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Meet OITE - Elaine Diggs, NCC, NCCC

Submitted by Lori Conlan March 2, 2010

Prior to coming to NIH, I worked for a dozen years at the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Washington, D.C., where, most recently, I assisted with conducting annual leadership conferences for ACS volunteer leaders. But during most of my time at the ACS, I served in the Department of Career Services, where I recruited and trained volunteer career consultants and personally provided job search assistance, reviewed resumes, conducted mock interviews, and counseled chemists experiencing job loss.
Before my work counseling scientists, I served as an academic advisor and career counselor at several universities including Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, and the Pennsylvania State University. After returning to my native Maryland, I counseled diverse community college populations about educational planning, goal setting, career choice, and success strategies at community colleges in Washington County, Montgomery County, and Harford County, MD. I have also been self-employed as a resume consultant and have consulted for A.T. & T., Bell Atlantic, and Citigroup about employee outplacement and career development issues.
Early in my career, like you, I worked in the laboratory—in 2 different labs at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine—after earning a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Goucher College in Towson, MD.    Later, I completed a master’s degree in Counseling and Guidance from Johns Hopkins and transitioned into a counseling career.  I was among the first 1,000 counselors in the U.S. to obtain the National Certified Counselor (NCC) certification, and I also hold the National Certified Career Counselor (NCCC) credential.
Joining OITE as a career counselor in December, 2007, was a great opportunity to use my counseling skills and love of biomedical science to assist postbacs, graduate students, and postdocs facing career decision-making and professional development issues.  I find satisfaction in seeing possibilities for people, and the broad range of backgrounds and scientific interests among young scientists at the NIH offers continual challenge for us together to “build your career and shape the future.”

The Envelope Please...

Submitted by Lori Conlan March 5, 2010
hands putting envelope image

While in graduate school, two close friends of mine hosted an Oscars party annually with glitzy dresses and formal wear, delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinks, and ballots with blank spaces for us to enter “Who Should Win” and “Who Will Win.” I remember that time fondly, and I still enjoy checking out the nominated films and watching the Oscars for the fashion, the personalities, and occasional drama. As I thought about the show and the film industry in general, I remembered an article I read a while back in Science Careers Magazine about a scientific film consultant (A Scientist Goes to the MoviesExit Disclaimer). (Incidentally, the Science Careers siteExit Disclaimer has hundreds of similar articles on professionals in a wide range of careers.) The author, Dr. Sian E.M. Lawson, had worked with horses for most of her life. After completing technical training in a PhD program using motion capture, which included recording movement in a wide range of species (horses and humans alike), she took an academic postdoc. She decided that academia was not the best fit for her and began to reach out to the entertainment industry, as she knew motion capture was used there as well. What she discovered over time was that her experience with horses, both scientific and practical, made her highly employable. When we think about career choice, we sometimes think of it in terms of a small box, containing only a few choices (faculty positions at universities or industry jobs in drug discovery, for example), or in a linear fashion, where degree A leads to degree B to postdoc C and job D. However, the type of job we eventually find may be a combination of our interests both inside and outside of work and studies. As the author above puts it, “I think that the key to landing your dream job…is the fact that you have experience in what you're really interested in.” So what’s in your "envelope?" What interests do you have outside of  work or your degree program? Have you considered combining these in a creative way to identify potentially satisfying careers? You might enjoy art or artistic expression outside of work, and could find a career in medical imaging satisfying. You might be a volunteer in a local school or in your house of worship with children or young people, and might find a career in science education very fulfilling. In this market, it is essential to be creative in your job search--but also to be true to yourself. Be on the lookout for ways to combine your work and education experiences with your true loves or interests.

Help me help you! Ideas for FAQ

Submitted by Lori Conlan March 10, 2010

We are currently assembling a “Frequently Asked Questions” link for this blog and would love to hear from YOU!
What questions or concerns do you have, or have you heard about:
…careers in general?
…the current job market?
…the self-assessment process?
…the job search?
…career options for scientists?
…other topics?
Post your comments below, and we will respond to you directly or incorporate your ideas in the new link. Thanks in advance for helping us help you!

Common Errors in Preparing Application Materials & How to Avoid Them: Part 1

Submitted by Lori Conlan March 11, 2010
Writing letter

Guest Writer: Elaine Diggs, NCC, Career Counselor in OITE's Career Center Last week I was introduced on this blog, and I commented that I was eager to work together with graduate students and fellows to help you “build your career (and) shape the future.”  Since I spend considerable time helping trainees who are job hunting , I thought it might be helpful to list some of the common errors I see in reviewing trainees’ job application materials. 

Error #1: Curriculum Vitae (C.V.) are used inappropriately when applying for non-academic positions. Because you have always studied and worked in academic settings, the format you naturally think to use when applying for a job, albeit in an academic setting or any other work setting, is the c.v.  But there are differences in both the form and function of the c.v. vs. the resume.  Lori Conlan, Director of OITE's Office of Postdoctoral Services, gave an excellent workshop at the start of the current academic year on the differences between c.v.’s and resumes and when to use each. Taking a few minutes to review her slides from that workshop might be a wise investment of your time.

Error #2: Letters of application (commonly known as cover letters) do not address specifically how your background fits the qualifications of the job.

The purpose of a cover letter is to arouse the interest of the reader in your educational and experiential background, and how that background could be used to help solve a problem a department or an organization is facing. So, the letter is a piece of persuasive writing, not merely descriptive. You are trying to persuade the employer to invite you for an interview, to sell yourself as someone who is well-qualified for the position and who should be hired. It is necessary, but not sufficient, to describe the research you have been doing here at the NIH and in prior laboratory settings.  If you fail to make a direct link between what you can offer and what the employer needs to have done, as specified in the position description, however, you will most likely be passed over.  Although it may seem to you to be stating the obvious and belaboring the point, s-p-e-l-l out specifically the connection between the organization’s needs and your education, skills and experience.  When requesting a critique of your letter of application, bring both the job description and your letter to the Career Services Center, and either Career Counselor Anne Kirchgessner or I will be glad to review your letter. I look forward to sharing some other common errors and their solution in future posts to this blog.  Stay tuned! Elaine Diggs                                                                                                                                                                  . . . to be continued

Meet OITE - Anne Kirchgessner, NCC, NCCC, LCPC

Submitted by Lori Conlan March 15, 2010

As a Career Counselor within OITE, I enjoy working with postbacs, graduate students, postdocs and clinical fellows throughout all stages of the career planning and job search process.
Before joining OITE, I counseled undergraduate and graduate students and post-docs for ten years in the Johns Hopkins Career Center for the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering.
Previously, I worked as the Director of Career, Counseling and Learning Services at the University of Maryland University College where I managed a staff of career counselors, math and writing tutors and student peer advisors. As Program Director for Experiential Learning at University of Maryland, College Park I helped students gain academic credit for cooperative education experiences and internships.
My experience includes teaching and coaching adult students to develop portfolios to gain college level credit in a variety of disciplines at University of Maryland University College.
I have also had career counseling and consultation experience at the American University, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) and in private practice.
Earlier in my career I counseled disabled students in various career-related co-op and internship placements at Genesee Community College.
My Bachelor’s degree is in English (being a reformed Chemistry major) from Nazareth College of Rochester and my Master’s degree is in Counseling from the State University of New York College at Brockport. My certifications include National Certified Counselor (NCC), National Certified Career Counselor (NCCC) and Maryland Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC).
I’m happy to meet with fellows who are looking for help with CV, resume, and interviewing skills, as well as considering new career options or just getting started on planning their next career steps I am also interested in assertive communication issues and concerns in the workplace
Our appointment e-mail address is
All the best,

OITE news

Lunch LIVE with OITE!

Submitted by Lori Conlan March 18, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Guest: Sharon L. Milgram, Ph.D. Director, NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education

Join us to chat online about careers. Have your questions and concerns answered without leaving your desk! You may visit the chat site now to set an email reminder for yourself to ring 3 hours, 1 hour, or 15 minutes before the chat begins:

Lunch LIVE with OITE

To participate in the chat, simply visit the same link at the time and date listed above. Once the chat begins, you will have the opportunity to submit your career-related questions or concerns for Dr. Milgram to answer. Don't miss this opportunity to speak directly with someone dedicated to improving your training experience at the NIH!

219-to-212: Communication Breakdown vs. Communication Success

Submitted by Lori Conlan March 22, 2010
Yesterday's historic vote on overhauling the health care system in the U.S. could not have been much closer. The final vote in the House of Representatives on Sunday was 219-to-212, with Republicans voting unanimously against the bill. The tensions rife throughout this debate are illuminated by the language used to describe it: - "an epic political battle" (NY Times, March 22, 2010) - "a tortuous campaign" (LA Times, March 22, 2010) - "a critical logjam" (Chicago Tribune, March 21, 2010) Consider for a moment disagreements you've had with peers or supervisors, students or faculty, friends or family. While your disagreements may not have been on the same scale as the national health care debate, you may have felt misunderstood--or may have experienced a complete lack of understanding of a particular viewpoint with which you disagreed. When you find yourself worrying about a disagreement, remember that the NIH Office of the Ombudsman provides a free, confidential resource to assist NIH trainees and employees in addressing concerns and resolving conflicts. The Office is often called upon to provide guidance in difficult, longstanding conflicts; they are also a great place to go to talk things out at the first sign of a complicated situation. The Ombudsman’s Office is happy to speak to NIH employees who work on every campus—phone appointments are possible. To learn more, visit or call (301) 594-7231. Another helpful resource that can help you gain insight into yourself and others is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®). By helping you understand they way you and others process information and interact with the world, this assessment can help you  express your own views in ways that can really be heard. In the MBTI, there are no “right” or “wrong” answers. This assessment simply represents a way to understand our personalities more fully. Understanding difference can then lead to more effective communication with those around you. This valuable resource is offered free of charge through the OITE for all trainees. MBTI seminars are offered regularly throughout the year. Watch your inbox for an invitation to the next one (Bethesda) which will be on April 15th from 9:00am-12:00pm.

Meet OITE - Dr. Yolanda Mock Hawkins

Submitted by Lori Conlan March 23, 2010
Dr. Yolanda Mock Hawkins currently serves as the director of the NIH Academy which is a post-baccalaureate program which allows recent college graduates the opportunity to conduct biomedical research with world-renowned scientists as well as enhance their knowledge of health disparities. Prior to assuming this position Dr. Mock Hawkins led and coordinated scientific recruitment efforts at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Intramural Research Program as the biomedical recruiter from 1999 – 2004. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Fisk University, Dr. Mock Hawkins went on to Texas Southern University, where she obtained an M.S. in Biology.  In 1994, she graduated with a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN.  Her thesis was on the “Identification and Characterization of Protein Kinase C (PKC) Isoforms in Normal and Keloid-Derived Fibroblasts.” Dr. Mock Hawkins conducted postdoctoral research at the NIA under the mentorship of Dr. George Roth between 1994 and 1998, in NIA’s Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology, in the Molecular Physiology and Genetics section.  Mock Hawkins served as a program analyst at NIA in the Office of the Director from 1998-1999.  She has reviewed grant applications for NSF and served on numerous NIH committees, as well taught at the collegiate level.  She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
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Be Sure You're "LinkedIn" to ALL the Possibilities

Submitted by Lori Conlan March 25, 2010
building pic

Guest author: Shawn Mullen, PhD, Deputy Director, Office of Postdoctoral Services, Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE) LinkedIn Exit Disclaimer can be a powerful tool in developing and maintaining a professional network. If used properly it will afford you a means to tap into potential collaborative relationships, investigate career paths, and often, establish connections that will ultimately help you find that next great position. As someone whose professional focus is providing fellows with resources and helping them to develop career skills, I work with many fellows who are currently using this networking technology. However, I think more fellows can further tap into LinkedIn’s potential to aid you in establishing key, and potentially fruitful, connections. While you could spend days reading articles and blogs that discuss using LinkedIn in awe-inspiring ways, what you actually need to keep in mind as you use LinkedIn to build your professional network are two simple concepts: to act strategically and to remember your manners. LinkedIn is about being strategic and establishing quality connections that will deliver results over time. Before impetuously sending an invitation to someone to join your network (and mind you, this is very easy to do, what with LinkedIn’s convenient “People You May Know” function tempting you to hit “invite” as if it were some irresistible death-by-chocolate desert), ask yourself, “Would establishing this connection provide mutual benefit over time?” Remember, it is what both of you bring to the table that will make it a worthwhile contact. Once you make the strategic decision that this person would be a good contact, etiquette comes into play. First and foremost, avoid sending the “out of the blue invite.” My mother taught me never to accept invitations from strangers, and for the most part that bit of advice has worked well for me since childhood. Lay the groundwork before you send that invitation. Use a mutual contact to introduce you. If no mutual contact exists, e-mail or phone, to introduce yourself and discuss your objectives. Once a dialogue has been established you can ask to send an invitation. The other piece of etiquette you should follow is to always—let me say that again for those way in the back: ALWAYS—personalize your invite. Avoid the default language that is provided. Even (or perhaps especially) if you are good friends with the person and eat lunch with them every day, personalize the invite. Remind them of where and when you met, and include your reasoning for why you think that being in one another’s network would be mutually beneficial. A little personalized attention goes a long way in establishing connections, even electronic ones.


Meet OITE - Julie Gold, MSW

Submitted by Lori Conlan March 30, 2010
Julie Gold, Leadership and Professional Development Coach, enjoys speaking with trainees individually and in groups in order to help them make the most of their time at the NIH. Whether speaking with a post-doc about challenges affecting his work, practicing spoken English with a grad student, or helping a post-bac strengthen her leadership skills, Julie enjoys tapping her expertise both as a clinical social worker and professional actor to help trainees move forward.
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