Review of ResearchGate

March 24, 2014

Screen shot of a user profile on ResearchGate. The user profile highlighted is Ijad Madisch, one of ResearchGate's founders.Recently a few trainees have inquired about ResearchGate, so we decided to take a further look at this site. It was founded in 2008 by two physicians who discovered that collaborating with a friend or colleague (especially one across the world) was no easy task. They created this website with the intent of helping make scientific progress happen faster.

ResearchGate has been described as a mash up of familiar social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn because it contains profile pages, groups, job listings, the ability to leave comments as well as “like” and “follow” buttons. However, this social networking site is designed exclusively for scientists and researchers. According to ResearchGate’s site, there are four million users and their primary aim is to:

• Share publications
• Seek new collaborations
• Ask questions and hopefully receive answers from like-minded researchers
• Connect with colleagues

ResearchGate is free to join and members can upload copies of their papers. All papers will be searchable, which also allows users to track and follow the research publications of others in their field. Researchers are encouraged to not only upload successful results but those from failed projects or experiments, which are stored in a separate but still searchable area. The official mission of this site states: We believe science should be open and transparent. This is why we’ve made it our mission to connect researchers and make it easy for them to share, discover, use, and distribute findings. We help researchers voice feedback and build reputation through open discussion and evaluations of each other’s research.

Some critics of ResearchGate argue that even though the site states that there are four million users, it seems there are a lot of inactive profiles. Another criticism has focused on the fact that there hasn’t been much buy in from senior researchers meaning a high percentage of users are students or junior researchers. If you decide to create a ResearchGate profile, make sure you tailor the notification and privacy settings associated with your account since some members have complained about unwanted email spamming.

At this point, ResearchGate shouldn’t be the only site you use for networking, but it can be another helpful tool to connect with like-minded scientists/researchers and additionally it can be another way to help promote your work. As with any site, the more effort you put in, the more you will likely get out of this resource.

We would love to hear your thoughts about ResearchGate! If you have used it, what do you see as the pros and cons? Do you have any recommendations for future users?

**Compilation of Readers’ Reviews**

* In addition to networking, it is extremely useful as a research tool. A couple of points:
-When users sign up the website automatically adds the publications that have your name and appear in your profile, it also continues searching and when one
publishes an article it is also added automatically.
– It also suggests to connect with people that you cite and people who cite you so it is a tremendous tool to keep up with people in your field.
– People can ask questions about experiments and also get immediate feedback if they have questions about a publication instead of having to wonder.
– It allows you to follow senior investigators the same way one can follow a celebrity on Twitter, but there are no tweets and unless you ask a question all the conversations are personal,
there are no “wall postings.”

* It seems to be getting some traction with senior investigators. In the future, it may become more relevant to academia than perhaps LinkedIn.  Within ResearchGate, it is easier to connect with senior investigators because requests are not sent to connect, rather one just “follows” researchers.

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Taking Ownership of Your Career: Developing an Individual Development Plan (IDP)

February 6, 2014

Silhouetee of a person looking at arrows pointing in different directionsHave you drafted a career plan? Do you know if you have the required skills for your dream job? Figuring out the next step in your career and how to prepare for it can be stressful. But developing a plan, early on in your career, will help guide you through this process of identifying and achieving your career goals.

This year, the OITE will be dedicating its blog to help you develop a Career Success Plan, focusing on a variety of core competencies that are critical for your career development, the first being career exploration and planning. This is where creating an individual development plan (IDP) comes into play. But, what is an IDP? And why it is so important?

An IDP is a personalized document developed to help you define your career goals and implement strategies to help you accomplish those goals. There are many ways to develop your IDP. In fact, some universities, organizations, and/or institutes may have their own IDP documents in place. No matter what stage your career is in (postbac, grad student, postdoc) or what career path you are pursuing, an IDP can help you focus on short and long term goals with an action plan to follow. Remember, that as your career progresses, your plans might change, so you can always come back and review your goals adjusting them to your current situation.

Developing an IDP requires time and effort. So it is important that you not only think thoroughly about your career by doing an honest self-assessment but also, by being committed to applying the strategies established in your plan to reach your goals. To help you build your IDP, we discuss briefly the some important elements of the IDP.

Conduct a Self-Assessment

Self-assessment helps you identify skills, interests and values that are key to finding a career that fits you. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your skills (such as communication and leadership), interests (such as mentoring and designing experiments) and values (such as fast-paced environment and flexibility) will all help you evaluate your needs and priorities in your career.

Explore Different Careers

Once you understand your needs and priorities, how do they relate to possible career paths? With so many career options, you want to make sure that the career path you choose matches your skillset and interests. You might also find a career path that you didn’t think about before but fits your needs. When exploring career options, networking and informational interviewing play a critical role to understand those careers that you are unfamiliar with and learn insights of the job.

Set Goals

Now that you have explored different careers, what is your plan to get there? This is where you should develop your short and long term goals that are SMART. By doing so, you will hopefully establish a timeline to stick to your goal.

Implement Plan

Finally and most importantly, is to put your IDP in ACTION! Remember, you are in control of your own career. If you don’t take it seriously, no one else will.

Even though you can complete an IDP by yourself, you should choose a mentoring team that can guide and advise you through this process. Mentors play a critical part of the career planning process not only because of their personal and professional experiences but also because they can: provide feedback about your skills; help you reflect on your interests and values; and keep you motivated and focused.

* Science Careers has a web-based career-planning tool called myIDP that can help graduate students and postdocs develop their IDP. SACNAS-IDP also provides advice on how to build a IDP for undergraduate students

** Disclaimer: This blog is informational and does not constitute an endorsement to Science nor SACNAS Website by NIH OITE


Career Assessments: MBTI vs STRONG

January 22, 2014

Image of a pen marking answers to a quizCareer assessments are valuable tools to help you during your career exploration and planning. They can be a great starting point and the results can help you think more deeply about your own personal preferences and career interests. Two formal assessments are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Strong Interest Inventory.  To take these assessments, questions are answered online and then the results are shared and discussed during an appointment with a career counselor.

A career counselor can also help you determine which assessment (if any) is right for you; however, this blog will give you an overview of each assessment through the lens of three questions:  1. What is it? 2. Why should you take it? 3. How can you use the results?

MYERS BRIGGS-TYPE INDICATOR (MBTI)

1.  What is it?
The Myers Briggs is an assessment with the aim of measuring your personality preferences along four different dichotomous dimensions. The MBTI helps people answer the following questions:   Where do you focus your attention and/or get your energy?; How do you prefer to take in information?; How do you make decisions?; and finally, How do you organize the world around you? Isabel Myers and Katharine Briggs extrapolated these dimensions from Carl Jung’s theories regarding psychological types.  Myers and Briggs believed that in order to have a more satisfied life, people needed to better understand themselves which could then help them choose an occupation which better suited their personality.

2.  Why should you take it?
Today, the Myers Briggs is one of the most widely used instruments.  Many people find it useful as a way of understanding themselves, as well as their commonalities and differences with others.  Not only is it often used as a tool for self-understanding and career development, but many organizations also use this assessment for the purposes of team building, management/leadership training, and to help recognize differences in communication styles – all of which have direct implications during every phase of one’s job search.

3.  How to use the results?
The Myers Briggs will not tell you specific career paths you should choose; however, you can utilize your results to consider the pros and cons of different employment sectors/occupations and how much they match with your personal preferences.

STRONG INTEREST INVENTORY

1.  What is it?
The Strong Interest Inventory was written by psychologist, E.K. Strong, Jr.  in 1927 with the purpose of helping individuals exiting military service to find suitable occupations.  Today, the Strong Interest Inventory is based on John Holland’s theory of occupational themes. Work environments are classified into six different theme codes — Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, & Conventional (RIASEC). Generally, the Strong gives each test taker a three letter code representing their highest matches.

2.  Why should you take it?
This is a helpful tool if you are uncertain about your career interests.  It connects your interests with possible career options and categorizes your interests based on four different scales: General Occupational Themes, Basic Interest Scales, Occupational Scales, and Personal Style Scales.  Anyone can take this assessment; however, young adults might benefit the most since it also helps to highlight new occupations which might not have been considered.

 3.  How to use the results?
The Strong Interest Inventory generates a list of your top ten basic occupations and these results can give you new ideas and occupations to consider as you continue your career exploration and planning. The Department of Labor (DOL) has been using the RIASEC model in its free online database, the Occupational Information Network  (O*NET).  This is extremely helpful because you can take the information that you learn from your Strong Interest Inventory to explore even more occupations of possible interest.  Then, you can utilize the DOL’s Occupational Outlook Handbook to look into each occupation more in-depth by examining preferred qualifications, projected industry growth and typical work environments.

***

More information on both assessments can be discussed with a career counselor or online through CPP, Inc., the company which administers both the Myers-Briggs and the Strong Interest Inventory. Additionally, the OITE encourages individuals to participate in the Workplace Dynamics workshop series where the MBTI is administered and discussed as a group with the aim of helping you better understand yourself and your communication skills.


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


13 Best Career Websites of 2013

December 16, 2013

An image of a magnifying glass with "2013" in bold.2013 is quickly coming to a close and the approach of a new year can be a great time to reflect – not only on the past year, but also on what you hope to accomplish in the coming year.  Inspired by year in review montages we have already begun seeing, we decided to take time to reflect on this year as well, specifically on some of the best career resources at one’s fingertips in 2013. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it in rank order.  As always, we would love to hear your input – please share your very own “Best of 2013” resources in the comments.

1. LinkedIn
LinkedIn is still the largest professional networking site with more than 238 million users in 200-some countries worldwide. This service is still the most highly utilized option to connect with networks of people. Increasingly, recruiters are also using the site to source candidates for open positions.

2. Indeed
Indeed aggregates data from across the web with a Google-like search engine. It pulls information from job boards and company websites while utilizing a clean, user-friendly interface. All you need to do is put in your keyword and zip code and you will see results within a 50-mile radius.

3. SimplyHired
SimplyHired operates in a very similar way to Indeed; however, one extra benefit is that, when logged in, the site will also show you LinkedIn connections you may have at that organization.

4. Idealist
Idealist is the largest nonprofit job board in the United States. The site also features a blog with inspiring stories and the ability to search for volunteer opportunities by geographic location or keyword.

5. Salary.com
Salary.com provides data on average salaries based on job title and geographic location. This can be a great tool to utilize to help you prepare for an upcoming salary negotiation. Plus, it also has a “Cost of Living Wizard” which can help you understand how far your salary would go in a new city.

6. Glassdoor
Like its name implies, Glassdoor gives you a transparent look inside a company.  This is a completely anonymous site that allows users to disclose information about the pros and cons of an organization. Users will also post interview questions they were asked and some will even share salary information. You must create an account and log in to view the full information provided. Keep in mind that users at Glassdoor input their own salary data (which is not verified by the employer).  Glassdoor does evaluate the data to make sure that it meets community guidelines and is not suspicious. 

7. USAJOBS
The official site for government jobs – it includes postings from very diverse agencies across the government.  By law, any open federal position must be posted on this site. The site also has comprehensive employment information about eligibility, compensation, and benefits.  For help on navigating this dense site, see our previous blog post, “Which Federal Agencies & Contractors Hire Scientists.”

8. ScienceCareers
The ultimate career development and job search site for scientists. This is a global site with special-focus portals such as Minority Scientists Network and Postdoc Network.

9. ScienceJobs
From New Scientist Magazine, this site features job listings, a resume database and employer profiles.

10. BioCareers
The career center for job seekers in the life sciences. This site features industry articles, company information, job profiles, and career fairs.

11. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Department of Labor compiles labor statistics and creates an Occupational Outlook Handbook each year. This is a fantastic but not oft utilized resource which details hundreds of occupations under the categories: What They Do, How to Become One, Work Environment, Pay, and Growth/Employment Projections for each occupation.

12. Evisors
Evisors tries to connect job seekers with mentors under the mission of democratizing access to great career advice. You can search the database to find your perfect career coach and you can also sign up to become a mentor to others.

13. OITE
The OITE website gives trainees access to a multitude of resources, including: the NIH Alumni Database, videocasts of highly relevant career workshops, and career information for all of the different populations here at the NIH. On top of this, it gives you access to the following services: career counseling, leadership and development coaching, resume/CV/cover letter critiques, mock interview help, formal assessments, and much more.

As evidenced from this list, there are many great resources on the web; however, we want to remind you to utilize these online sites as a way to research companies and individuals in order to then make face-to-face connections. We look forward to seeing you in the New Year!

* Disclaimer: The online resources noted in this post are merely informational in nature and listing them does not constitute an endorsement by NIH OITE.


Two Part Series: Part 2 – Getting the Most Out of Mentoring Relationships

December 13, 2013

An image of puzzle pieces being drawn by hand. The puzzle pieces read: "Motivate," "Lead by Example," "Mentor," and "Vision" to name a few.In the first part of this series, we talked about how to identify a good mentor. Now that you have done so, how do you cultivate and maintain that relationship? Identifying a mentor is not an easy task; making it work can be even more challenging. In this blog, we will give you some tips to help foster and maintain your mentoring relationships.

Take ownership of your career
Take charge; remember you are the one in control! Think about your career goals in the short-term and long-term. Communicate these goals to your mentors, so they can understand your interests and better guide you on which steps to follow or opportunities to seek to reach your goal. A good mentor will offer advice but not tell you the path to choose; ultimately, that is up to you.

Communicate your expectations
Once you define your goals, it is very important to discuss them with your mentors and work together to develop a plan (such as an individual development plan or IDP) to accomplish your goals. If you prefer structure, you can establish clear expectations for the relationship. For example, you can start by determining how often you will meet (weekly, monthly) and how you will communicate (by email, in person, Skype, etc.). When expectations are set early on, your mentor will then know what you are seeking from the relationship, but you will also know what s/he expects from you. This will help you to effectively manage the relationship and will avoid future misunderstanding.

Respect each other’s time
Be mindful of your mentor’s time! Take full advantage of the time you have with him/her. If you know you are meeting or talking to your mentor, be prepared! Before each meeting, you can send your mentor an agenda of topics you would like to discuss in advance and any questions you might have, which will also help them better prepare for your discussion.

Keep your mentor up to date
Mentors can be anywhere and with the help of technology, you don’t need to be close to each other to stay in touch. Let your mentor know about your progress (the good and the bad). You can tell them about any recent accomplishments or awards, as well as your professional struggles.  It is important to keep the lines of communication open, so your update doesn’t even have to be related to you; you can send them a paper or article that you think s/he might be interested in.

Remember: a mentoring relationship should be a rewarding and educational experience for both of you!  The quality of the output will largely depend on the quality of the input, so be sure to treat your mentoring relationships with the professional respect they deserve. Always be prepared for your meetings and practice good communication, but don’t be afraid to be honest about your interests and/or the new directions you are seeking.

 


Will a Master’s Degree Get You Where You Want to Go?

September 16, 2013

Graphic of an academic diploma that states "Master of Science" and graduation capGetting the right degree for the career you want is not as easy as you might think.  Many believe a PhD is always better than a master’s degree.  However, depending on what you want to do, having a master’s degree can put you in a better position to get a job.  Just like any decision, it is important to consider all the factors before making a decision on which degree is best for you.  There are distinct differences between most master’s degree programs and PhD programs.

Degree Purpose: In general, a PhD program is not designed to get you a job. It is designed to train you to be a researcher and to contribute something novel to your field.  A master’s degree program is designed around the job market.  Most master’s degree programs aim to train a “marketable workforce,” with assignments that mimic the functions of professionals in the field.

Time to Completion: Master’s programs are on average one to two years.  A PhD is usually much longer, averaging four to seven years to complete depending on your field of study.

Student Body: Since master’s programs often tailor class offerings around the schedule of a working adult, your classmates are likely to be current professionals in your field.  Because of this, they provide a great network for finding employment.  In a PhD program, your “classmates” are likely to be dedicated researchers whose day-to-day lives are very similar to yours.  It is still important to build a network with your peers — that network will ultimately prove to be valuable.

You will also want to make sure you know the different types of master’s degrees that are available.  There are three main types of master’s degrees in the biomedical sciences.

Master’s of Science – Field:  These are knowledge driven degrees that are designed to provide an advanced education in a broad scientific discipline such as genetics, biochemistry, virology, etc.  These programs often have a research component that make them attractive to those interested in a research position either in academia/government or industry.  They provide students with a deeper understanding of the entire field as opposed to teaching specific skills or techniques.

Master’s of Science – Specialty: Skills-driven approaches have become increasingly popular.  Master’s degree programs in specialized disciplines such as biotechnology, bioproductions, regulatory affairs, etc. are designed to prepare you to do a specific job with little additional training. The curriculum is heavily project-based which gives students the experience of performing job duties typically required in the workplace.

Professional Master’s:  A hybrid of the other field and specialty based programs, degrees like the Master’s in Public Health or Public Administration are knowledge and skill driven programs that prepare students to apply their knowledge to a broad range of professions.  These degrees often have sub-specialties to better prepare students for jobs in their desired sectors.  An example of such is the Professional Science Master’s.

Getting a master’s degree is not settling for something less than a PhD.  In fact, many B.S.- and M.S.- level positions are growing in industry. They are different degrees that serve different purposes.  You have to decide which one serves your career aspirations best.