Start Fresh this Fall: 5 Ways to Make the Most of Your NIH Training Period

Fall wayCongratulations! You are now at the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s premier biomedical research agency. What next? How can you best take advantage of your time at the NIH? Read through these 5 strategies to discover the many resources available at the NIH.
1. Orient yourself.
Attend an orientation session offered by the Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE). Two sessions are coming up in the next few weeks: orientation for all graduate students and postdocs will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 8:30am-11am, and for all postbacs on Wednesday, Sept. 15, from 4pm-5:30pm.
Stop by OITE (2nd floor, Building 2, Bethesda campus) to meet OITE staff, and drop in to your IC’s Training Office to meet your Training Director.
Build an awareness of the culture within your IC, your department, your lab…and try to get a handle on your advisor’s supervisory style.
Finally, if you are not currently on the appropriate listserv for your group, contact OITE today.
2. Begin with the end goal in mind.
Develop clear training and career objectives. If you do not know where you’re headed career-wise, visit with a career counselor to discuss various career options, or attend career-related events through OITE.
Also, meet with your advisor to discuss long- and short-term training objectives. Check in often about these goals to be sure you are both on the same page.
3. Build skills.
You are in training. Read the literature. Attend seminars. Learn about different things. Remember that novel ideas can come from anywhere.
Also, build skills as a scientific professional, such as learning how to communicate effectively, how to manage a lab, how to write grants, etc. A few sample events offered by OITE include:

  • two writing courses: Basic Science Writing and Writing and Publishing a Scientific Paper;
  • a series of activities aimed at Improving Spoken English for our NIH trainees whose native language is not English;
  • Scientists Teaching Science and Talking Science: Designing and Delivering Successful Oral Presentations;
  • and grant-writing and leadership workshops.

4. Build your network.
View EVERY interaction as a networking opportunity. Taking the elevator, walking across campus, sitting next to someone at a seminar–introduce yourself and learn more about another person–which IC they are with, what their work focuses on, etc.
Also, attend professional meetings as your schedule/advisor/budget allows. Take advantage of these events by collecting business cards from every scientist/trainee you meet–and keep in touch after the event.
5. Find multiple mentors.
Look around your lab, down the hall, in the building, across campus, online–potential mentors are all around you! Establish relationships with several different people for advice on technical issues, professional development opportunities, conflicts you are trying to resolve. The more mentors you have, the richer your training experience will be.
Enjoy this time of investigation and growth!

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