COVID-19 has already had a large impact on the job market; the full extent of this impact will continue to unfold day by day and month by month; and it will likely be much more evident in certain sectors first and foremost. The hospitality, service, and food industries are currently taking a huge hit and the unemployment numbers are staggering. Within a month, the last decade of job gains has been wiped out. These are not necessarily sectors where NIH trainees tend to land; however, a compressed job market tends to have a ripple effect making this very stressful for any job searcher.
If you have been actively job searching, you might be feeling
overwhelmed in this current moment. Remember that there are pockets of hope and
it is important for you to try to continue searching. Some trainees have
lamented that they have put their job search on hold because they have heard
that nobody is hiring.
Positive signs of note: within OITE, we have continued to work with trainees who are still being called for interviews and have even been extended job offers during the past month (with start dates to be determined). We have not received reports of hiring freezes in government or industry at this time. In some ways, the swift change in businesses’ daily operations has even created a boom for some employers. Pharmacies, grocery stores, technological support, and teleworking software companies are all ramping up hiring. Given the importance for trained biomedical researchers, there might even be more opportunities that open up for you during this time. While not a perfect resource, some sites are even crowdsourcing data to get intel on which companies are still hiring. We encourage you to stay in close contact with your network to learn of opportunities.
Within academia, we have heard reports of hiring being paused and some offers even being rescinded. If you were planning to do an academic job search, these articles are worth a read – Chronicle for Higher Education and Science Careers. While colleges and universities might not be faring well in the moment; it is worth noting one observed trend from the 2008/09 economic downturn. Enrollment at universities tends to increase during bad job markets since people tend to use this as an opportunity to go back to school for further education and training.
Here are some general job search tips to keep in mind regarding career options in uncertain times:
- For postdocs
on the academic market – do what you can to stay close to science and research
while developing transferable skills that will enable you to be a stronger
applicant. For example, learning grant writing, on-line teaching platforms (Blackboard/Canvas),
developing writing skills, and working on creating your strongest CV, teaching
philosophy and research statement. Graduate students may want to consider
looking at postdocs more closely than before.
- When you
were identifying colleges to attend, you likely had several list of colleges –
“reach” schools where you met some of the criteria, “fit”
schools where you met most of the criteria, and “safety” schools
where you knew you could get in. In this job market, a good job search
strategy employs a similar way of thinking. Identify companies and
positions that are “reach”, “fit”, and “safety”
and make applications to each of these types of roles/companies allocating your
time and energy accordingly.
- You may
need to change your mindset and the types of positions that you pursue.
Be willing to expand your job paths – your dream job in your dream city
may not be the most practical option now. As noted above, some career
options and companies will fare better during this time than others, so target your
- Consider staying in your current role and using this as a time to continue to develop skillsets that will make you more marketable during your next job search. FAES just released new classes and many sites like Coursera or LinkedIn Learning can be great to explore at this time.
- Learn about video and web-based interviews and practice and prepare in advance. Remember that OITE Career Counselors are still available to talk with you in individual telephone or Zoom appointments . To schedule an appointment go to: https://www.training.nih.gov/career_services/appointments