Staying Sane During the Waiting Game for Professional School Admission

September 18, 2017

We are going into the archives to re-post this blog for those of you who are in the process of applying to professional schools.

OITE Careers Blog

You successfully applied to a range of medical or dental schools and now are anxiously waiting to be contacted about interviews and (hopefully!) acceptances to these schools.  During this time, it is normal to feel anxious, worry that you have not provided enough information, or think that there is something else you can do to improve your chances.  Maybe you are tired of family or friends asking, “have you heard yet?”

Here are common challenges and strategies to help you maintain your sanity and manage stress during this time:

Common Questions

  • Is it okay to call or email the schools and ask for an application status update?
  • Call only once. Curb your desire to call repeatedly.  Sometimes schools feel like students put them on re-dial with the volume of individual calls!
  • I want to update my application materials. Is this a good time to do it?
  • Some schools accept updates…

View original post 735 more words

Advertisements

Getting a Faculty Job – Revisited

August 14, 2017

We are reaching into the archives to update the August 2013 blog post, “Getting a Faculty Job.”   Starting in August, a large share of faculty jobs will begin accepting applications to fill positions that begin in the fall of the following year.  Here are some key elements of the academic job search to consider before you apply:

  1. What type of educational institution is appealing to you?
    Do you want to be at a large research university (like Columbia University in NYC), a state school that terminates in a master’s program (like Eastern Michigan University), or a four-year liberal arts environment, (like Swarthmore College) or community college.  Each of these types of institutions has different expectations regarding the amount of teaching and research expected from faculty.  Different institutions/schools have different expectations for grant funding, teaching, and service and obtaining tenure. Be sure to consider the type of position you are looking for so you can prepare the strongest possible package.  Another question to consider: does the location and setting (urban/suburban) matter to you? To research schools, look at the Carnegie Classifications.
  2. Find positions that interest you.
    Many schools post their domestic and international academic openings on-line at sites including:  Science Careers, New Scientist Jobs, Academic 360, Nature, Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Cell Careers, Higher Education Recruitment Consortium, The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Identify universities that have strong research programs in your field who may have positions open.  Utilize your professional network with faculty at professional meetings, conferences, and visit their websites to learn about future position openings.
  3. Start to prepare your job application package that will include several elements.
    a.   Curriculum Vitae (CV )– a record of your academic career.  Your CV, as described in the OITE Resume and CV Guide, will be tailored differently if it is a research-intensive position or if it is a teaching-intensive position.
  1. b.   Cover Letter – This is a document that is tailored to the job for which you are applying.  The OITE also publishes a Cover Letter guide document that shows several examples to explain why you are interested in establishing your career at that university, and how you see your research goals fitting into their overall department.
  2. c.   Research Statement/Plan – The goal here is to get your future colleagues to be excited about you and your science.  This document typically includes some discussion of prior research accomplishments, but you should specifically highlight the work most relevant to your proposed work.  You need to lay out a do-able research plan for the next 5+ years that is similar in format to what you would use for a grant submission with a focus on explaining how the work you are currently proposing fits into your broader long-term goals. Depending on the position, you may want to explain how you will tailor your research for students at the institution; this is especially important if the expectation is that you will engage large numbers of undergrads in your research.
  3. d.   Teaching Philosophy/Plan – If you will have a teaching component of your job, this part of your application tells them about your personal beliefs on teaching and gives a hiring committee a visual of your approach (philosophy, learning outcomes, methods, skills, texts etc.) to teaching students in that subject matter. Include specific examples and reflect that you understand the student population at that specific institution.
  4. Diversity Statement – In recent years, several universities request a written statement that addresses such questions your past and future contributions to diversity through research, teaching, and service. You may be asked to link this to the mission of the college and university as well. Go ahead and consult the diversity statement blog from 2016.
  5. Letters of recommendation – You should start to line your letters up early.  They need to be very strong.
  6. Practice Academic InterviewsIt is important to practice answering questions for academic interviews. Most often these interviews will be on campus, however, in some instances they may be conference interviews. The key to this is to research the university/college before you interview to avoid any interview gaffes. This also involves preparing and rehearsing for your job talk presentation and addressing any challenging questions.  We recommend practicing with scientists in your field who can provide helpful suggestions and pose questions that you may encounter during your interview.

Creating strong application documents and active preparation are keys to success in the academic job search market.  We encourage you to attend academic job search workshops and programs offered by the OITE.  In addition, the counselors can help you with preparation and encourage you watch our OITE video casts online including the Academic Job Search Overview prior to scheduling appointments. For those of you beyond NIH, consider setting up a practice interviews with your home institution’s academic department or career center.


NIH Graduate and Professional School Fair

July 11, 2017

This year is the 10th anniversary of our Graduate & Professional School Fair! This amazing event features over 200 universities looking to recruit for their graduate, medical, public health, nursing, and dental programs. The fair is for postbacs and summer interns who are in college to help you prepare for your next steps in your career journey.  It is a terrific networking event to help you understand the types of programs out there, determine what schools interest you, and gather more data to make informed decisions.

Lots of advice on how to get the most out of this event here: https://www.training.nih.gov/assets/GP_Fair_Advice_-_508_-_ps.pdf

But here are some highlights!

The list of schools is published.  Check out what schools are coming and what areas of the country are represented. Select at least 5 schools to you must talk to and stop at random other tables that attract your interest you while you are there.

Make a point to talk to the people at the table, not just gather swag and candy.  This the time to leave an impression that you are ready for the next step.

Take a look at the workshops too! Directors of MD/PhD, grad, medical, public health, dental, and psychology programs will discuss what they are looking for in candidates and will give you invaluable insights to help you apply, interview and matriculate into the program of your choice.  Another session will discuss whether a MS master’s may help you succeed in your career goals.

Our photobooth will also be available to provide a professional headshot for the secondary med school applications or posting on your LinkedIn/ResearchGate accounts.

Also, we will start and end the day with a discussion of skills that are critical to survive and thrive as you move into graduate or professional school!

So, if you are thinking about a PhD, MD, DO, MD/PhD, DDS, MPH, MS—or one of the other myriad of graduate degrees in the biomedical sciences field, join us on July 18!


How To Network

June 27, 2017

One of the most important skills to develop and use as a professional scientist is networking.  It is valuable for making important connections related to your research, learning about job opportunities or gathering information about graduate school applications.  This summer, the OITE will be holding several opportunities for you to meet the diverse group of trainees and fellows from across the NIH such as Get Cool and Get Connected (Popsicles!) and Think, Ink and Network events.  You can also use your skills during the Graduate and Professional School fair, and Summer Poster Day programs.

For some, the act of approaching a stranger and starting a conversation is easy. For others, especially those who are quiet or do not speak the language fluently, it can be stressful. Networking is about developing professional relationships with colleagues.  Therefore, you can use many of the same strategies as you would when making a new professional friend.   Here are some additional tips to help you when you are meeting new colleagues at receptions, poster sessions, conferences, job interviews, career or graduate school fairs, and meet ups.

the-6-biggest-mistakes-people-make-when-networking.jpg

Find something in common:  Two things that you have in common with most people at NIH is that you are interested in science and conducting research.  In addition, most of you will be in college or graduating soon.  These are all conversation starters.

Maximize your personal style: Think about your personal style and use skills that maximize your strengths. As mentioned, extroverted types may be comfortable initiating conversations.  However,  introverts and ambiverts have many strengths and areas for improvement during networking.   If you prefer to meet people as part of a group or at a quieter place, then do that.

Memorize a list of highlights:  Once you have a list, it will be easy to recall your highlights in each situation.  Here are some suggested topics to use when you want to strike up a conversation.

  • Name
  • Current Job? What are you working on?
  • What is a current issue in science, the media, or the conference that interests you?
  • Goal or reason for introducing yourself?
  • How can they help you?

Review the 2012 Networking Maps blog:   Using the strategy of mapping will help you to develop a strategy to determine in what sphere the connection is in so you can plan how you want to start a conversation.

Connect with people who you already know first.  They will introduce you to others. To become comfortable, begin chatting with someone that you already know.  Often, they will know others and can introduce you.   

Keep the relationship alive:  Obtain their contact information before the event is over. Bring business cards or your resume with you.  Offer to connect with them through LinkedIn, use your  cell phone to collect their information.  Next, drop a thank you note within the next 24-48 hours with a request to set up another opportunity to talk in person or electronically.

Branch Out:   Branch out beyond walls of your lab.  Utilize the NIH community, alumni, join NIH SIGS, attend conferences, and other OITE events.

 


Reapplying to Medical School

May 30, 2017

The decision to reapply to medical school naturally brings with it mixed feelings. You should be congratulated for the investment of time, effort, and expense that all applicants invest during the application process.  For those of you who are on waitlists for admission this cycle, there is still a slight/small possibility for matriculation this year.  Simultaneously, it is time for you and those who were not admitted to consider reapplying.  You are not alone.  The reality is that in 2016, the AAMC reported that there were over 49,000 medical school applicants.  From that pool of applicants, fewer than half matriculated into their first year of medical school.   Dr. Bill Higgins Pre-professional consultant in the OITE suggests that you address the following questions to decide if you will re-apply to medical school. Ask yourself,

Never just reapply without addressing the problems in your application.

What were the strengths and deficits in your application? Can these be remedied by the next application deadline?   Take ownership of this process and do not re-apply with the same application you used previously.  Schools will appreciate the persistence towards the goal of admission to medical school.  So re-apply with a new and updated AMCAS application.  For example, show a marked increase in clinical hours, new publications or awards, and or an increase in your science GPA and MCAT scores.   Revision of your personal statement and updating 15 experiences can make a huge difference   You will need to update your AMCAS application including your 15 experiences, personal statement, and references. Also, remember to apply early in the cycle and prepare for interviews (traditional and MMI).

Is it in your best interest to postpone reapplying to the next cycle?

Be honest with yourself and decide if is better to apply during this cycle or apply or in one-year so that you are applying when your application will be at its strongest.

Did you overlook applying to schools/programs that could be a good fit?

Make sure you have a realistic understanding of your credentials and the admissions requirements at various medical schools. Factor in each school’s metrics (Science GPA and MCAT scores), and mission, your desires for a medical education, their curriculum, and your values.

Do I need to apply to a pre-medical post- baccalaureate program?

Completing a pre-medical post baccalaureate program can be the most effective way to gain the qualifications needed for to medical school acceptance.  If you have determined that you need to increase your science GPA, gain clinical or research experience, re-take the MCAT, and/or need more support through the process, then there are a variety of programs that would suit your needs.  Visit the AAMC post-baccalaureate programs information site which describe the various programs nation-wide.

Consider related health professions career graduate programs

You may want to consider additional health care career options if you have not gained entrance to medical school after several attempts or if you have an interest in another field. In fact, in 2015, the AAMC published a report on the “The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2013-2015.”  The conclusion of this study suggests, “that the demand for physician services is growing faster than physician supply and that by 2025 demand will exceed supply by 46,100 to 90,4000 physicians.” While the will demand for physicians grow, but so too will the demand for other health-care related positions like nurses or physician assistants.   You may also consider applying Doctor of Osteopathy programs or pursue doctoral education in a scientific career as well.

Seek further pre-professional advising and counseling services

If you are at the NIH the OITE Career Services Center provides pre-professional advising and career counseling as well as a host of workshops and programs that will support your decision to re-apply.  If you continue to struggle with the mixed emotions that can come from not being accepted this cycle, the OITE recommends seeking wellness counseling.  In addition, The NIH Employee Assistance Program provides counseling services to help current employees with their health and wellness issues. If you are not at OITE, you may check with your college or university for these services or at a community or private counseling center in your community.


Applying to PhD Programs

April 5, 2017

It is that time of year when many of you are preparing to apply to doctoral programs in the sciences.  You may be asking yourself:

  • Where do I apply?
  • What strategies will I use to decide between programs?
  • What are the best programs for me?

Here are several suggestions to simplify the process provided by Dr. Bill Higgins, Pre-Professional Consultant in NIH’s Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE).

Define Your Research Interests

Defining your research interests is the first step in identifying Ph.D. graduate programs.  Your definition may be relatively broad or quite narrow, but you should spend time thinking about the types of research questions that interest you.  If your interests are broad, e.g., metabolic regulation, neural networks, gene expression in cancerous cells, etc., you may gravitate toward more diverse umbrella programs that include investigators in many loosely related disciplines.   Frequently such programs offer laboratory rotations during the first year to help you discover a focus for the dissertation research.   A narrower, more focused interest often leads an applicant to specific laboratories or a small group of laboratories.  Many applicants have more than one area of interest and thus apply to graduate programs that reflect these different interests.  Remember that the dissertation topic is just the first of many research projects in the career of a successful investigator.  Few P.I.s pursue the same research thread for their entire research career.   Proper training prepares a Ph.D. to approach questions in any area of the discipline.

Find the PhD Programs in Your Chosen Field of Study

For those of you seeking programs in the United States, there are rankings posted in the US News and World Report annually.   For some PhD programs, however, the graduate school rankings may not apply to the part/sub-discipline of the program you are interested in.  In this case, Dr. Higgins recommended networking with researchers and attending meetings to discover these programs.

Identify and Interview NIH Researchers

Find NIH investigators conducting research in the area of your interest.  You can conduct an informational interviews and ask them for names of respected and productive colleagues at other institutions.  Start a list of such people and of their institutions and programs.  Always look at the References Cited sections of these investigators’ recent publications for the names and locations of other investigators in the field.  Add these to your list!

Attend Professional Meeting Gatherings

The investigators in your field are usually attend the same national scientific meetings every year.  Identify these organizations, find the on-line site, and then peruse the Abstracts from the recent conferences and write down the investigator’s names.  They also attend NIH Scientific Interest Group (SIG) programs.  Also, these are excellent places to identify prospective dissertation mentors, e.g., contact them at meetings you may attend, use NIH PI’s to help establish contact, emails after you apply to call attention to your application, etc. Now that you have a list of productive people and their programs and what academic institutions and departments where they work, you are ready to explore the relevant web sites and narrow down your list.

To keep track of your information, we suggest that you create a spreadsheet with key dates and information for each university using the following column headings, PhD Program, School, Entrance Exams, Where to Apply (school or on-line application service), Personal Statements, number of references needed, Application Deadlines, and any other criteria you choose.  This strategy will also enable you to make additions and corrections as well as track your application process.

Feel free to visit the OITE Career Services Center and schedule an appointment to meet with pre-professional advisors, wellness, and career counselors who can further support you during this process.  Click the following link for general information about how to apply to graduate programs and visit the OITE Calendar of Events page for related programs. We also encourage you to view the additional resources on our webpage that include the Career Services Blog, Alumni Network, and OITE Video-casts.

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.

 


Keep Stress From Derailing Your Work and Life

March 23, 2017

Post written by Sharon Milgram, Ph.D., Director, Office of Intramural Training and Education at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.

Stress is inevitable – in our relationships, at home and at work, pretty much all around us. At NIH our stresses include experimental roadblocks, bureaucracy, paper and grant rejections, the school/job search process, difficult workplace relationships, and/or the craziness of juggling our work and life. On top of these normal (and expected) workplace stresses, many of us are now experiencing a high level of stress related to the uncertainty of future government policies, here and abroad.  While some stress can be helpful, driving us to work hard and focus on things that are important to us, too much stress is counter-productive leading to sleepless nights, negative coping strategies, frayed relationships, and illness. Now, more than ever, we all need to pause and consider how we respond to stress and how we can work together as a community to manage the stress that seems to be swirling around us. I often talk with NIH trainees and staff about managing stress and wanted to share some insights from those discussions.

I will begin by laying out a brief model for wellness we developed here at OITE that is rooted in acknowledging that we need to focus on multiple elements to truly lead a healthy and less stressed life.  This holistic approach to wellness prompts us to consider four areas – our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual selves.

Wellness Model

Physical wellness includes things such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritional meals, exercising, avoiding harmful substances, getting regular health care, and taking breaks when we need them.  Mental wellness involves modifying unhelpful thought patterns (e.g., ruminating about the past/worrying about the future vs. paying attention to the present, perfectionism, comparing ourselves to others, negative self-tapes), as well as practicing self-affirmations and allowing the mind to engage in new things that interest us.  Emotional wellness focuses on being able to recognize and feel our emotions, expressing our needs honestly and directly, asking for help when we need it, creating and staying connected to a supportive circle of friends and family, and demonstrating compassion for ourselves and others.  Finally, spiritual wellness is about cultivating what gives us a sense of deeper meaning, purpose, and connection in our lives.  For some people this is done through religious beliefs and practices, while for others it is found in non-sectarian areas, such as nature, the world of science, social justice initiatives, creative endeavors and so on.  Whatever the arena, spiritual wellness involves having a connection to something beyond ourselves, seeking out resources that nurture us spiritually, investing time in what is most meaningful to us, reading books and/or watching inspirational media, and engaging in activities that support our life’s purpose.  It also means learning how to be a human being instead of a human doing.  It’s important to pay attention to all four areas as any one area affects our well-being in the other three.  Holistic wellness also involves increasing our mindfulness or awareness of how we’re doing in each area in order to practice good self-care.

After looking carefully at my own wellness practices and noticing some important gaps, I started experimenting with some new approaches. I am sharing my new strategies here, and hope you will share yours in the comments section, with the hope that more explicit discussions about wellness will help all of us all have an easier time during these stressful times. I recently compiled a playlist of upbeat songs and am trying to take more mindful walks (physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness). I realized I needed to stop reading the news at night and have replaced surfing the internet with a good novel or calm conversation with my wife (mental and emotional wellness). To learn more meditation strategies (a big struggle for me!) I participated in a class where we meditated each time we met (mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness).  My most fun wellness addition — I am learning to box! This is one exercise that totally takes me out of my head while relieving huge amounts of stress (physical and mental awareness). We all have a different set of wellness practices that work for us; let me know what wellness practices work for you; perhaps your ideas will inspire others!

Resilience is defined as the ability to grow and learn through setback and difficult times. The foundation of resilience is wellness and a foundation of wellness is community. If you wish to bring your most creative and resilient self to work (and beyond) each day, make an investment in your future by engaging with your colleagues at work and by finding sources of community at home.  Also, join us next week for our Tune In & Take Care workshop focused on stress management, wellness and resilience on the Bethesda campus and watch for offerings on other campuses as well. Get involved in groups on campus and make an effort to get to know the people around you. And get out there and move…. sing…. dance…. paint…. meditate…. connect…… pray…. hike…. whatever makes you more resilient and happy!

Tune In & Take Care Workshop – March 28th, 2017 – 1:00 to 3:00 pm

To Register: https://www.training.nih.gov/events/view/_2/2034/Tune_In_and_Take_Care_Managing_Stress_and_Promoting_Wellbeing