in becoming a PA to possess many qualities, such as strong communication and interpersonal skills. This is key given how much of the work is focused on patient interactions. However, it is equally important to demonstrate excellent problem-solving skills and the ability to respond to emergency situations in a calm and reasoned manner.

Here are some quick facts about the field according the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook:

Typical Entry-Level Education:  Master’s Degree
2017 Median Pay:   $104,860/annually; $50.41/hour
Number of Jobs, 2016:  106,200
Job Outlook, 2016-2026:  37% (Much faster than average)

The Occupational Outlook Handbook suggests that these occupations have similar job duties to that of a PA. These include: EMTs and Paramedics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, Nurse Practitioners, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Physicians, Surgeons, Registered Nurses, and Speech Language Pathologists. If you are continuing to explore career options and are considering becoming a PA, these might be other avenues to look into as well.

As you can see from the Department of Labor projections, this is a growing career path in the U.S. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a PA, the NAAHP has offered some key questions to think about as you decide on this field:

  • What distinguishes a PA from other health care providers, like a physician or a nurse practitioner?
  • How will the PA profession help me meet my career goals?
  • Why do I think I will be an excellent health care provider? More specifically, an excellent physician assistant?

Physician assistant programs usually take at least two years of full-time study, equivalent to a master’s degree. While requirements vary by program, usually your undergraduate coursework should demonstrate a focus on science and you should have accrued exposure to clinical settings. If you would like to learn more about PA programs, here are some resources to check out:

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Where Do I Begin? Industry Careers for Scientists

February 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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