You forgot your job packet email attachment– What now?

February 25, 2013

You found an awesome job posting or graduate program, crafted the perfect curriculum vitae, and created a cover letter capable of convincing the staunchest of holdouts that you are a vital addition to their team. The only problem is you remembered to attach your resume after pressing send on your cover letter e-mail. Forgotten attachments happen to everyone, but the job application process is where you are supposed to distinguish yourself as a better candidate than everyone else. So – now what?

Unlike many career advice searches on the internet, there are not a lot of professional sites with comments on forgotten attachments. The obvious action requires you to send the forgotten materials; otherwise there is no chance for success. The real question remains: How do provide the missing information while saving face?

Do you apologize for the mistake? Do you try to act as if it never happened? The best route is to resend the same e-mail (with the attachment this time) with a comment in the title about the inclusion. Do not write a long, apologetic paragraph about forgetting the attachment. This reaction makes a big deal out of a common mistake and can make you seem insecure. At the same time you need to say something to differentiate the new e-mail from the old one so the hiring manager or principal investigator does not think you are spamming them. One postdoc recently forgot to attach their resume to a cold call e-mail and recovered by simply sending the same e-mail entitled “Employment inquiry at blah with attached resume”, and received a positive response.

For the most part, human resources and principal investigators tend to be pretty forgiving. Just keep in mind they are judging you at every interaction – this can be a time to show your ability to recover gracefully from a difficult situation.

Mistakes made during the application process may come back to haunt you during the interview. Keep in mind that if you are being interviewed that the company/ principal investigator thinks you might be a good fit for them. Do not be the one to bring up a past mistake. Do not give them a reason to deny you the position. Only talk about a past error from your application process if they ask about it. Be prepared with an answer that puts you in a positive light, not something like you were too busy applying to their competitor and forgot the attachment to them.

Of course, the better strategy is to remember the attachment. Make a list of things, mentally or written down, that you always check before submitting any application. Some items to include can be; properly addressing the cover letter, attaching the required documentation, filling in the subject line, and using spell check (spell check will not reliably catch names).  Leave a comment with other items you think the email proof-reading list should include.

 

 

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Career Resolution for 2013: Becoming Skilled & Competent

January 7, 2013

For 2012 we focused on your Career Calendar:  A month-by-month plan to making your career a priority.  For 2013, we will shift gears.  Instead of focusing on a future career, we will focus on the skills you use now as a way to improve your current job performance.  There are  four groups of skills that we think all trainees need to have for success in their careers.  Throughout the year, we will provide advice and point out resources that will help you become competent in these skills.

Communication:  We communicate with people everyday:  Writing papers, sending emails, giving presentations, or discussing ideas in meetings.  In almost every job, the ability to share thoughts and ideas clearly with others is a necessary competency.

Career Readiness & Exploration: Starting your career search requires a strong set of skills:  From preparing for job interviews and writing cover letters, to networking and using social media for finding jobs or opportunities for collaborations.

Leadership and Management:  Any position that requires managing people requires effective teamwork skills.  Are you the president of your student group, or supervising others in your lab?  Then you need leadership skills.  Not only do we need strong people management skills, but you also need project management skills, such as being able to set realistic milestones for your research or thesis, and then hitting those deadlines.

Teaching and Mentoring:  Teaching and mentoring skills help us share knowledge with others, and go beyond the classroom setting.  More experienced employees often share knowledge and information with newer ones, which helps the entire team or organization be more effective.

Of course, there is one last skill set that trainees need, and that would be research skills and knowledge of your specific field.  This includes having detailed knowledge of your research area, how to conduct specific experiments, and being able to apply testable, scientific hypothesis to questions in your field.  While the we cannot provide specific advice for all the different types and fields of research tacking place in NIH labs, we do think it is important that you evaluate your own skills and take advantage of resources and opportunities that allow you to develop your research competencies this year too.


The AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship: An Insider Look at Getting Prepared

October 29, 2012

This post was written by guest blogger Pat Sokolove, PhD, Deputy Director, OITE; AAAS Policy Fellow, 2003 – 2005; Health, Education, & Human Services Selection Panel Member, 2006; Chair, 2008 – 2009.

The online application system for AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships is now open; the deadline is 5:00 pm (EST), December 5, 2013.  The AAAS materials are exceptionally clear, but potential applicants always have questions.  Here are some of the questions I hear most often.

Am I a good candidate?  AAAS selection panels adhere carefully to the published evaluation criteria.  That means that your science counts most (40 points)!  You need to demonstrate a credible publication record for a scientist at your career stage.  As a postdoc you don’t need ten Science papers, but you will need at least a handful of peer-reviewed publications.  Good science is not enough, however.  You will also be judged on your leadership, your problem-solving abilities, your communication skills, and your commitment to/interest in policy (15 points each for a total of 60).  Your CV or letters must provide convincing evidence that you have it all.

I am interested in applying to this program in the future.   What can I do to make myself a good candidate?  In addition to ensuring that your science is top-notch, take the time to immerse yourself in policy.   Read all the articles that include a science policy component in a good newspaper. Read broadly.  Don’t restrict yourself to the areas with which you are already familiar.  You should be just as conversant with the importance of maternal-child health in developing countries as with climate change or the toxic effects of gold mining in rural Nigeria.  Find an opportunity to take an active policy role: volunteer with an advocacy group, write and submit opinion pieces, contribute to exhibit development at a museum or to a free clinic in a neighborhood near you, participate in the NIH Science Policy Journal Club, or sign up for a diversity course.  This will demonstrate your interest in science policy, and develope your leadership and communication skills.

What is the interview like? The 30 minute interviews for a particular fellowship area are scheduled back-to-back on two sequential days, and selections are made at the end of the second day.  Except for the Congressional Fellowships, there is no limit to the number of finalists the committees can select.  The aim is bring in candidates that best meet the goals of the program.

At the beginning of the interview, the applicant presents a briefing memo he/she prepared in advance (5 minutes) and answers questions on the memo’s contents (5 minutes).  The six to ten panelists then ask policy-related questions for the remaining 20 minutes.   They are looking for evidence of outstanding communication skills, a wide-ranging interest in policy issues, and a realistic understanding of the constraints under which policy makers operate, both fiscal and temporal.  A typical question might be, “It’s a rainy night and you find yourself in a cab with the President’s science advisor.  What would you talk about if you had only 5 minutes?”

If the point of the fellowships is to bring good science to government, why does the NIH participate in this program? PhD scientists are a dime a dozen at NIH.  In fact, the aim of the program is two-fold: providing scientific input to inform policy decisions and exposing the fellows to how policy works. Fellows in the Congressional or Diplomacy areas may well be the scientist in their offices.  They are responsible for bringing the policy makers up to speed on whatever scientific issue arises, be it stem-cell transplants or wind energy, while at the same time engaging directly in policy making.  In contrast, the policy component will dominate the fellowship experience at the NIH or NSF.  The AAAS Fellowship Program provides a pool of “vetted” individuals with an interest in policy.  NIH offices tend to use their fellows to do policy work while evaluating them for more permanent employment.

The best way to increase your chances of successfully applying for a Science and Technology Fellowship through AAAS is to make sure you read and follow the application instructions.  All the instructions, selection criteria and FAQs can be found at http://fellowships.aaas.org/  We strongly encourage those interested in applying to read all the information on this page and tailor your application accordingly.


Preparing to Negotiate Non-Academic Job Offers

October 22, 2012

In our last blog post we talked about negotiating for an academic job search.  This week, we will highlight tips for negotiating any non-faculty position.  Like last week, this blog post is intended to give you an overview of how to prepare for negotiations.  For more in-depth information on negotiating for non-academic job offers, view our video here.

Salary: Salary is probably the first thing on everyone’s mind when they think about negotiations.  The biggest question you have is “are they paying me fairly?”  For the most part, organizations are not trying to low-ball you.  It doesn’t make sense to pay you so far under market value, that you leave the organization faster.  That being said, they are looking to get you for the lowest amount of money they can. To make sure you feel like you are getting what you are worth you should connect with your network in similar jobs and organizations to see what salary you should be getting.  Ask these people, “I am looking at a job at organization X.  The position is described like this (insert a brief description here).  I think the salary should be $A-$B.  Do you think that is reasonable?”

Another resource for salary information is salary comparison sites:  Glassdoor.com, monster.com, and salarywizard.com are all good sites.  Be cautious though, sometimes the information is not as updated as you would like.  These sites are good places to start, but you need more information.  Understanding the cost of living changes in different areas of the country is also important.  $80K in the DC area is a lot different than $80 in Topeka.

You should always try to ask for additional salary, but be prepared to give them reasons on why you deserve more.  You may bring a particular skill set, be losing money by taking this position, or just have an understanding based on your salary research that the number they offered is too low.  They may say no to your request, but they can’t say yes if you don’t ask.

Benefits: Sometimes you can negotiate other benefits like time off.  The biggest thing here is to understand what you are worth or what you would be losing that you current employer gives you.  For example, if in your last job you had 15 days off (including some federal holidays), but the new jobs offers you 12 days.  This is now a negotiable item, either to add more days or to add more salary for the days you missed.  Also, if you have religious holidays that you need, this is the time to ask.  Industry jobs have other benefits that are negotiable such as bonuses, profit sharing and stock options. You may be able to get education payments if you need additional training.  Relocation costs are sometimes included, and if they are not you can try to negotiate them.  Moving cost span from a flat payment to full help with finding a house/childcare/packing services.

Typical non-negotiable benefits include health care benefits, other insurance benefits, flexible benefits and retirement packages.

Spousal/Partner hires: Your negotiation can also include help for a position for your other half.  We have seen this work, and not work depending on the organization.  Have a clear idea of what your partner wants to do, the types of jobs that they would like, a list of organizations that their skill sets fit into, and a current CV/resume in order to help your new employer to make the best connections.

Salary review: A good thing to do is to work out a plan that your salary will be looked at in 6 months to a year in order to see if your performance warrants a salary increase.  We know someone who did this and after six months got a $20, 000 raise.

The original job offer will likely be by phone or email, as will most of your negotiations.  Get the final deal in writing!  Nothing is final until it is written down and signed by all parties.


Putting Together Your Job Package

September 4, 2012

If you have been following out Calendar for Career Success, you know that August is the time to put together your job packages.  Whether it be for an academic positions, a postdoc or a transition to a new career field, you need to have a competitive application.  We have provided some information below we feel will be helpful in this endeavor.


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 »


A Fellow’s Perspective: What I Learned Serving On A Committee

June 11, 2012

Post written by a guest blogger Ahmed Kablan, Postdoc at NIDDK.

This past eight months, I have had the privilege to work with more than 20 other fellows and the OITE staff to organize the 5th annual NIH Career Symposium.  Serving on the planning committee was a valuable experience.  Some of the key things that I learned by volunteering as a committee member are:

  • The importance of teamwork and time management: In order to work well with your team it is crucial communicate clearly to avoid duplication of effort.  My time management skills have improved, resulting in increased productivity. By learning to prioritize the issues at hand and work with a team my life seems more manageable.
  • To practice leadership skills at all times: You don’t have to be in leadership position to build your leadership skills. Each one of us had the chance to take the lead on certain issue, or bring new ideas to the group.
  • To step out of my comfort zone: Getting out of the lab, talking to other fellows, and doing a different kind of work helped me discover skills I didn’t know I had, such as communicating my complex science in simple and plain language. I was also able to see how skills I have learned in the lab are applicable in other settings. Skills such as planning a project, explaining it to the other key players and justifying the resources needed to complete the project, or the ability to communicate effectively with people of broad educational backgrounds. 
  • How to build a network and witness why it is important: You have heard it a million times, but networking is an important skill to develop. What is not always apparent is how easy it can be.  Attending the Career Symposium social events was great. The atmosphere was relaxed and everyone was there to network. I was able to connect with the speakers and other attendees.  That let me see how we as a committee had used our network to make this event happen.  The success of this event relied on the ability of committee members and OITE staff to identify potential speakers and be connected to them enough to invite them to come. Your network helps you get where you want to go.  In this case it helped us put together successful and dynamic panels.
  • The value of using social media effectively: I have used LinkedIn more in the past few months than I did in the first six years after I joined.  I used it to advertise and start discussions around the information presented at the Career Symposium.
  • How fulfilling it can be to be a part of something like the Career Symposium: Working on the committee to organize the Career Symposium was personally fulfilling. I have benefitted first hand from a previous NIH Career Symposium, so by participating in this committee I hoped to help others find similar career guidance. Giving is really highly rewarding.

If you want to help next year, look for an announcement in September.