Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Make the RIGHT Kind of Bang in Your Job Search

Submitted by Lori Conlan July 1, 2010
fireworks image

Wow. I just finished reading an article in the Careers section of the Wall Street Journal and found the actions of some job seekers SHOCKING. Check out these classics from “Big Blunders Job Hunters Make:”
– Asking the interviewer to take YOU out to lunch.
– Asking someone at the company where you are applying to correct your resume for you.
– Bringing your child to an interview – and not making an apology, or even mentioning the fact that your child is with you.
– Answering a call and having a conversation during the interview.
– Claiming to have worked with someone who has no idea who you are.
– Wearing a t-shirt three sizes too small – with bright red lettering. Yikes.
– Sharing details of your life, personal relationships, financial hardships – or trying to figure out (aloud) how your fish will be fed if your job involves a lot of travel.
– Following up an interview with an expensive gift from Tiffany’s. (FYI – a well-written thank you note will suffice.)
– Having your parents follow up with the employer when you don’t get an offer. OUCH!
Set yourself apart and make a bang when you’re job searching – just be sure it’s the RIGHT kind of bang.

Want Relief from the Heat? Step into a Career Fair

Submitted by Lori Conlan July 8, 2010
woman dressed up image

It has been so hot in CT this week, I have broken a sweat just walking from freezing, air-conditioned buildings, to my car. Yikes!

If you need a break from the heat, consider attending two upcoming job fairs, featuring jobs and internships in the Maryland/metro DC area. These two fairs take place over the next two weeks. Each focuses on a different level: one features entry-level jobs and internships, and the other focuses on more advanced positions. For more information on each, as well as tips on attending, see below.
Current undergraduate students, postbacs, graduate students, recent graduates, and professionals with less than five years of experience:
Public Service Career and Internship Fair
Who: Open to the public. Over 75 federal agencies with internships and positions available in a wide variety of fields will be attending the fair.
When: Wednesday, July 14 from 3:00-7:00 p.m.
Where: The National Building Museum! This venue is located at 401 F Street NW in Washington, D.C., across the street from the Judiciary Square metro station on the red line.
Cost: Free

Organizations attending: Visit this link.
Extras: “Find and Apply” Workshops at the Career Fair: The Partnership for Public Service, the event sponsor, will be presenting three workshops on how to find and apply for government jobs and internships during the Career Fair at 4:00, 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. in the Pension Commissioner’s Suite on the second floor of the National Building Museum. You do not need to sign up ahead of time. However, these sessions will fill up quickly, so arrive ten minutes prior to the start of each presentation.
To register for the fair: Visit this link.
Postdoctoral Scholars:
Postdoc Conference and Career Fair: STEM Talent: A Symposium and Career Fair for Postdocs in the Capitol Region
Who: Open to current postdocs working in Washington, D.C.-area federal labs and universities. Companies, foundations, and federal agencies seeking to fill upper-level S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) positions will also be attending the fair.
When: Thursday, July 22 from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Where: Bethesda North Marriott/Montgomery County Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Road, Rockville, MD  20852
Cost: $5.00
Organizations attending: Visit this link.
Extras: A full conference agenda, including a plenary speaker, panel discussions on different STEM careers, a career fair, and skills workshops, featuring OITE‘s own Dr. Lori Conlan!
To register for the conference and fair: Visit this link.
To prepare for either/both fairs, consider the following:


  1. Research, research, research!  Visit the links above, determine organizations of interest, and then visit their specific sites to view jobs and internships available. You need to be able to talk intelligently about what the agency/organization does and have a sense of what they're recruiting for.
  2. Edit your resume, and share it with a career counselor at OITE before the fair, if you can. If not, at least have a colleague or family member review it for mistakes.
  3. Come up with an introductory "script," including your name, research project or program of study, date of graduation (if applicable), and your area of interest and how it relates to the employer. Practice this with friends and family.
  4. On the day of the fair: dress appropriately (suits are fine, but not required), and be EARLY!
  5. Once at the fair, pick up a list and map of organizations, target three or four that you don't want to miss, and plan your day.
  6. Be enthusiastic when talking with employers and demonstrate familiarity with their organization.
  7. Make eye contact!
  8. Drop off a resume with each employer of interest, but know that some will not collect them.
  9. Pick up a business card from every person you speak with.
  10. ...and as my colleague in career services at Berkeley says, "Be brief, be bright, and be gone."
  11. Send thank you notes via email within 24 hours of the event.

Good luck, and stay cool!

I Scream, You Scream...

Submitted by Lori Conlan July 13, 2010
Ice cream image

Chevre Strawberry Jam. Golden Beet Saffron. Russian Imperial Stout. Salted Licorice. White Chocolate Lavender. These are just a few of the inventive ice cream flavors offered at Humphry Slocombe Exit Disclaimer in San Francisco. Co-owners Jake Godby and Sean Vahey have managed to infuse their products with an abundance of unusual tastes, from crème fraîche to olive oil. While you may not be responsible for creating new flavors every day, your work might benefit from an infusion of creativity. Things you may already do that encourage creativity:

  • Exercise
  • Change of scenery
  • Driving
  • Showering
  • Playing with toys
  • Sleeping
  • Listening to music

New ways to generate creativity: 1) Define a work-related problem in detail. Grab a sheet of paper, your iPad, a computer, or whatever you use to take notes, and describe the problem in great detail. Solutions may surface once you have done this. 2) Carry a small notebook and pen or pencil with you everywhere you go. If you are struck with an idea, you can record it and reread it later. 3) Doodle. Doodling can assist you in taking a mental break from a problem you've been struggling with. Take a look at this doodling site Exit Disclaimer, print out a few pages, and doodle to refresh your brain. 4) Open a dictionary, select a word at random, and try to formulate ideas incorporating this word. 5) Read as much as you can about everything you can. Reading refreshes your brain, particularly when you read from disciplines outside of your own. Doing this may allow you to make creative connections more easily. When all else fails, get up and go outside for a walk. The change of scenery, fresh air, and exercise will help to rejuvenate your brain cells and assist you in focusing when you return to work. And you may even squeeze in a visit to a nearby ice cream shop. Adapted from 10 Steps for Boosting Creativity Exit Disclaimer by Jeffrey Bumgartner and Creativity Exercises Exit Disclaimer by Tim Stellmach.

Work Anytime, Anywhere...but Be SMART about It

Submitted by Lori Conlan July 15, 2010
Women working out site image

About a year and a half ago, Ryan, Inc.Exit Disclaimer, a tax services firm based in Dallas, Texas, instituted a dramatic shift in their company's structure. The firm changed their 9-5, office-based work culture to one where employees can work anytime and any place they desire. Along with this significant change came a new sense of accountability, as each employee has deadlines to meet and objectives to reach. Employees are evaluated and rewarded on their ability to meet goals and deliver results.

While your scientific work may not allow you to be completely flexible with your time or physical workplace, it might make sense for you to undertake the goal setting exercises used by Ryan, Inc., and other employers, such as setting SMART goals. SMART is an acronym used to describe goals that ensure both employer and employee are on the same page. SMART stands for:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Attainable

R = Relevant

T = Time-bound

Think about your current project. Have you worked to define SMART goals with your advisor?

While setting these types of goals at the start of a project is the most productive, this may be a worthwhile exercise regardless of where you are in a project. If your advisor has not initiated such a conversation with you, request a time to meet and be prepared to discuss the needs of the lab, as well as any skills or interests you might like to develop personally. Working together with your advisor on setting goals will keep the lines of communication open and increase the chance of you feeling satisfied in your current role--and of building a stronger résumé or CV in the process.

S, M, or L...What Size is Right for You?

Submitted by Lori Conlan July 20, 2010
weight loss girl

Getting fit is beneficial on so many levels...but the financial, perhaps. My future brother-in-law lost 43 pounds, so he is now finding his closet full of clothes that no longer fit. Luckily he enjoys shopping, but needs to replace his wardrobe with smaller sizes. Size is an important aspect to consider when evaluating job opportunities and employers, as the size of a company can dramatically affect the culture of a workplace, access to advancement, resources, and more. The size of an organization and its impact on culture is explored in an articleExit Disclaimer I found recently on the "Regeneration Station" science blog. Think carefully about your personality, your scientific focus, and work environments you have enjoyed most as you review the following. Large Companies v. Small Companies Potential experiences in a large company:

  • Great deal of structure within the organization, including tested processes, management practices
  • Up-to-date equipment and technologies, as well as experts in a variety of fields
  • Typically slower pace to get projects off the ground than at smaller companies
  • Multiple opportunities for advancement--either within or beyond bench science
  • Can be difficult to assess the impact of your work
  • May have opportunity to enhance your skills technically, as well as your development professionally (leadership and management courses, etc.)

Potential experiences in a small company:

  • Opportunities to learn new tasks, different aspects of running a business
  • Not as much access to resources as with a larger company. Need to be comfortable reaching out to new contacts (to universities to use equipment, etc.)
  • Rapid pace, given proximity of senior leadership to bench scientists, ability to make decisions without gaining approval from several layers of administrators
  • May feel the impact of your work in a profound way (presentations to investors, etc.)
  • Lack of an extensive corporate history may translate into a dearth of best practices, processes
  • More of an opportunity to stretch yourself personally by learning on the job, taking more ownership of projects, more immediate experience leading teams

Are you more of an independent spirit? Comfortable with risk? In that case, a smaller company may be a better fit. Do you prefer more structure and definition to your job? Then a larger company may suit you. In either case, be sure to do your homework, as corporate cultures vary widely from organization to organization. Good luck!

Unicorns, Skill-Free Ph.D.s, and Other Mythical Creatures

Submitted by Lori Conlan July 22, 2010
unicorn image

"But I have no skills!"

I have heard this refrain more often than any other throughout my 12 years as a career counselor for graduate students and postdoctoral trainees. The truth is that grad students and postdocs build myriad skills throughout their research programs that are attractive to employers in any sector.

Following are a few myths worth debunking:

Myth: "I have no useful skills."
REALITY: Graduate students and postdocs develop many skills over the course of their programs that are valued by employers.


Myth: "I’m only trained to do one job."
REALITY: Graduate programs and postdoctoral work require you to develop a broad set of skills that qualify you for a wide range of career paths.


Myth: "My experience is so limited, what skills could I possibly possess?"
REALITY: More than you know!


The trick, then, is learning how to identify and present your transferable skills to potential employers. Take a few moments and go through this exercise, designed to help you tease out skills you have been or are currently using as part of your program.
  1. List each activity associated with your graduate work, current research project, volunteer work, or other activities (e.g. teaching, conducting research, training undergraduates, etc.)
  2. List the tasks associated with each activity (e.g. modeling a particular technique, reviewing and evaluating student work, keeping accurate notes, etc.)
  3. List the skills you have used in each task (e.g. ability to translate complex problems to a variety of audiences, ability to present data clearly, ability to plan and execute several projects at once, etc.)

Look at that! You have amassed skills that are valuable to all employers through your work as a junior scientist. Be sure to list the skills you identify from the exercise above in your job applications. For example, consider the following excerpt from a graduate student's resume, developed with the assistance of my career services colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania using the exercise above: Summary of Qualifications

  • Practiced and effective writer, editor, and public speaker
  • Able to present complex material in a clear, concise, and persuasive manner to a range to audiences
  • Full engagement with projects from inception to completion
  • Proven ability to become an expert in new subjects and techniques quickly
  • Work productively both independently and in teams
  • Effectively manage time and multiple projects, set priorities, and meet deadlines
  • Focus on defining problems and researching solutions
  • Effective synthesis of details and broader vision
  • Manage, train, and evaluate personnel regularly

Would you hire the person above? I know I would!  So take heart...though you may have days of self-doubt, rest assured that much like the Easter Bunny, there is no such thing as a Skill-Free Ph.D.


Today's Episode of CHOPPED: A New Resume for the Chopping Block

Submitted by Lori Conlan July 28, 2010
chopped tomato image

Yesterday, I was fortunate to have spent some time on the Bethesda campus of the NIH, meeting with focus groups of trainees to discuss the new OITE website. While the trainees shared some ideas for improving the site, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive--so I encourage you to check out the site if you haven't done so already! While there, one of the postdocs I met (a brave soul) volunteered to have his resume CHOPPED today. Below is his resume (minus identifying information) and my comments in red. (And you should know that he, not I, chose the alias at the top of the document.)



Indie Bubba Ph.D. 12345 Anywhere Avenue Somewhere, MD 20896 Email: [email protected] Work Phone: (xxx) xxx-xxxx Mobile: (xxx) xxx-xxxx Home Phone: (xxx) xxx-xxxx CORE COMPETENCIES

  • Working knowledge in due diligence and evaluation of technology for commercialization.
  • Three years of experience in executing Material Transfer Agreements (MTA) at NIH/NIAAA.
  • Understand the rules and regulations governing non-commercial federal technology transfer.
  • Completing the final semester of technology transfer certificate program.
  • Highly motivated, detail oriented professional, with excellent interpersonal skills.
  • Excellent project management and customer relationship skills.
  • Expertise in a wide range of disciplines in life sciences such as: molecular biology, cardiovascular development, cell biology, biochemistry, multi-photon and confocal microscopy.

This is a nice way to open a resume. His skills and experience with technology transfer jump off the page from the start and should grab the attention of an employer hiring in this field. PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE 2009- Present Internship at GAP BioLife Fund at the Center for Innovation in Technology in Herndon, VA. Listing dates worked or graduation dates on the right-hand side is more effective than listing on the left, as employers will be looking for the most important information--like position title or degree earned--first. Technology Commercialization Experience

  • Evaluate business plans for technology commercialization in different technologies.
  • Perform due diligence on technologies being considered for investment which include market/technology research for competition, market size, patent searches, Pub-med literature, valuation, and other appropriate research.

2003-Present Research Fellow, Technology Transfer Liaison and FELCOM representative for NIAAA, Section on Cellular Biophotonics (SCBP), Laboratory of Molecular Physiology, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Rockville, MD. Given the impressive amount of direct tech transfer experience that this candidate possesses, I would suggest replacing the above category entitled "Professional Experience" with a stand-alone "Technology Transfer Experience" category, and in it, I would list the experience at GAP BioLife Fund, the applicable experience at NIAAA, and his experience with the 2009 University Startups Conference and the Maryland Innovative Partnerships (see below under tech transfer activities). After this new category, I would create a "Research Experience" category wherein he might list his postdoctoral work. Technology Transfer Experience

  • Promote and market at national meetings and workshops the use of technologies developed as a research fellow and effected tranfer of that technology to over 110 labs at academic institutions around the world.
  • Coordinate all technology transfer activities of SCBP including working with scientists from non-profit organizations to help transfer intellectual property.
  • Facilitate rapid approval of all legal documents by the NIAAA Technology Transfer Development Coordinator.
  • Provide technical and customer support to recipients on the use and implementation of technologies.
  • Developed three independent projects in the lab that resulted in 5 publications in high impact journals.  In addition, 4 additional publications are at the pre-submission stage.
  • Disseminated research through international meetings, workshops and manuscripts.

1996-2003 Post Doctoral Fellow, Program of Developmental Neurobiology, Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, GA.

  • Developed transgenic and knockout mice to study cardiovascular development.
  • Collaborated with renowned researchers involved in studying cardiovascular development and cardiac function.
  • Trained and supervised graduate students, technicians and other postdoctoral fellows.
  • Research resulted in 11 publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Excellent description here. Listing number of publications can be helpful in demonstrating accomplishments, completed work, etc. TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER RELATED ACTIVITIES I would change this category title to "Technology Transfer Training" and list the first three entries from Education (see below), followed by the NIH-OTT training and conference participation. Completed NIH-OTT online technology transfer training module. Volunteer Organizer at University Startups Conference 2009: "Creating Jobs and Powering Innovation With University Startups" An International Conference Dec 2009. Evaluated Business plans for Maryland Innovative Partnerships Dec 2009. Attended Mid Atlantic Bio conference Nov 2009. Attended LES (Maryland Chapter) monthly meetings since 2007. EDUCATION 2010 Certificate in Technology Transfer. FAES Graduate School at NIH 2009 PDS-100 Commercializing Technology through the Power of IP Licensing. Organized By LES-MD. 2009 Completed an 11 week WEBINAR COURSE on RESEARCHER COMMERCIALIZATION. Organized by the National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer. 1996 Ph.D. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University Of Georgia. I would add city and state here. 1987 M.Sc., Physical Chemistry, University of Bombay, India. 1985 B.Sc, Chemistry, University of Bombay, India. HONORS Post Doctoral Fellow Award; best oral presentation Award Graduate Research Day 2002. PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS Licensing Executive Society. Biophysical Society. TEACHING I would add the word "Experience" to this category title. Taught fluorescence microscopy at the workshop on FRET microscopy organized by Dr. Periasamy at the W.M. Keck Center for Cellular Imaging, University of Virginia, Charlottesville annually since 2006. COMPUTER SKILLS Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Keynote, Adobe Acrobat, Photoshop and Illustrator. Bioinformatics/Scientific:  Vector NTi, Sequencher, Prism, Igor, EnzymeX. CITIZENSHIP USA This category is not required to list and it may actually work against you if you do not have authorization to work in the U.S. permanently. REFERENCES Available on request Ok to close with this, but this category is also not required to list.


Best of luck to our friend Indie Bubba in pursuing a career in technology transfer, and thanks again for being willing to have your resume CHOPPED!