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Go Gov – Finding a Job in the Federal Government

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch October 1, 2015

Looking for a job in the federal government? If so, be sure to check out many of the resources offered through OITE, including:

1. How to Find and Read Job Ads USAjobs has a reputation for being hard to search, but if you take some time to familiarize yourself , you might find it is not that bad. This blog post will help you identify how to look for some keywords and job titles that work for you.

2. Which Federal Agencies and Contractors Hire Scientists? This blog post details a list of federal agencies and contractors which often hire biomedical scientists.

3.  Government Jobs for Scientists A must watch YouTube video which gives a comprehensive but quick overview of careers for doctoral-level biomedical scientists. This video discusses the different types of jobs, both at and away from the bench with the US Government. 

Outside of the OITE, the Partnership for Public Service has many resources to check out. A good place to start would be their page on working in the federal government.

Is Grit the Key to Success?

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch October 16, 2015
Orange sign with white letters reading "got grit?"Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth is a psychologist and a 2013 recipient of the MacArhthur Fellowship. Her work focuses on traits that predict achievement. In order to study this, she went to many different places and studied predictors of success in different contexts. For example, she went to the West Point Military Academy and tried to predict which cadets would stay in the rigorous training program and which would drop out. She also went to the National Spelling Bee and tried to predict which students would advance furthest in the competition. Then, she looked at teachers in tough schools to try and see which teachers would still be there at the end of the academic year. Finally, she partnered with private companies to look at salespeople to track not only who would keep their jobs but also generate the most money for the company. In all of these different settings, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success – grit. Intelligence and talent are often thought of as the best predictors for success; however, it turns out that doing well not only in school but in life depends on much more than your ability to learn quickly and easily. IQ, social intelligence, attractiveness and even physical health were not as predictive of success as grit. But, what is grit? The essence of grit can be subjective, but it essentially means being a hard-worker and never giving up. According to Duckworth in her TED talk, “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina and living life like it’s a marathon not a sprint.” Robin Koval, author of the book “Grit to Great” was asked for a tip on how to cultivate grit even as you get older. She suggests that you plan on living to 100 years old. Write down your goals for each five or ten-year milestone. See how much you want to accomplish for the next 25, 35, or even 45 years. While this tip is nice in theory, in actuality, very little research has been done about how you can successfully build grit. This is a popular topic amongst parents hoping to instill grit in their children. The best idea seems to be the idea of a “growth mindset” as put forth by a psychologist named Dr. Carol Dweck. She put forth the idea of two mindsets -- fixed and growth. In a fixed mindset, people believe basic qualities like intelligence or talent are fixed traits. In a growth mindset people believe that basic qualities like inborn intelligence or talent are just the starting point and can be developed further through dedication and hard work. The growth mindset viewpoint reflects an attitude toward learning, possibly failing and then persevering with resilience. If nothing else, these mindsets are a reminder not to rest on past laurels. As a research scientist, you are probably well-versed on grit. A lot of research is about keeping on through monotony, drudgery and failed experiments. Have you ever wondered how gritty you are compared to others? How much grit do you have? Take this test to find out!

Gender Bias – Making the Unconscious Conscious

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch October 22, 2015

Tackling overt discrimination can be difficult enough. Take for example, the recent case at UC Berkeley. After a six-month investigation, the university concluded that high profile faculty member and renowned astronomer, Geoffrey Marcy, had violated multiple sexual harassment policies over the course of a decade. At first, the university’s investigation and corresponding disciplinary actions went under the radar; however, when it became public that Marcy’s reprimand was essentially a small slap on the wrist, the community responded. A petition from students and faculty alike began and was supported by thousands of scientists. Marcy resigned from his faculty position last week. 

There are egregious examples of hostile work environments like Marcy’s lab at Berkeley and appalling examples of sexist comments like Tim Hunt’s “trouble with girls.” However, most discrimination is much more subtle. Unconscious gender bias can keep women in STEM from opportunities, equal pay and much more. 

Persistently feeling undervalued professionally can eventually push women out of the lab and out of STEM altogether. Furthermore, empirical evidence supports gender bias findings. We have written in the past about gender bias in letters of recommendation. This bias persists with science faculty during hiring decisions and one study found that male applicants were viewed as more competent and deserving of a higher salary even when female applicant’s resumes were identical. Unfortunately though, many men don’t believe this is actually happening. 

A new study found that unconscious bias is quite insidious and when shown evidence of gender bias against women in STEM fields, men were significantly less likely to find these studies important and/or convincing. 

The study’s authors note, “How can we successfully broaden the participation of women in STEM when the very research underscoring the need for this initiative is less valued by the majority of the group who dominate and maintain the culture of STEM?” How can this be fixed then? As with most problems, often the first step is to admit there is actually a problem. On a systematic level, recognizing gender bias exists in STEM and working to develop programs and initiatives to combat it will be essential. But, what can you do on an individual level? First, remember that every person has biases. Most people believe they are ethical and unbiased. However, even the most open-minded person harbors a lot of unconscious biases. Once you begin to realize your own biases, then you can make decisions to change your behavior accordingly. 

Organizations like Google have recognized this and started workforce training programs focusing on unconscious bias. Watch their video on making the unconscious conscious. Harvard has a series of online tests which measures implicit prejudices on everything from gender and race to age. Millions have taken these tests to help increase awareness of unconscious bias. Check it out here at the Implicit Association Test

We can all work to overcome implicit bias; however, remember to seek support if you feel like you are being treated unfairly. If you are at the NIH, there are resources to help you like the NIH Ombudsman and the Employee Assistance Program.

Decision-Making Activity -- Prioritizing Grid

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch October 26, 2015
Image of the front cover of the book "What Color Is Your Parachute?"Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute?, developed a prioritization grid to help individuals make career decisions. The paper version in the book is quite cumbersome to use, so Beverly Ryle developed an interactive and easy to use online version. This can be a great tool to utilize as you work to prioritize anything – whether it is career-related or not. Individuals use this grid to figure out what skills and values are the most important for them to have in a job. However, you can use the grid for almost anything. Do you have an overwhelming project ahead of you? You can use this grid to help you prioritize and organize your tasks. The benefit of this particular grid is that you can write in absolutely anything. It doesn’t give you preset options from which to choose. Before you begin prioritizing, take some time to go through the examples provided just so you have a sense of the flow. If you are interested in learning about more career activities, stop by the Main Circulating Library on the 2nd Floor of Building 2. The OITE has a Career Library with many books including the book noted above, What Color Is Your Parachute? You can also search the library online by going to NIH Library site. From the "Research Tools" menu, chose "Online Catalog". Finally, scan the choices under "Search all libraries" and select the "OITE Career Library".