ACE Your Career in 10 Hours

October 3, 2016

Albert Chen, an MD/PhD student at the University of Michigan designed the ACE plan.  ACE is short for Active Career Exploration.  According the Chen and colleagues within their four-part series on Science Careers, “ACE is your protocol for career experimentation, a logical progression of steps designed to overcome common barriers and give visible results after just 10 hours.”

Just 10 hours?

To be clear, the authors note that this means 10 hours within one month. The steps aren’t meant to be drawn out over, say the last year of your postdoc.

Here is how the 10 hours break down:

2 hours = Read and reflect
3 hours = Send cold emails to people you don’t know
3 hours = Meet people for informational interviews
2 hours = Form your career plan

 

Image of the ACE Plan in steps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chen created a guide to help you within your ACE Plan entitled “Cold E-mails and Hot Coffee” which can be downloaded for free.  One of authors’ guiding principles was to create limits on how much time a person could spend in one section since it can be so easy to get stuck in an area which feels the most comfortable to you.

Many trainees at the NIH are well-versed on the first step: reading and reflecting.  Many times this equates to trying to do their own research on a career field through articles and books; however, they then have a hard time making that leap into the second and third stages – the more active phases – which include sending cold emails and meeting people for informational interviews. The read and reflect phase spans into months instead of a mere two hours.

Why do people get stuck making the leap to the second and third phases within the ACE Plan?

Well, often because sending cold emails to people you don’t know feels awkward and you worry it won’t be well-received.  Chen and colleagues understand these challenges, so they devoted a whole article on how you can do this part well.  It is extremely important to normalize this networking process because it is so key to your career development. Often the worst that happens is you just don’t hear back.

If you have attended any of our workshops at the OITE, then the ACE Plan will sound very familiar to you.  It is a new spin on common recommendations, but perhaps the time-limited approach will resonate with you.

Give it a try and let us know how the 10 hour ACE plan worked for you!


FROM THE ARCHIVE – Explore Your Interests through “SIGS”

July 8, 2016

What are you interested in? Are you a knitter? A rock climber? A serial book club attendee? WhateveLady Rock Climberr your interests, chances are you have endeavored to carve out time to enjoy them, or found a group of people who share them.

Similarly, we all have career interests–whether we are ready to pursue said careers or not. I, for one, have a children’s book manuscript hidden in my desk drawer that is not yet ready for prime time. I would, however, be interested in meeting a group of people curious about the same field.

Fortunately, as a trainee at the NIH, you can find groups of like-minded people right in your own backyard. The NIH sponsors Inter-Institute Scientific Interest Groups, called SIGS. According to the SIGS website, “the interest groups sponsor symposia, poster sessions and lectures; offer mentoring and career guidance for junior scientists; help researchers share the latest techniques and information; act as informal advisors to the Deputy Director of Intramural Research (DDIR); provide advice for the annual NIH Research Festival; and serve as hosts for the Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series.”

I encourage you to peruse the list of SIGS and find a group of people interested in the same topic(s) that interest(s) you. As you look at the list, you’ll find that there are a few groups focused more on specific career fields than on scientific research-related content. Check out the Patent Law and Technology Transfer Interest Group, for example. This group seeks “to provide an educational and networking opportunity for NIH scientists interested in patent law and technology transfer.” They have even developed a Patent Bar Study Group for those interested in passing the patent bar.

Whether the SIGS you are considering focus on a particular area of research or on a particular career, I encourage you to join, or explore starting a new SIG if you don’t see your interest area listed. Some SIGS include scientists from outside the NIH, and all of the SIGS include scientists from different institutes. This outlet represents a potential gold mine for networking! Get to know other scientists interested in the same area of research, attend lectures to learn more about a particular topic, initiate conversations that may spark collaborations. All of these activities will enhance your work as a scientist–and could strengthen your candidacy on the job market.


#Jobsearch — Using Twitter to Find Jobs

December 2, 2015

Image of a blue Twitter bird logo looking over a job ads section in the newspaperWhere do you go to look for jobs or networking opportunities online? Most people automatically think of great sites like LinkedIn or Indeed; however, a growing number of people are turning to Twitter. Twitter is now being heralded as the best job search tool you probably aren’t using.

How can you harness the power of this social media powerhouse? Well, we aren’t encouraging you to tweet out a 140-character version of your resume, but we are encouraging you to become more familiar with site functions which can be very helpful when job searching.

Use Built-in Search Tools

Type keywords into the search bar to source job openings. You can type in a location plus the word “hiring” to get a broad overview of positions in your desired area.

However, an even better way to look is to search using hashtags. Hashtags quickly help you find available opportunities; even better, they alert you to companies and/or people who are tweeting using that hashtag. Remember the importance of using career and industry specific hashtags as well. Some popular hashtags to use in your job search include:

#sciencecareers
#stemjobs
#sciencejobs
#PhDJobs
#SciencePhD
#Hiring
#NowHiring
#Jobs
#Careers
#TweetMyJobs
#JobPosting
#ITJobs
#TechJobs
#Freelance

Start Following
If you have specific companies/organizations you are interested in, then you should start following their main account. On top of this, try to follow other people in your field of interest whether that includes industry leaders, publications, job forums or even recruiters. This can also be a great way to stay in the loop regarding recent news or business developments, which might alert you to possible job openings.

Stay Organized
Most Twitter users use it for both personal and professional purposes. If it helps, you can create new lists in which to add people. These lists can be either public or private and you can add as many users to them as you like. Clicking on a list gives you a quick snapshot of tweets from just those added individuals and companies. This can be a great way to help organize the often chaotic and continuously updated feed in the Twittersphere.  

To add or remove people from your lists:

  1. Click the gear icon drop down menu on a user’s profile.
  2. Select Add or remove from lists. …
  3. A pop-up will appear displaying your created lists. …
  4. To check to see if the user you wanted to add was successfully included in that list, navigate to the Lists tab on your profile page.

While it won’t entirely replace all of your standbys, Twitter can be a great addition to your online job/networking search. This website compiled over four-hundred twitter feeds of job opening organized by countries around the world. Give it a scan to get some new ideas. And, while you’re logged in to Twitter, feel free to start following us at @NIH_OITE.


‘Tis the Season for Your Career Development

December 17, 2014

The holiday season is a time when many of us are trying to finalize year end work projects on top of managing personal obligations.   While trying to handle holiday stress, it is easy to lose sight of your own professional goals during this time of year.

Many job seekers protest, “No one’s hiring right now, anyway!” or “I’ll just start job searching in the New Year.” Whatever the excuse, the holiday season is actually a great time to focus on your own career development.  Here are a few reasons why:

Holiday Networking
Your inclination may be to wait until sometime after the holidays to dedicate time to your search; however, the holidays are actually a great time to begin networking. The increase in holiday parties allows for you to cross paths with people you haven’t seen in a while as well as connect with new individuals. Take advantage of December and the increased association with family, friends, and other groups.

The other advantage during this time of the year is that you have a reason to reconnect. Whether through holiday greeting cards or emails, it is the perfect chance to help sustain professional relationships. Just be sure to personalize these greetings and don’t fall back on a general mass email.

Holiday Vacation
More free time and a lighter work load can allow you to accomplish a lot more than you normally would. Use the holiday season’s lull to get caught up on a few things. Fine tune your resume, cover letters and LinkedIn profile.  Research new companies to target or make a list of potential contacts.  Or maybe, you’ll want to use this slower time to pause and reflect on the past year and what you are hoping to accomplish in the upcoming year.

Holiday Traffic
No, not that traffic! The traffic on the roads might be horrendous as you travel during the holiday season, but the website traffic to job search sites decreases dramatically in November and December.  While your competition is sitting around a fire sipping eggnog, you can be submitting your application now.  This often means that you are looked at within a smaller pool of candidates. You also have the added benefit of getting in before the peak application times of January and February.

The holidays can be a special time of the year and it can be a great time to relax and rejuvenate. It doesn’t mean that you have to put your search on hold though. Using this time wisely can help prepare you for career success in the New Year.  However you celebrate the holidays, the OITE wishes you the best!


Want to get ahead? Remember where you came from!

September 15, 2014

“Good luck and be sure to keep in touch!” This is a phrase we have all said and heard. How many of us actually take the time to do it? After all, we are busy and have things to do. However, failing to maintain your relationships with your current or past university professors and program administrators can limit your career growth. Whether you are a postbac, a graduate student or a postdoc, maintaining a network with your alma mater is essential for many reasons.

  • Letters of Recommendation – You will, at some point, need letters of recommendation. Whether for graduate or professional school applications or a job (yes, postdocs are real jobs), someone is going to need to write something about you that will make someone else want to hire/accept you. A good, strong letter takes time and effort for the reference to write. While you may have been the best undergraduate or graduate researcher they have ever had in their lab, if you haven’t kept up with them for over a year, their emotional investment in you has greatly diminished. They simply may no longer possess the necessary activation energy to invest in writing that great letter. Sending an email with an update on yourself and asking for an update on their research two to four times a year will do wonders to keep them invested in you and your future.
  • Mentors matter – The value of good mentors is unquestionable in a successful and satisfying career. It is important to have career mentors outside of your current work environment. A past research mentor can easily transition to a career mentor when you move on to your next professional experience. The relationship will certainly be different, but most likely in a good way.  Supervisors and professors from your universities are an invaluable resource. They have networks of peers and past trainees. They have wisdom from years in the field. They also have a vested interest in your success. However, the longer you go without contacting them, the lower their investment.
  • They know what you don’t know – This is especially true if you are a current graduate student doing your research at an institution that is not your home university. Many programs have very specific criteria and requirements for your qualifying exam, committees, dissertation format and defense. Your research mentor may not know these finer details if they are not directly connected to the school. Having a relationship with professors and administrators at your university will help you to get the information to fulfill the requirements to do what you are here to do – graduate.
  • Favoritism – Ok, so maybe “promotion” and “exposure” would be better word choices. The point remains that those trainees who keep in touch with their programs, professors and administrators are the ones who get invited back to speak at symposia or sit on discussion panels. They are the alumni that current students get referred to about careers and the ones who get highlighted on the alumni spotlight pages on the program web sites. Every time you get invited to speak or sit on a panel, it adds to your CV or resume. Every time you speak with a current student, your reputation as a mentor grows. Every web page you are spotlighted on is one more opportunity for that perfect job to find you, especially if you link to it from your LinkedIn profile.

So much of networking is not about meeting new people. It is about making sure that the people you already know have up to date information on you. For even more information on establishing and maintaining your network, visit the OITE YouTube channel.


3 Tips for Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile

August 28, 2014

For better or worse, LinkedIn has become the new résumé and whether you like it or not, you are being searched online. Generally, only the top four or five results are being reviewed, so it is imperative that you use your LinkedIn profile to optimize your online presence and control your professional branding.

Not on LinkedIn? Well, your lack of a presence says something too, especially with 60 million users in the United States. If a recruiter can’t find you on LinkedIn, they might falsely assume you aren’t tech savvy or that you have antiquated views of the world of searching for work.

When utilized during a job search, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool and it is crucial to make sure your LinkedIn profile is professional and up to date.

Here are some more tips for optimizing your LinkedIn profile:

  1. Upload a photo.
    Many people have concerns about uploading a photo to LinkedIn, especially since photos aren’t usually included on résumés or CVs in the United States. Worries about ageism, racism and sexism obviously trump more innocuous concerns about simply not being photogenic.  Ageism, racism and sexism are all extremely valid concerns within any job search; however, the benefit of a photo is that it makes you human and not just a hyperlink. Profiles with photos get clicked on seven more times than those without.An image of a LinkedIn page with yellow and orange spots showing where recruiters looks the most. Further highlighting the importance of a photo on your profile can be seen in a study done by Ladders which used heat maps to review the eye tracking techniques of thirty recruiters over a ten week period. They found that recruiters spent 19% of their total time looking at your picture. Where did they look next? Your summary, so…
  2. Avoid long, boring summaries.
    Your summary is not meant to be a data dump or a novel of long paragraphs that will potentially overwhelm, or worse, bore the reader. There are two possible solutions. Solution A. Keep it simple with one sentence, which will hopefully encompass great keywords and will encourage the reader to keep scrolling down to read more. Solution B. Use an overarching key statement and then bullet points.
  3. Make sure your groups add to your brand.
    Groups are a great way to connect with like-minded individuals; however, being a member of too many disparate groups can begin to dilute your professional branding. An easy fix is to go in and make some of your group memberships invisible. To do so, simply go to the group section within your profile and you will see a visibility setting which you can adjust by unchecking the box “Display the group logo on your profile.”

Finally, another way to optimize your LinkedIn profile is quite simple: use it more. The more you use LinkedIn, the better it works. By doing some searches for jobs, groups and even people, LinkedIn will begin to recognize what you are looking for and it will offer suggestions. An additional way to increase your visibility is to participate more by asking thoughtful, professional questions to your groups and/or by commenting on industry-specific articles.

With that advice in mind, what other LinkedIn tips could you share? Feel free to share any comments in the OITE NIH Intramural Science group on LinkedIn.


NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Health Science Analyst

July 1, 2014

Name: Danielle Daee

Job Title & Organization: Health Science Analyst, Office of Science Planning and Assessment, NCI

Location: Bethesda, MD

How long you’ve been in your current job: Since August 2012, so not quite two years.

Postdoc Advisor, IC (when at NIH): Kyungjae Myung, NHGRI

What do you do as a Health Science Analyst?
In our office, we do a lot of portfolio analysis, evaluation, program coordination and strategic planning. I largely focus on program coordination, portfolio analyses, and program evaluations.

Our office responds to requests for information about the NCI portfolio, which come from various interested parties like NCI senior leadership, NIH, and Congress. For example, how much are we spending on gastric cancer? What kinds of investments do we have in that field? Often, these requests require us to contact individual programs in NCI to coordinate and consolidate a response from across the Institute. I also coordinate the annual update of the Cancer Snapshots (http://www.cancer.gov/researchandfunding/snapshots), which requires coordination across the Institute and taps into my scientific expertise and writing skills.

In addition to smaller requests, we are often asked to create more comprehensive analyses of the NCI portfolio and to evaluate aspects of NCI’s return on its investment. These efforts involve a variety of analyses of grant data, clinical trials data, and bibliometric data. Our office also consults with individual programs to help them assess and/or evaluate their own portfolios.

What are the most important skills that you utilize in your current position?

Organizational skills are extremely important because there are a lot of meetings (so many!) and you have to juggle multiple projects that progress in parallel. On top of that, I do many activities that require scientific expertise and data analysis expertise using Excel.

What is your favorite aspect of your current job?
I get to touch a lot of different types of activities. I do a lot of portfolio analysis and I also do quite a bit of science writing. Our office is within the Office of the Director, so we get a broad view of what NCI is doing and I appreciate that big picture perspective.

What has been the hardest aspect about transitioning into this career? What are some of the challenges you face?
I would say that the hardest part was finding the best way to organize myself and stay organized. It took me a while to get there. Also, there’s a lot of institutional knowledge that you need in order to perform well in this position. It’s something that you develop over time, but coming out of the lab it was frustrating that I couldn’t just read bunch of papers to get up to date on this field. NCI is a huge Institute and I needed to be involved in multiple projects, go to a lot of different events, and listen to a lot of folks to get a feel for what is happening across the Institute. I’m nearly two years in and I’m still learning new information every day.

How did you come to choose this as your next step?
I did a detail in the NIH Office of Extramural Research. At the time, I was just interested in getting any experience outside of the lab. In my detail, I got a taste of how things function outside the lab (meetings, meetings, meetings!) and became familiar with the systems that are used to analyze and track applications and applicants. When I saw this posting on USAJobs, I recognized a lot of the things that they were asking for, so it seemed like an obvious fit.

What was your job search like?
I set up some canned searches on USAJobs, Idealist, and Science Jobs. Each day I would get an email with a list of jobs that had opened up. I also periodically checked contractor sites like Kelly Services or other companies that I thought would be a good fit (like HHMI). I searched for maybe a year before I found something. I applied to anything of interest. In all, I applied to 21 federal jobs and several non-federal jobs before I got a job. Although I got a few non-federal interviews, this position is the only federal position for which I was interviewed. I think I suffered from not having a well-structured federal resume—developing one is an art!

Did you change your resume for each job?
I tweaked my resume to fit the jobs that I applied for. I would say that by the time I got to the negotiation phase for the job I ended up getting, my resume was not written in a way that allowed me to get everything that I could have potentially gotten. That was one lesson learned from the process. I wish I would have seen this videocast (http://videocast.nih.gov/Summary.asp?File=18452&bhcp=1) a few years ago when I was applying.

Once you made it through the first rounds, what was your interview like?
I had two panel interviews. My first interview was the senior staff of my particular branch and then the second was the senior staff across the office. The interviews were really good. I honestly think that once you get past the USAJob and HR-process, the interview isn’t that hard. The hardest parts are getting referred and getting an interview. Getting referred is very, very hard, but having a good federal resume helps.

Did you utilize your network in this job search?
I didn’t know anyone in the office directly. Contacts made through my detail helped because my current supervisor actually knows the person that I did my detail with and was familiar with her office’s work. He realized that the work in his office would be very similar and I think that was a key factor for getting an interview. That would have been post referral though, so I don’t know how I got referred.

What are the most important soft skills needed for your position?
There is a fair deal of networking and interpersonal skills necessary to be really successful. The type of work we do requires a lot of coordination so you have to nurture a lot of good will with the people you are reaching out to for information.

If you had to do your search differently, would you change anything?
Yes, I think I went into this entire process a little too naïve. I am still naïve about a lot of the different types of positions that are available at the NIH and I think I should have done much more of a thorough informational interview process to see what is out there.

I went to job fairs and events from OITE, but I never had a really good handle on what these job descriptions meant, especially when looking at USAJobs. Right now, I am in a great position because I get to interact with so many people, so I can have a better sense of what is out there. Honestly I don’t know how I could accomplish that as a postdoc. The only way I think I could have gotten this information would be through informational interviews with a bunch of people not knowing whether I would be interested in what they did or not.

There are a lot of different titles on USAJobs — Program Analyst, Health Science Analyst, Health Program Analyst, Health Program Administrator, etc. I spent a lot of time worrying about what each title meant and who would be a good fit for that position. I don’t know if there is a formula at the HR level that says how these roles are differentiated; my sense is that there is. If we had more information about that, it might empower postdocs to go out there and seek out people who are in the roles that they are most interested in.

Any last bits of advice?
NCI and NIH and all of the other Institutes are filled with former postdocs that somehow got out of the lab and they are so willing to help out other postdocs who are trying to do the same. So, by reaching out for informational interviews, you will find that there are many more receptive people than you might expect.  Also, end every informational interview with one question—“who else would you recommend I talk to?”—and keep the process moving.