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Waiting is Hard to Do

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch December 30, 2019

From the Archive: Blog written by Michael J. Sheridan, MSW, PhD, Special Advisor for Diversity and Wellness Programs, It is December 2019, and while many are enjoying the holidays, if you are trainee, you are probably asking yourself, “I haven’t heard back from a number of medical schools, is there something I can do to move them along? Should I assume I won’t get in?  Will I get an interview at the graduate programs that I applied to?  I am waiting to hear from academic positions …is there anything I can do?  The good news is that, if you haven’t heard anything yet, you are still being considered. With the holidays fast approaching, it is probable that most communication will resume in the new year.  The reality is that waiting for a response is hard thing to do. index Dr. Michael Sheridan, Special Advisor for Diversity and Wellness Programs offers some strategies to help and writes that an area to be aware of while you wait is what is going on in your mind – specifically, the “inner chatter” that is present. It’s important to realize that you “talk” to yourself more than anyone else and thus, what you are saying makes a difference.  There are two particular qualities of this inner chatter to be mindful of – the “when” and the “what.” The “when” of your inner dialogue refers to how much the mind is focused on either the past (“I wish I had remembered to put X in my application.” “I should have had so and so critique my letter before I sent it.”) or the future (“What will I do if I don’t get any interviews?” “If I don’t hear back from them by the end of this week, it means I didn’t get in”).  The reality of both past and future musings (or let’s face it, worrying) is that it is truly wasted effort as you can’t change something that’s already happened and you can’t predict what is going to happen in the future!  The only moment you have any control of is the current moment – and even then, I’m talking about control of your own thoughts and behaviors – not the actions of others or the eventual outcome.  Focusing on what you can do versus what you can’t lowers anxiety and builds confidence. The “what” of your inner chatter has to do with the overall message or tone of what you are saying to yourself.  Are your thoughts harshly self-critical? (“I know I did a terrible job on that personal essay – I probably sounded really stupid”) Do they have a doomsday or “catastrophizing” flavor to them? (“I didn’t get this position, which means I won’t get any of the others I applied for either”)  Or are they balanced and positive? (“I know I won’t get accepted by everyone, but I probably won’t get rejected by everyone either” -“I’ve done the best I can and I can handle whatever the next step needs to be”).  A good thing to cultivate during the waiting is compassionate self-talk, or treating yourself with “the same kindness, care, and concern that you would treat a good friend” (Dr. Kristen Neff, So notice what you’re saying to yourself and if it is not supportive, ask yourself if you would say this to a good friend.  Chances are, you would offer something more encouraging, so try being your own good friend! In addition to Dr. Sheridan’s suggestions above, we invite you to visit our blog, where we suggested some activities to engage in during the holidays that will help you prepare to continue pursuing your career goals.  Also, be sure to visit our OITE web page as well to attend workshops and schedule an appointment with a career counselor.  If you are one of our extended community readers, please check with your home institution and local resources for career services. We will see you in 2019!

Career Exploration Road Map

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch December 16, 2019
career exploration

The career exploration road map is a tool that was developed by Bill Lindstaedt and Jennie Dorman to help students/trainees visualize the career exploration process and track their progress. This tool was initially developed for graduate students and postdocs at the University of California, San Francisco, but is now available for all to use.

The road map is intended to be career neutral as it is often understood that many trainees are considering both academic and non-academic career fields at the same time. The map guides you through six different stages of career exploration with a color to match each stage.

1. Self-Assessment (green)

2. Investigation (yellow)

3. Reflection (orange)

4. Synthesis (red)

5. Job Search (purple)

6. Reassessment (blue)

It is a board game style which walks you through key questions you should be asking yourself at every stage of the process. For example, in the first self-assessment stage, questions include: What am I interested in? What am I good at? What is important to me/What do I care about? What careers do I have a hunch I might like? What careers fit my interests, skills, and values?

The creators designed this specifically to help break down the process into more manageable steps. We all know that thinking about career exploration is important – vital even – to future success, but it can feel so overwhelming and time-consuming. Career exploration and decision-making is rarely a linear process hence the map’s circular outline. You may find yourself going through each stage multiple times for varied different options. While that can feel frustrating, it is also a part of the process that helps you eliminate bad choices and zero in on good fit options.

If you are feeling stuck and unsure about where to go with your career, give the questions in the career roadmap a try; and remember, if you are at the NIH, you have access to a variety of career resources and services, including many workshops/events as well as one-on-one career counseling. If the career roadmap is of interest, you might find the OITE workshop on Planning for Career Satisfaction and Success particularly helpful as well.

Marketing Your Research Experience for Project Management Positions

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch December 9, 2019

Scientists and trainees often have a hard time seeing how their lab-based skills can be applied beyond the bench. When you are job searching, whether you are seeking a position in academia, industry, or government, it is essential that you have a clear idea of your main attributes and how they could be applied to your intended position of choice. Identifying skills you already have developed and will be able to transfer to your next professional position is a key component of a successful job search. If you need help identifying possible transferable skills, take a look at the OITE blog post on “What are my transferable skills?” Many trainees express an interest in going into management consulting or other fields where project management skills will be highly valued. As a researcher, this could be a great fit for you, because by virtue of running experiments, you are utilizing project management skills. There are five stages in a project management cycle, including:

  1. Initiation
  2. Planning
  3. Execution
  4. Monitoring/Control
  5. Closure

Sounds familiar to planning and running an experiment, doesn’t it? When applying for positions focused on project management, speak about your bench work in these terms and it will feel much more relatable to the hiring manager/team. During the initiation phase of an experiment, you are likely trying to understand the scope of your project which could involve literature reviews and generating your own hypothesis. In the business world, this phase consists mostly of analyzing the feasibility and timeline of the project. During the planning phase in both science and business, you are likely trying to map out any risks/vulnerabilities to your outcome. You are ensuring you have enough resources (budget/materials) to complete your work. The third, fourth, and final stages – execution, project monitoring, and closing – depend heavily on the type of task you are working on, but it is important to remember that even though the day-to-day tasks might differ between bench and non-bench roles, the overall process and the skills that you are utilizing to ensure success are often the same. Understanding some basic principles about project management stages and the flow of work can help you to see connections beyond your own bench work.

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