Two of the most frequent questions that fellows ask during career counseling are, “For what jobs do I qualify? “or “Should I apply for this job?”. To answer these questions, career counselors begin with helping fellows to identify and speak assertively about career from their career trajectory that are factual and grounded in reality. For example, as a NIH fellow, you will have developed several core competencies which may include research, academic and scientific writing, speaking, grant writing, teaching, mentoring, leadership, management, and ethics training among others. Also, fellows can speak clearly about their skills, motivations, achievements, values and experience that they have already developed without sounding too shy or overly confident. In 2012, Science magazine published a blog article, ” Successful Careers: A Matter of Confidence,” that goes into more detail about this reality for scientists.
In OITE, our goal is to help you develop more confidence about your career options and the job search and recommend taking the following steps. If you take these steps, you will be able to answer the questions positively and with confidence.
1.Identify and practice talking about your accomplishments, skills, interests and values.
- Keep an on-going list of accomplishments and skills that you have gained through your education, training, and work.
- Develop more understanding of factors related to workplace dynamics and communication. OITE offers a leadership workshop series to help. https://www.training.nih.gov/leadership_training
- Include work, family and lifestyle needs into your decision-making
- Update your CV/Resume to reflect accomplishments, your skills and experiences.
- Explore various science career pathways in the sciences and note those of interest.
Some of the most common science career paths include intellectual property, science writing, regulatory affairs, outreach and education, technology transfer, science policy, principal investigator and entrepreneurship and academia. One effective way to begin exploration is to complete the myIDP assessment is self-report instrument that asks the test taker to respond to several smaller career scales related to their science related interests, values and skills. A report is generated that and how these skills match up with the broad spectrum of employment sectors in science. The myIDP also includes overviews of many career paths in science with links to articles, books and professional associations that describe these career paths.
4.Compare and match your experience and skills to the qualifications listed in job ads
- Begin to read multiple job descriptions and job openings. Underline/highlight key skills and qualifications in the job description that describe the type of experience the employer is seeking.
- Reflect on your experience to identify skills that match the description and highlight those skills for your resume/CV.
5.Get involved in your institute/center committees, FELCOM, Scientific Interest Groups (SIG).
- Obtain leadership and teamwork roles and strengthen your communication skills often prized by employers.
- Reach out to professionals who work in the career sectors that interest you.
- Conduct informational interviews Talk to individuals who work in the job sectors and positions that interest you to learn more about specific skills and knowledge that helps them to do their work.
- Email/ talk with at least 10-15 people to assess the fit for you in specific organizations and job roles.
- The more people you talk with the more you will understand what specific jobs involve. You will make contacts in the fields that interest you and potentially find out about jobs that you might never see posted
- Use your university networks, NIH researchers and alumni, professional society networks, andhttps://oitecareersblog.od.nih.gov/?s=linked LinkedIn to find professionals to talk with.
- Schedule a mock (practice) interview with a career counselor, mentor, and/or colleague to practice your skills.
For NIH fellows, feel free to make an appointment with an OITE career counselor for if you need further help getting started or evaluating your approach. Similar services can be found in your home institution or in the community for readers beyond the NIH.
Anne Kirchgessner MSEd. is a Career Counselor with NIH’s Office of Intramural Training and Education