Discussing Your Career with Your PI

January 9, 2012

Last week we challenged you to make your career a priority in 2012.  We even provided a calendar you could follow for the year.  As with most “resolutions” the first step is an extremely important step.  In our calendar to job success, that first step is to have a conversation with your PI about your career plans.  This is true no matter what career path you are planning, from academics, industry and beyond. 

We have conducted a random poll around the OITE and with fellows who have recently left.  The results are clear:  Having a conversation with their PI about the next step can be scary.  You may be unsure that you have enough data to actually say this is the year that you will move on.  If you are going to be a PI you may not be sure if will be able to take part of your project with you.  Perhaps you do not know what reaction you will get if you say you want to take a different career path than staying in academic research.  All of these factors can persuade you just to not have the conversation at all. 

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Career Resolutions: Setting a Calendar for Career Success in 2012

January 3, 2012

Happy New Year!  It is time for the annual tradition of making New Year’s resolutions.  Often the theme of resolutions is to better oneself through eating better, exercising more or changing a habit that drives us crazy (this will be the year that I paste every gel into my notebook and stop using paper towels for my calculations!).  While healthy bodies and well organized notebooks are great things, we encourage you to resolve to prioritize advancing your career.  Do you need to make a decision about what to do after your training?  Do you need to network more and/or more efficiently?  Do you need to develop skills to make a successful transition to the next step in your career? 

We all know that resolutions often do not see success beyond the second week of February.  Saying that you are going to make your career a priority in 2012 is not enough.  You should also make a plan for how to do that.  Below we have sketched out a timeline of things to do in 2012 to make sure that you are ready to face that next step. 

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Giving Thanks for our Readers: Why We Do What We Do

November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving!  The time of year where many of us celebrate with a ridiculous amount of food, American Football on television, food, family, food, friends, and did we mention food?  Also, and perhaps more importantly, it is a time of year where we focus on those things in our lives for which we are thankful.  Here are OITE, we are reflecting on why we are thankful for our jobs and give you all a sense of why we do what we do.

Many of us are trained as research scientists.  Others are NIH employees committed to education and training.  We remain involved in biomedical research while providing the research tools into the often overlooked part of your scientific life…the career part.  We understand the pressures to publish and the long and often unpredictable hours of the lab.  We appreciate the sacrifices you make to further science and to provide better treatments and cures for diseases.  It is that great appreciation that drives us to do what we do:  Help you have the successful career you desire.

We meet with many fellows either through our workshops or in one-on-one meetings to help you improve your career prospects, in any job sector.  We strive to take our understanding of the dynamics of lab life and couple that with our knowledge of career development to help provide the tools and guidance needed to succeed in whatever career path you choose.  We try to provide a positive influence and inspiration.  We help you prepare to become a PI by helping with your application package all the way through negotiating the offer.  We provide training on breaking into industry, from crafting the resume, networking tools, and transitioning to the new job.  And we also present career options along with ways to gain additional skill sets so you can pursue any career that excites you. 

Through helping others reach career goals in science, we get to be a part of advancing biomedical research, growing the broader workforce, and helping people lead fulfilling lives.  When all the pieces come together and we are able to help a fellow achieve career success, it is like getting that final bit of data that completes a paper.  We are grateful to be able to participate in your success.


The ABC’s of Negotiating

June 29, 2010

dollar signsCongratulations! You made it through several interviews successfully and just received a call with an offer. Now what? Do people still negotiate in this tough job market? Should you negotiate with your new employer? And if so, how do you begin the negotiation process?

To be sure, people are still negotiating in this market, some quite successfully. Some trainees have expressed to me that they fear negotiating will drive the employer to rescind the offer. I would contend that being made an offer puts you in a position of power, but there are still some missteps you can take if you’re not adequately prepared. For example, you can turn the employer off completely and possibly change her mind about your candidacy if you request something outrageous in your salary or package. Generally speaking, you will need to do some homework before engaging in a negotiation.

Here are some pointers I can offer as you begin to think through this process.

A = Assess the value of the job in the marketplace.

To get a sense of the value of the job you have been offered, do some research and find out what the baseline salary is for similar positions in the same geographic location. While there are many websites out there that generate salary data, I still prefer to use one of the oldest on the web, http://www.salary.com. I like using Salary.com because you can search for salary data by zip code AND by job title. You can get very close to the specifics of the job you have been offered by clicking on job titles and viewing job descriptions in pop-up windows. These will include educational and experiential levels to help you determine the closest match to the job you were offered. The other reason I like this site is that it will give you a range of salaries, including the mean and median, for the position and geographic region you specify.

B = Bargain.

Once you have a sense of the salary level you can shoot for, it’s time for you to bargain! It is difficult to negotiate as soon as you get the offer, so I often counsel trainees to take the call, be gracious and excited, and then ask to call back at a later time that day or the next time. This way, you can collect your thoughts and get your ducks in a row.

In addition to knowing the salary level of the position you were offered, it is also important to be armed with details of why YOU are the best person for the job before you call the employer to negotiate. What is it about your background and/or experience that makes you uniquely qualified for this job? That is the information you will want to present when you are negotiating for a higher salary.

Language you could potentially use to negotiate is as follows:

“Hello, Dr. X! Thank you for getting back in touch with me yesterday. I was so pleased to hear the news of the offer, but there are a few details I would like to discuss with you. Given the fact that I bring X, Y, and Z to this position, I am looking for a salary in the X range.”

At this point, just stop talking. You don’t need to hem and haw about whether you’d still take the job if the offer didn’t change, etc. Just give the employer a chance to respond. Chances are great that she will not be able to give you an answer without checking with others first. If the salary is hard and fast for that particular position, she might share that with you immediately. Either way, you will be given the opportunity to respond once the employer gets an answer re: the higher salary you requested, or when the employer tells you that the salary will not change.

C = Close the deal.

Once the negotiation has ended and you and the employer have come to an agreement on the specifics of your offer, get the details IN WRITING as soon as possible. I have worked with a few trainees who neglected to get their negotiated package in writing and subsequently lost some of the perks they had successfully negotiated for.

If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail, consider meeting with a career counselor in OITE. Practicing this discussion will strengthen your negotiation skills—and may even increase the likelihood that you will get what you negotiate for.


219-to-212: Communication Breakdown vs. Communication Success

March 22, 2010

Yesterday’s historic vote on overhauling the health care system in the U.S. could not have been much closer. The final vote in the House of Representatives on Sunday was 219-to-212, with Republicans voting unanimously against the bill.

The tensions rife throughout this debate are illuminated by the language used to describe it:

– “an epic political battle” (NY Times, March 22, 2010)

– “a tortuous campaign” (LA Times, March 22, 2010)

– “a critical logjam” (Chicago Tribune, March 21, 2010)

Consider for a moment disagreements you’ve had with peers or supervisors, students or faculty, friends or family. While your disagreements may not have been on the same scale as the national health care debate, you may have felt misunderstood–or may have experienced a complete lack of understanding of a particular viewpoint with which you disagreed.

When you find yourself worrying about a disagreement, remember that the NIH Office of the Ombudsman provides a free, confidential resource to assist NIH trainees and employees in addressing concerns and resolving conflicts. The Office is often called upon to provide guidance in difficult, longstanding conflicts; they are also a great place to go to talk things out at the first sign of a complicated situation. The Ombudsman’s Office is happy to speak to NIH employees who work on every campus—phone appointments are possible. To learn more, visit http://ombudsman.nih.gov/ or call (301) 594-7231.

Another helpful resource that can help you gain insight into yourself and others is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®). By helping you understand they way you and others process information and interact with the world, this assessment can help you  express your own views in ways that can really be heard. In the MBTI, there are no “right” or “wrong” answers. This assessment simply represents a way to understand our personalities more fully. Understanding difference can then lead to more effective communication with those around you.

This valuable resource is offered free of charge through the OITE for all trainees. MBTI seminars are offered regularly throughout the year. Watch your inbox for an invitation to the next one (Bethesda) which will be on April 15th from 9:00am-12:00pm.


Lunch LIVE with OITE!

March 18, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Guest: Sharon L. Milgram, Ph.D.
Director, NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education

Join us to chat online about careers. Have your questions and concerns answered without leaving your desk!

You may visit the chat site now to set an email reminder for yourself to ring 3 hours, 1 hour, or 15 minutes before the chat begins:

Lunch LIVE with OITE

To participate in the chat, simply visit the same link at the time and date listed above.

Once the chat begins, you will have the opportunity to submit your career-related questions or concerns for Dr. Milgram to answer. Don’t miss this opportunity to speak directly with someone dedicated to improving your training experience at the NIH!