Family: An Important Influence in Career Decision Making

April 11, 2018

 

In recent weeks, many of our trainees have received offers to attend graduate school or for academic and industry jobs.  Others are making decisions about where to apply and what career paths to choose. While exciting, it also can be stressful to choose among various options and offers.  Here are a few family related questions that trainees bring to counseling sessions.

What are the best jobs for scientists with families?

We are returning to our home country to be near our family raise our children.  How can I go about finding a job abroad?

Should I disclose that I have a family during my interview?

Will you help me find job in industry because I need to make money to take care of my family?

My family wants me to be a doctor.  I want to do something else.

Will my family be able to live with me in graduate school?

How can I investigate school systems for my children when I accept a job?

I cannot decide if I want a master’s or PhD because I want to have children and don’t want to be in school for a long time.

What are the best companies for families?

We are an LGBT couple, what are the best places to work?

My parents are aging, so I need to be near them while raising my current family.  I need flexibility in my schedule which seems impossible as a scientist. What are my options?

As you can see from these questions, the impact of family can change over the course of your time as a trainee preparing for a career in the sciences.  Career counselors often encourage clients to engage in self- reflective assessment at each stage to help our clients make better informed career decisions with more confidence.  Here are a few questions to reflect upon:

Who is in your family currently?  Has this changed (i.e. marriage, children, extended family)

What people in your life encouraged/discouraged/challenged you in your career pursuit?

What messages did you receive from your family about your career choice? Ability to pursue this career?

What is going on in the world around you now that will impact your career choice?

Are you the first to pursue this path? Is your career choice the same as others in your family?

Will family be relocating with you during this choice of careers?

Have you considered housing, cost of living, school systems?

Are three expectations of your partner/spouse relative to your career choice?

In what way will your extended family be involved in your career plan?

 

The OITE provides a variety of programs and services that support trainees with families.  Feel free to make an appointment with a career counselor to discuss these or related to your career decision.  Visit our website to look at resources for trainees who are also parents and read the OITE Careers blogs “To Share or Not To Share: Family Planning in the Job Market and Scientists as Parents: A Balancing Act . If you are part of our extended readership beyond NIH, we encourage you to pursue similar services in your community.

 

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Investing in Yourself: Knowing When to Seek Counseling

May 15, 2017

Post written by Michael J. Sheridan, MSW, Ph.D,. Special Advisor for Diversity and Wellness Programs, Office of Intramural Education and Training, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD Michael.sheridan@nih.gov

When our usual ways of coping are not working, it may be time to find a counselor. The reality is that most of us could benefit from professional counseling at various points in our life. I know for myself, the stresses and strains during my doctoral program was a time when going to counseling made all the difference. Since then, I think of obtaining counseling resources as investing in my own well being.  After all, we routinely take our cars in for tune-ups, our pets to the vet, and our bodies to the doctor for physicals.  Holistic self-care means investing in our own mental and emotional health, as well!

From talking with NIH fellows in wellness workshops and individual appointments, I know that many face a number of challenging life situations. For example, adjusting to being in a new geographical area in a large, competitive work environment without your usual or familiar supports.  Or trying to determine your own career path when what you’re interested in pursuing differs from the vision of parents, PIs, or mentors.  Or trying to excel at work while finding time to give to partners, spouses, children or other important people in your life.  Or struggling with trying to make your own health and wellbeing a priority when receiving messages that nothing matters but getting the work done.  And sometimes beginning to realize that patterns of behavior that you’ve used in the past just aren’t working anymore – and, in fact, may be making the situation worse.  All of these circumstances can be managed better with the help of focused and supportive counseling.

Some people are comfortable with the prospect of seeing a mental health professional, but others are not open to the idea. They may have an internalized belief that going to a counselor means that something is really wrong with you or that you are weak or that you are avoiding responsibility for your life.  These ideas often stem from 4 prevalent myths about counseling:

Myth #1: Only “crazy” people go to counseling.

Truth: Very few individuals receiving outpatient therapy fall within the “severe mental illness” categories. Most people seek counseling because of everyday stressors or difficult life situations.  A counselor can provide support and assistance in learning how to better cope with these as well as attend to any feelings of depression or anxiety that may be present.

Myth #2: Why can’t I just talk to my friends?!

Truth: Counselors differ from friends in many ways. Beyond the obvious difference of their years of training and experience, they rarely give advice or tell you what to do like well-meaning friends often try to do.  They are there to listen to you and help you come to your own decisions within a non-judgmental and supportive environment. They can also provide an important “mirror” for you to better understand what you’re going through.

Myth #3: Counselors always want to go back to your childhood and blame your parents for everything.

Truth: Counseling involves learning how to accept responsibility for your own life. Sometimes exploring childhood issues that may be contributing to your current situation is indicated, but not always.  The major focus is on changing perceptions and behaviors in your current life that are creating difficulties for you.

Myth #4: Therapy can take years – once you start, it never ends!

Truth: Most counseling is short-term (8-20 sessions) and focused on specific and attainable goals. Sometimes longer work is needed and desired, and other times people take a break for a while and come back to counseling later.  But the decision to end therapy is one you make with your counselor – you are not held captive!

The NIH Employee Assistance Program provides counseling services to help current employees with their health and wellness issues. The OITE also provides short-term wellness advising and can help you get connected with a local counselor.   We can help you understand the training and expertise of different kinds of counselors (e.g., social workers, licensed professional counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists) and what to look for in a counselor.  [You may want to get started by reading this article on “How to Choose a Counselor or Therapist”: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-to-find-a-therapist/] We can also help you better understand the insurance process.  So invest in yourself and contact us if you think you would benefit from some counseling.  We’re here to make the process easier!

 

 

 

 


Scientists as Parents: A Balancing Act

April 18, 2017

In recognition of Take Your Child to Work Day on April 27, 2017, we are re-posting an informative three-part series from the Careers Blog archives related to starting a family while in scientific training.   We asked graduate students, postdocs and clinical fellows three questions related to parenting as scientists. These interviews provide helpful advice to trainees who are considering starting families while attempting to manage the various work and family priorities.

Multi Family

Question #1: Why was this a good time for you to start a family?

https://oitecareersblog.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/families-and-science-can-they-mix/

Question # 2: What were the challenges you faced?
https://oitecareersblog.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/families-and-training-part-2/

Question # 3: Do you have any advice for NIH trainees thinking about starting a family?
https://oitecareersblog.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/families-and-training-finale/

Visit the OITE website and learn about OITE’s affinity support group called Mom-Dad-Docs that is open to all trainees who have children or are considering having children. The OITE has posted numerous additional resources for trainees that are parents.  If you are interested in learning more about this group, please contact Ulli Klenke.

OITE services are available to NIH intramural trainees only. Check with your home university or college and utilize the personal, career, and professional school advising resources they offer to you.