Preparing to Negotiate an Academic Job Offer

October 9, 2012

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

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

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

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


NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Profile 21 – Health Science Policy Analyst

September 10, 2012

This is the twenty first in a series of profiles about recent NIH postdocs who have found an array of jobs, from academia to industry to communications and beyond, in the U.S. and abroad. What do they do now, and how did they get there? What challenges did they face, and what advice do they have? Read on to find out.

Name: Dr Brenda Diane Kostelecky

Job title and company: Health Science Policy Analyst, NCI

Location: Bethesda, MD

How long you’ve been in your current job: 10 months

Postdoc subject, advisor and IC: NICHD, Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, morphology changes in mitochondria and their effects on proliferation, authophagy

What are you doing now?

I am a health science policy analyst at the NCI in the Office of Science Planning and Assessment. I did a 3-month detail there at the end of my postdoc and stayed on as a contractor.

How did you decide that you didn’t want to continue doing bench science?

I didn’t want to leave science but I couldn’t see myself at the bench for the long-term. I started to look for other options by joining the NIH Fellows Committee (FelCom) Career Development Sub-Committee. Read the rest of this entry »

NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Profile 20 – Co-Director of Community College Program, Office of Intramural Training and Education

August 20, 2012

This is the twentieth in a series of profiles about recent NIH postdocs who have found an array of jobs, from academia to industry to communications and beyond, in the U.S. and abroad. What do they do now, and how did they get there? What challenges did they face, and what advice do they have? Read on to find out.

Name: Erika L. Barr

Job title and company: Co-director for NIH Community College Program & Coordinator of Special Projects, OITE, NIH

Location: Bethesda, MD

How long you’ve been in your current job: 2.5 years

Postdoc subject, advisor and IC: Laboratory of Immunology, Dennis Taub, NIA

How did you get to where you are now?

(Chuckling.) A lot of prayer. I was a biology major in undergrad. I went to a historically black college in North Carolina. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do after that so I taught sixth grade science for 2 years. I found that I enjoyed education, but wanted to teach older kids.

I talked to a former professor and mentor of mine and she encouraged me to get a Master’s in biology. That was huge because that was the first time I was exposed to real research.

I still wanted to have a small job while I went to school so I worked as an assistant coordinator with a math and science program for kids from underrepresented backgrounds.

Then, I decided to complete my PhD at Clark Atlanta University.

What did you find helpful along the way?

Networking and having awesome mentors both played major roles in my journey.

For example, towards the end of graduate school, I went to an international conference. During one of the activities, I met a PI on the bus and we began to talk. He asked me about my research and career goals, and I gave him my little elevator speech. He asked me, “Well, what do you want to do next?” I told him that attending that meeting had really made me want to do research abroad. By the end of the conversation, he had asked me if I would be interested in going to West Africa to do trachoma vaccine research. So, I did a short postdoc for him through the Medical Research Council/London School of Hygiene and Tropical Disease before coming to the NIH for my postdoc here.

Read the rest of this entry »

NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Profile 19 – Group Leader, Center for Allergy and Environment in Munich, Germany

July 30, 2012

This is the Nineteenth in a series of profiles about recent NIH postdocs who have found an array of jobs, from academia to industry to communications and beyond, in the U.S. and abroad. What do they do now, and how did they get there? What challenges did they face, and what advice do they have? Read on to find out.

Name: Jan Gutermuth

Current position: Group leader (Arbeitsgruppenleiter) of the Experimental Allergy Group, Center for Allergy and Environment (ZAUM), Technische Universität München and Helmholtz Center Munich

Location: Munich, Germany

Time in current position: 1 year

Postdoc: Mechanisms of immunological tolerance and their therapeutic modulation with Stephen I. Katz at NCI

My story: I’m a dermatologist.By the time I came to the NIH, I was in a pretty lucky situation. I had taken a step away from the clinic and had done a Ph.D. equivalent, which at that time was not well-regulated in Germany. Often, our medical doctors are sent outside their institutes for some time because our mentors want us to gain some experience and then come back. This was offered to me. Of course, there’s no guarantee there will be a position for you when you go back. For me, I was not 100% sure if I would go back to the same department or somewhere else.

Job search in a nutshell: I started to look for jobs once I saw my project at the NIH was running well and I was starting to write a paper. I considered staying in the U.S. But I didn’t have a board exam in dermatology that was recognized in the U.S. and I didn’t want to do my residency again. I always maintained contact with my home department in Germany, but I was also invited by other departments to give talks based on scientific presentations. Normally that means they want to interview you. Prior to coming to the NIH, I was active in the German dermatology and allergy scene, so they knew me already. I could have joined at least three or four departments.

Network, network, network: Mostly my conversations came out of real interest. If I’m interested, I will talk to that person. It has led me to the people I need to know. I’m a little bit hurt if someone networks with me but isn’t really interested. Of course, if you’re really good at networking, you’ll do more than I do. For me, it’s like a key and lock: it should fit.

The book How To Work a Room was very helpful for me.

Also regarding networking, I became friends with the Austrian embassy attaché and representatives from the European Union in D.C. They tried to recruit me. Washington has a lot to offer. You shouldn’t only stay in your lab at the NIH. It is such a rich scene with many scientists and politicians traveling to the area.

Read the rest of this entry »

Getting the Skills You Need

July 23, 2012

If you have been following our Calendar for Career Success in 2012, then July is the month where you should be making some decisions.  You have done some exploring of career options, gathered information on different jobs and interviewed a variety of people to gain a better understanding of what a particular job really entails.  You have spent the first part of the year getting to know yourself and your options.  You have broadened your ideas of what careers are out there for you.  Now it is time to start narrowing those options down to the ones you are really passionate about and to make a plan for how you are going to put yourself in the best position to successfully get where you want to go.

Here are a few practical steps you can take to get yours moving in the right direction:

Read the rest of this entry »

NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Profiles 17 &18 – Assistant Professors of Medicine, University of Central Florida

July 16, 2012

This is the Seventeenth (and Eighteenth) in a series of profiles about recent NIH postdocs who have found an array of jobs, from academia to industry to communications and beyond, in the U.S. and abroad. What do they do now, and how did they get there? What challenges did they face, and what advice do they have? Read on to find out.

Names: Mollie and Travis Jewett

Current positions: Assistant professors of medicine, University of Central Florida

Location: Orlando, FL

Time in current positions: 2 years

Postdocs: Mollie: zoonotic pathogens of Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) with Patti Rosa; Travis: intracellular parasites (Rickettsia rickettsii and Chlamydia trachomatis) with Ted Hackstadt; both at NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories

Our story: We met when we were undergrads in Vermont. We moved to St. Louis together for grad school, then we moved to the NIH together for our postdocs, and now we’re at UCF. We’ve been doing the two-person thing for a while!

Application strategy: Our strategy the whole time has been to end up at the same place. We each applied to opportunities as individuals without mentioning the other person. We wanted to feel we were selected based on our own merits. In 2008-2009 when we were applying for faculty positions, we cast a wide net with the hope of getting multiple interviews. We applied separately and kept separate binders. In the end, it turned out we’d applied to many of the same places. We sent about 50 applications and had about 7 interviews each. Six of those were at the same places, though sometimes in different departments. We both had at least one interview at a place the other didn’t. At that point, we did mention the other spouse. They only had one position available, so we didn’t move forward with that process. It was a deal-breaker if we did not both get positions in at least the same city.  Read the rest of this entry »

Money, Money, Money: Where It Is and How to Get It

December 16, 2010

MoneyFellowships, grants, awards…all of these words may run together in a blur for you, even if you are aware that they each represent some type of funding.

Whether you are a postdoctoral scholar looking for additional training, a postdoc or clinical fellow looking for a transition grant, or a graduate student looking for a postdoc opportunity, it will be critical for you to understand the different types of funding available to you, guidelines and restrictions for different funding mechanisms, and how to write effective proposals for funding.


For starters, let’s review a few definitions. I found the following distinction between fellowships and grants from the Hamilton Collegeexit icon1 website quite helpful:

Grants typically represent any money given in exchange for a purpose or project.

Fellowships support post-graduate projects and are typically funded by a foundation, institution or other organization to support academic work, research, independent projects or community service activity.

And any fellowship or grant may also be referred to as an award.


An outstanding place to look if you are seeking funding is GrantsNetexit icon1. Funded by Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), GrantsNet is a comprehensive database of awards available to individuals and institutions. Using GrantsNet, you can search all awards by educational/experiential level, area of research, deadline dates, keywords, and more. Another useful feature of the site is Express Alerts, where you can sign up to receive weekly email updates listing new awards and fellowships. Take some time to explore this amazing resource.

While GrantsNet will give you a comprehensive list of grants, you may not be eligible to apply for some of them as an NIH intramural graduate student or postdoc. To explore grants and fellowships available to graduate students and postdocs at the NIH, take a look through some of the programs listed under Getting Grants on the OITE website. The two Grants and Fellowships links in this list are compiled by OITE and contain fellowships that might be appropriate for current NIH trainees.

If a particular award appeals to you, read through the rules and regulations for applicants and check in with the Training Director of your IC, as well as with your funding agency, to determine eligibility. If you know of or have applied to a fellowship not listed here, please contact OITE to let us know.


Once you have found an award that matches your background and criteria, the next step is to craft the best application you can. Be sure to take a grant-writing workshop, either in your IC or with OITE, or both. Past OITE events include “Writing a Research Proposal,” “NIH K99/R00 Grants,” “Demystifying the Grant Review Process,” and “Strategies for Writing Effective Training and Research Plans.” Slides and/or videos for these programs are available by searching OITE Prior Events and using the keyword “grant.”  Another outstanding NIH resource is the All about Grants podcast series developed by our colleagues in NIH Extramural. Although you may apply to a variety of funding agencies, much of the information in these workshops and in these podcasts is applicable.

Before submitting your application, share your draft with as many scientists as possible. You should start with your PI, but also consider getting input from other scientists in your lab, collaborators, scientists in your Branch, and colleagues in your field. Of course, you want to send them a polished application, and remember to send it early enough that you can make changes in response to their feedback. You may also sign up for a meeting with the OITE grant consultant who visits the Bethesda campus and “virtually” meets with fellows on other campuses.

You need to appreciate that everyone who reads your grant will have his or her own opinion about it, and it will be up to you to carefully consider the input you receive as you put together the final application. The more people you share your application with, the better your chances of crafting a well-written, compelling proposal. You are writing for experts in your field and scientists peripherally related to your work, so remember to write an application that is accessible to a broad audience.

Using these steps may increase the likelihood of securing funding in your field of interest. Good luck with your search!