Job Searching While Pregnant

January 15, 2015

Pregnancies can bring joy and excitement along with new responsibilities and new worries. Searching for a job is not an easy task; however, it becomes even a little more complicated when you are expecting.

There are often tough decisions and a variety of factors to consider throughout the process, such as:

Sharing Your News or Not?

If you are in your second or third trimester and visibly showing, then this decision is often made for you. Employers will figure it out when you show up to an interview with a bump. Even so, many women struggle with the timing of revealing a pregnancy to a potential employer. Should you be upfront with your employer as early as a phone interview? Or should you hold off until you have an offer in hand? Obviously the answer will vary greatly for each individual depending on her situation.

Many women who aren’t overtly showing want the hiring manager to get excited about their skills and qualifications first and foremost before sharing their news. By law, a company can’t deny you employment because you are pregnant; furthermore, you are not legally required to disclose that you are expecting. Often times though, even if you are a stellar applicant, many employers will view your pregnancy and upcoming maternity leave as an inconvenience and an offer won’t be extended. While this is illegal, it can be difficult to prove that was the reason behind a company’s rejection.  Most companies and recruiting managers will automatically bring in legal counsel regarding personnel/hiring situations as a precaution.

At some point, you will have to share your news, but the timing of this is often a very personal decision. If you are lucky enough to do so, starting a job search early is ideal. Conducting a job search early on in your pregnancy can be easier because you will be able to avoid these potentially awkward conversations and it will also allow you more time to review the benefits of potential employers.

Assessing a Job’s Benefits

Now, more than ever, medical insurance options and leave benefits will be at the forefront of your mind. Many employers have specific guidelines about when employees are eligible for certain benefits. For example, some employers don’t grant maternity leave benefits unless you have been in the job for at least one year. These are all factors to consider ensuring you and your little one are covered.

Many companies in America, including the federal government, don’t even have an official leave policy for new mothers forcing them to use some combination of vacation/sick/short-term disability/FMLA leave. The challenges that pregnant mothers and new moms face has been highlighted in a Washington Post article, “The Sad State of Benefits for New Moms on the Job.” This article highlights the case of Peggy Young, a UPS driver who recently sued the company under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

When job searching, the truth is that you are often not privy to a company’s full benefits package until an official offer has been extended. The importance of evaluating maternity leave, prenatal care, and child care options are often paramount for pregnant job seekers.

There is no “right” way to approach a job search while pregnant and many women successfully look for and land a job during this time. For women who have gone through this process, what did you find helpful? How did you manage morning sickness and interviewing at the same time? We’d love to hear your challenges and successes. Leave a comment or email amanda.dumsch@nih.gov.

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‘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!


Happy Pride!

June 26, 2014

Picture of a rainbow flag waving in the windIn honor of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, we wanted to focus this week’s blog post on LGBT issues in a job search and at work. Pride month’s history focuses on parades and festivals that celebrate openness and equal rights for all. In a work context, this includes people who identify as LGBT and allies who want to create and maintain a supportive work environment. Two weeks ago, we wrote a post Illegal Interview Questions – What They Are and How to Handle Them.”  This post triggered a discussion and we realized that beyond what’s covered in anti-discrimination laws, there are also disclosures that can make you feel uncomfortable in a professional setting.

For some, coming out can be a hard choice. It is not a one-shot event; rather it occurs over and over again throughout one’s life and career. This is also a very personal decision; how much or how little you want to be out in your workplace or in a job search is often complex and nuanced. Varied questions can arise such as: How important is it to me to be out? How will I come out at work? How will my co-workers react? How gay-friendly is my company and/or field of work? Will I be screened out based on my affiliations if I put LGBT activities on my resume?

Coming Out In a Job Search

When deciding whether or not be out on a resume, job application or in an interview, it is extremely important to do what feels the most comfortable to you. Each individual has a unique experience and viewpoint, so this process varies widely and it may or may not be difficult for you. If you find it difficult, it is a good idea to speak to people in your network or a career counselor. What feels right to you might not be the same as what is right for another. Some individuals choose to use their resume as a way to screen out non-supportive employers and will explicitly list LGBT-related organizations. Others may prefer to disclose their sexual orientation once hired or not at all.

Differences can continue even into the interview. One may decide to ask the following questions, like: Is there a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employee resource group at your workplace? or Will my partner be covered by my health insurance? Another may decide to be more guarded and rely on researching the company online and/or through their own professional contacts.

Coming Out In the Workplace

While being out at work (and in life) can be very satisfying, some people may also have concerns about it. This can be especially relevant depending on your geographic location or the culture of your work environment. No one wants to jeopardize their job security or opportunities for advancement. With that in mind, here are some questions to consider before making this decision (as noted by the Human Rights Campaign website):

  • Does your employer have a written non-discrimination policy? Does it specifically cover sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression? Does insurance cover domestic partner benefits? Does health coverage cover transitioning costs?
  • What’s the overall climate in your workplace? Do people tend to make derogatory comments or jokes? Are any of your co-workers openly LGBT?
  • What are your work relationships like? Do people discuss their personal lives? Are they asking questions about yours? Is the atmosphere friendly or guarded?
  • Does your state or locality have a non-discrimination law including sexual orientation and gender identity/expression?
  • Is your company ranked on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index? If so, what rating has it earned?

Coming out during your career is an ongoing process and there is not one right way to do it. Even if you come out to one person at work, you can’t assume that information is being passed on. It is important to assess your readiness and the level of disclosure that feels comfortable to you. It can be helpful to talk to folks who have been through this process to seek advice and support. Out for Work and Out and Equal Workplace Advocates are two good introductory resources. Also, at the NIH, LGBT Fellows and Friends (LGBT-FF) is an excellent group with which to connect. You can join their listserv here.


Understanding the Impact of Change

May 27, 2014

Part One of a Two-Part Series on Transitions

Almost everyone struggles with transitions – even positive changes can create stress. Transitions can really be anything, from needing to make a decision to struggling with a new job, new city, new culture, or adjusting to a new life event like marriage, the birth of a child, divorce, death in the family, etc. Psychologists have developed a theory that shows how we respond to transition follows two main paths but ultimately, each person goes through similar phases when rebounding from the feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy often created from a transition.

In today’s world, people tend to have more jobs over the span of their career, thus more times of transition. While work is only one aspect of a person’s total life experience, it is playing an increasingly primary role because we often work longer hours and technology allows for a greater connectivity to work and the associated stressors.

The model below details the common phases and features of a transition cycle, which accounts for both positive and a negative life events. Click on the image to enlarge.*

Model outlining the cylce of transition theory along a continuum of life events and well-being

 

Let’s look at this figure in relation to someone who has just made a decision to pursue a non-faculty career path. Usually, they have one of two initial responses:

1. They are excited to choose a path that fits them. Maybe they have met with a career counselor and the new option is exciting and they feel good about their career move.
or
2. Perhaps this person has realized that a faculty position will not work out, and they feel numbness and disbelief that their intended career path may not be obtainable.

Then as time goes on, both paths coalesce since making the move to a new career path can be uncertain (are you really sure you do not want that faculty job?) and confusing (there are so many career options, how do I choose?) which causes you to lack confidence that you will ever get a position. At some point you may hit a crisis—and the big question is how will you enter the reconstruction and recovery phase (and what support will you need).

With this example in mind, how then can you find a practical application for transition theory in your own life, particularly your career path?

We invite you to take a moment to consider your own transitions within your career development. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you review your career autobiography and the significant experiences, educational programs, jobs, or other events that have impacted your career choices either positively or negatively.

— What have you considered your successes?
— Conversely, what have you viewed as your failures?
— How quickly did you rebound after your perceived failures?
— What factors enabled a successful transition for you?
— What factors inhibited a successful transition?
— Have any of these events been defining moments for you?
— Where would you rate yourself in this moment related to career success, satisfaction, well-being and overall stress level?
— Do you know what kind of support is available to you?

As a follow up, and if you are inclined, sit down to meet with a career counselor to more fully explore your career timeline and what that has meant for your professional and personal development. Taking time to reflect on your past outcomes can give you insight into current issues you may be facing. It can also be helpful for understanding key transition management skills you might need to develop. For those at the NIH, the OITE can be an excellent source of support throughout your transition.

 

 

*Reference: Hopson B & Adams J (1976) Transition – Understanding and Managing Personal Change.


Turning Down a Job Offer

May 5, 2014

Part two of a two-part series written by guest blogger Dr. Phil Ryan, Director of Student Services at the Office of Intramural Training and Education.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had used LinkedIn to promote my candidacy for a position that I was offered, but ultimately decided to decline. I wanted to share with you some of the factors I had to consider and how those factors made me change my priorities for my next job. We all have our own priorities — I listed and rank ordered mine. I learned through this experience that my listed professional priorities did not even contain my highest priority.

Throughout the interview process for this particular position, I absolutely loved the people I interacted with. The director of the office seemed like a fantastic boss and mentor. The people in parallel positions would have been fantastic coworkers. The few people that the position would supervise were hardworking and dedicated to the students they served. There was passion from every person that worked in the office. The position itself almost felt tailor-made for me. I left the on-site interview very excited about the position and preparing myself to share the good news with my wife and children.

The job fit all my listed priorities. It would be a great next step in my career and would put me in an institution with lots of opportunities to continue to advance my career. The benefits were outstanding, which is especially important for my family as we have two young boys and a third child due very soon. I felt confident I could negotiate the salary to be fair based on expected cost of living in that area. The job was a pretty standard 40 hours a week with limited travel. This is a must since being home with my family is important to me. Also, it was closer to both my family and my wife’s family and number of our best friends. Based on these critera, I would be a fool to turn down the position.

So why did I turn it down? After my on-site interview, I drove around the city in which the job was located. I realized the city really lacked energy. It was a nice day and yet, there were no people outside talking to one another. Businesses were not busy. Schools were just getting out and children were not playing in the parks. Parents were not talking to each other. I did not detect a sense of community. I am a scientist, so I realize that all this was basically an n of one and thus, I couldn’t make a conclusion based on two hours of observation. Luckily, I had a friend who lived in that city for seven years and had recently moved away. I gave him a call and while he did have nice things to say about the city, he confirmed that my observations were pretty consistent with what he and his family had experienced while they lived there.

There was one more factor that initially seemed like a big advantage. The city was two hours from everything! It was two hours from a major metropolitan area with all the culture, life and experiences that comes with big cities. It was two hours from a renowned national park and other outdoor adventure opportunities. It was two hours from snow skiing, water skiing, fishing, hiking, camping, professional sports teams, etc. It sounded great on paper. However, those two hours were a very lonely two hours. It was that city and then two hours to anything else. I tried to justify that while we may not have the most exciting life and community to live in, we would be two hours from all that excitement and all those friends. But the truth is, when you have small children, two hours is a long time. I realized that we would not be traveling those two hours very often and the city we would live in was the city that would help shape my children as they grow up. It would be the community that would support my wife and me. It would be the atmosphere that we would celebrate in good times and depend on in bad times. I know my wife and my children better than anyone and it turns out that my number one priority is providing the best life possible for and with them. This city was not that. So while the job and the people I would work with were amazing, it turns out my top priority is my family. My list of priorities in a job now reflects that.


NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Consultant

January 27, 2014

Name: Kara Lindstrom

Job Title & Company: Consultant, Booz Allen Hamilton

Location: Rockville, MD

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

What do you do as a consultant?
There are tons of consultants in the DC area. We almost outnumber the number of lawyers in the metro area! Generally speaking, consultants are people who assist other organizations in a common goal. I assist the military health system to increase their knowledge on traumatic brain injury and psychological health issues by summarizing current scientific literature. I also convene working groups of experts to make recommendations on standards of care for a specific clinical area.

What are the most important skills that you utilize in your current position?
Solid critical thinking skills and strong writing skills are definitely a plus. You can learn the consulting skills but you can’t learn the science skills that you get from a PhD in science. Organizational skills are important as is problem solving. Being able to anticipate problems that could arise and coming up with strategies on how to solve them. Those are a few of the top transferable skills that I am still developing.

A common impression of consulting is that it is project-based, but also team based. How much of a focus is there on team or group work?
There is a lot of focus on groups, but I don’t work in a group with just other PhDs. On our teams, we have people that are both senior and junior to us and the idea is to work as one entity with those different levels. You may be the only expert on a particular field of science and need to teach your team about this topic. In that same project, you may be the novice on another subject. So, it is a mix of assuming the teacher role and the student role – all within the same meeting. That is an important skill to have and something I use in my everyday skillset.

What is your favorite aspect of your current job?
I like the flexibility and the fact that it is not the same thing. Similar to grad school, there is something different daily. One day, I might write a lit review and the next day, I may attend a conference or work with our clients on a strategic plan. You are constantly using different skills, so you don’t get bored. In a similar vein to how we have to assume the role of both teacher and student, I like how I get to continuously learn about new topics. I have enjoyed learning about different areas and kind of becoming an expert in a different way than I was able to in grad school.

What are some of the challenges of being a consultant?
I am lucky because I don’t really have to travel with my current job. I would say I travel once every four months. However, that is a decision that you have to make if you go into consulting: Are you willing to do the Monday – Thursday travel schedule? This issue factors into the work-life balance issue, which everyone has to contend with. You have to put limitations on what you will and will not be available for and those decisions may impact your career trajectory. This is just a fact; you just have to decide what you are comfortable with and what you value.

What has been the hardest aspect about transitioning into this career?
The general consulting skills (i.e. project and client management, product preparation) because you get used to the world of academia, so switching into a more professional environment is something that took a little bit of effort on my part. I was hired because of my subject background and so I came in thinking I was the expert, but I hadn’t had much experience making client-ready documents. Making things look pretty wasn’t something I was used to doing. In grad school, it is more about the content and in consulting content matters but it needs to be accessible to different audiences. To do this, you have to think about formatting and what level of language you will use. Most of the time, you aren’t speaking to other experts; you are speaking to the general public. It is a different kind of writing; it is not the technical writing that you do when writing journal articles.

What was your job search like?
I graduated in November 2010 and took a little time off to finish up some work. Then, I started to research what firms were available in the area and the different types of consulting firms. I needed to decide if I wanted to go into commercial/management consulting (like McKinsey) or if I wanted to go into government consulting (like BAH). I also had to decide if I wanted to leave my subject area and go into general consulting or if I wanted to stay in my subject area and consult in that field. There are a lot of different firms and I took the time to try and get to know them. First it was identifying the target; then learning the differences within them; applying to the various companies, and finally preparing for the interviews.

What was your interview like?
I went on a few different interviews, but there were two types of interviews- the behavioral interview and the case interview. The behavioral interview is more of the traditional interview where you walk through your resume and they tend to ask situational-based questions. They want to figure out if your personality and thought process are a fit for the team. Then, there is the case study interview and this can be wide-ranging. They give you a scenario and then you have to ask questions to figure out what the problem is and what you would do to solve the problem. They can also give you numbers associated with the case where you have to figure out ratios and do some mental arithmetic. For example, this drug store is having customer service issues; what percent of their profit is being affected? Then there is a subset case interview where you come in and you discuss a journal article. It is basically like a journal club. Those were the types of interviews I went through during my job search.

How did you prepare for your interview?
There is actually quite a bit of information online. There is a book called “Case in Point” which offers a lot of different strategies to help to prepare for a case interview. It is mainly geared toward an MBA type of candidate. It is good to help you understand what type of questions could come up and it gives you the general format of a case interview, but one thing that you have to factor in is that the book is preparing an MBA candidate and you are a PhD candidate.  They don’t need you to know all these finance terms; they want you to display your critical thinking skills, so again that problem solving aspect and being able to identify a problem and organize it into some logical process in order to solve it.

The other thing that I try to impress on people from NIH is that you are not interviewing with your peer group. You are interviewing with people who have no idea about the field of science. When you say I was a graduate student in this lab and I led this study, you really need to spell out what skills you used. By listing your publications, most people at NIH can look through and see what kind of a scientist you were – if you were more of a bench or a clinical scientist. But in consulting, they don’t really know that, so you need to explicitly state your transferable skills. For example, did you manage people? Did you collaborate with postdocs? Did you have any collaboration with leaders in your field? Spelling out all of those different experiences and skills are important to help your interviewers figure out what things they could use from your skill set.

Any last bits of advice?
Consulting is a very logical next step from academia. When making the transition, I kept thinking it was just a huge step, but it really isn’t that big of a jump. The people who are able to adapt to new situations end up being successful in consulting. Those who are much more black and white and need to have stability and structure don’t tend to find consulting to be a good fit for them. It has been a great move for me and I have really enjoyed it. There are lots of opportunities for individuals just coming out of NIH with a PhD to come over to consulting.


2014 Career Success Plan

January 10, 2014

Here at OITE, our continued resolution is to help trainees become skilled in a variety of core competencies.  We view these four competencies as vital to your career development.

They include:
1. Career Exploration and Planning
2. Communicating
3. Teaching and Mentoring
4. Leading and Managing

Our goal for the blog this year is to cover a variety of resources and projected outcomes for each of these core competencies.

One of the first we will tackle is career exploration and planning.  This often involves four phases: Exploration, Preparation, Action, and Adaptation.  You will most likely go through these steps more than once because one’s career development very rarely follows a linear projection. Look next week for a blog on the topic of career exploration and planning, specifically individual development plans.

Hopefully, by covering all four of the core competencies, we will help to establish a thematic framework as you continue to read the blog throughout the year.  We will label and categorize each new post accordingly, so that the blog becomes a searchable site for you to easily navigate.  In addition, we hope this gives you some inspiration as you set your own new year’s career goals.  For a more detailed view of the graphic, please click on the image to enlarge.

Diagram of four core competencies; including: Career Exploration & Planning, Communicating, Teaching & Mentoring and Leading & Managing