Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Half Way There: June is Informational Interview Month

Submitted by peryan79 June 4, 2012

It’s June!  That means we are half way through the year and half way through our career development calendar that we posted in January.  If you have been following the calendar, you have met with your PI to discuss you career aspirations, talked with a career counselor, created a networking map, learned how to network at a conference or meeting and you attend our Career Symposium.  It has been a full year…and we are just getting started!  Following along with the calendar, June is the month for you to set up at least two information interviews. 

We have posted before on informational interviews and if you attended the career symposium, you probably heard our panelist discuss how important they were in their career.  Yet, we still sense quite a bit of hesitation from fellows when it comes to setting up information interviews.  We know the idea of contacting someone you may not know well and asking them to make time for you can be daunting.  So, we have compiled the top five reasons to overcome your fears and just do it:

5)  The New York Department of Labor estimates that 80% of available jobs are not advertised and half of the employed population got their jobs through networking.  That means one in every two people who are currently working used their network (the people they know) to get the job they have.  Meet more people in the careers you want to get.

4) Through an information interview you may learn that the career you thought you wanted to pursue, is in fact NOT what you want to pursue.  Often times, jobs look great from the outside.  However, once you sit down and hear about the daily grind of the profession, you decide you would rather not follow that career path.  Information interviews can save you time and frustration.

3) An information interview may turn in to a job interview.  Remember, most jobs are not advertised.  You never know who is hiring.  Talking to the right person at the right time may just be how you get where you want to be.

2) One information interview can lead to another, and another, and another.  Often times in an informational interview, the person you are interviewing will mention another person you should speak with.  You then use that connection to set up a second informational interview.  The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 

1) Because if you want to something to happen, you have to be willing to make it happen.  We blogged about the “luck” of the panelists at the career symposium. Almost all of them were out there doing something to advance their careers when they got “lucky.”  The truth of the matter is, you make your own luck!  Go make it happen.

A Fellow's Perspective: What I Learned Serving On A Committee

Submitted by peryan79 June 11, 2012
Post written by a guest blogger Ahmed Kablan, Postdoc at NIDDK. This past eight months, I have had the privilege to work with more than 20 other fellows and the OITE staff to organize the 5th annual NIH Career Symposium.  Serving on the planning committee was a valuable experience.  Some of the key things that I learned by volunteering as a committee member are:
  • The importance of teamwork and time management: In order to work well with your team it is crucial communicate clearly to avoid duplication of effort.  My time management skills have improved, resulting in increased productivity. By learning to prioritize the issues at hand and work with a team my life seems more manageable.
  • To practice leadership skills at all times: You don’t have to be in leadership position to build your leadership skills. Each one of us had the chance to take the lead on certain issue, or bring new ideas to the group.
  • To step out of my comfort zone: Getting out of the lab, talking to other fellows, and doing a different kind of work helped me discover skills I didn’t know I had, such as communicating my complex science in simple and plain language. I was also able to see how skills I have learned in the lab are applicable in other settings. Skills such as planning a project, explaining it to the other key players and justifying the resources needed to complete the project, or the ability to communicate effectively with people of broad educational backgrounds. 
  • How to build a network and witness why it is important: You have heard it a million times, but networking is an important skill to develop. What is not always apparent is how easy it can be.  Attending the Career Symposium social events was great. The atmosphere was relaxed and everyone was there to network. I was able to connect with the speakers and other attendees.  That let me see how we as a committee had used our network to make this event happen.  The success of this event relied on the ability of committee members and OITE staff to identify potential speakers and be connected to them enough to invite them to come. Your network helps you get where you want to go.  In this case it helped us put together successful and dynamic panels.
  • The value of using social media effectively: I have used LinkedIn more in the past few months than I did in the first six years after I joined.  I used it to advertise and start discussions around the information presented at the Career Symposium.
  • How fulfilling it can be to be a part of something like the Career Symposium: Working on the committee to organize the Career Symposium was personally fulfilling. I have benefitted first hand from a previous NIH Career Symposium, so by participating in this committee I hoped to help others find similar career guidance. Giving is really highly rewarding.
If you want to help next year, look for an announcement in September.

NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Profile 15 - Investigator I and MRI Head - Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research

Submitted by peryan79 June 18, 2012

This is the fifteenth in a series of profiles about recent NIH postdocs who have found an array of jobs, from academia to industry to communications and beyond, in the U.S. and abroad. What do they do now, and how did they get there? What challenges did they face, and what advice do they have? Read on to find out.

Name: Erica Henning

Current position: Investigator I and MRI Head, Global Imaging Group, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR)

Location: Cambridge, MA

Time in current position:  1 Year

Postdoc: Translational imaging and stroke with Lawrence Latour and Steven Warach, NINDS

Job search in a nutshell: When I started the job search process, I was on the “typical” academic track. My goal was to obtain an independent investigator position. I applied for jobs in both academia and industry between fall 2009 and spring 2011. I have found that the keys to obtaining any position are skills and expertise, company ‘fit’, and networking.

I consulted my network of colleagues and various job websites. In addition, I searched individual pharma and MRI company websites for preclinical imaging positions. I would say that I spent 1 to 2 hours each day searching and applying for positions. Some links I found helpful were Science Careers, Nature Jobs, Academic Keys, USAjobs, and the ISMRM [International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine] Career Center.

Network, network, network: All the phone and on-site interviews I had were based on networking. You need a strong network of colleagues who are already established in the field and who can vouch for you as a scientist. Without that, the only information any recruiter has to go on is what you’ve listed in your CV/resumé.

I started creating my network of colleagues the minute I started graduate school. The first place to start is with your advisor. My advisor was my number-one resource. He or she can introduce you around at conferences and help you get your name into the scientific community. Introduce yourself, talk to others at their posters, hand out a business card – this will help you in the long run.

The second place to start is to publish. First-author papers are important, but it is just as important to publish as a co-author for any collaborations in which you are involved. It is important to demonstrate independence and teamwork.

Tips for applying outside academia: Submitting a CV to a non-academic position is the worst thing you can do! If you are applying for non-academic positions, create a resumé that is based on the job description and the listed skills and experience. This is more work, but it will pay off.

Interviewing for industry is also different from academia. I would recommend following the acronym S.T.A.R. – Situation, Task, Action, Result. I found helpful.

How I got my job: I found the advertisement for my current position on the NIBR website and applied directly. Interviewing involved phone screens by HR and the hiring manager, an on-site interview and formal presentation, and follow-up phone interviews. When I received the offer, I did have other offers. I chose NIBR because it was the best fit for me. It offered research, people, teamwork, employee development and the ability to continue publishing.

Day-to-day: One of the most important parts of my job is to interface with the various disease and platform areas in NIBR, determine their needs and leverage imaging to guide critical decisions in the drug discovery process. A typical day includes teleconferences between our Cambridge, Massachusetts and Basel, Switzerland campuses, meeting with current or potential project partners, overseeing existing projects running in the laboratory, reviewing and analyzing data and presenting results at team meetings to provide recommendations for project direction. I also attend NIBR seminars and training sessions and national and international conferences. These keep me informed on current and future plans for imaging research as it relates to drug discovery and patient health.

Essential skills: I would say that the most useful skills in my position are communication, teamwork and problem-solving. As a manager, vital skills include leadership, project management, delegating tasks and meeting deadlines.

The upside: The level of teamwork and collaboration at NIBR is amazing and something I hadn’t experienced in academia or government. I feel extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to perform cutting-edge research in a fast-paced and rapidly evolving environment, working side by side with leading scientists in a variety of disciplines.

Erica can be contacted through the OITE alumni database.