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Job Searching During Uncertain Times – Ways to Stay Positive and Productive

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch May 4, 2020

COVID-19 has already had a large impact on the job market; the full extent of this impact will continue to unfold day by day and month by month; and it will likely be much more evident in certain sectors first and foremost. The hospitality, service, and food industries are currently taking a huge hit and the unemployment numbers are staggering. Within a month, the last decade of job gains has been wiped out.  These are not necessarily sectors where NIH trainees tend to land; however, a compressed job market tends to have a ripple effect making this very stressful for any job searcher. 

If you have been actively job searching, you might be feeling overwhelmed in this current moment. Remember that there are pockets of hope and it is important for you to try to continue searching. Some trainees have lamented that they have put their job search on hold because they have heard that nobody is hiring. 

Positive signs of note: within OITE, we have continued to work with trainees who are still being called for interviews and have even been extended job offers during the past month (with start dates to be determined). We have not received reports of hiring freezes in government or industry at this time. In some ways, the swift change in businesses’ daily operations has even created a boom for some employers. Pharmacies, grocery stores, technological support, and teleworking software companies are all ramping up hiring. Given the importance for trained biomedical researchers, there might even be more opportunities that open up for you during this time.  While not a perfect resource, some sites are even crowdsourcing data to get intel on which companies are still hiring. We encourage you to stay in close contact with your network to learn of opportunities.

Within academia, we have heard reports of hiring being paused and some offers even being rescinded.  If you were planning to do an academic job search, these articles are worth a read -  Chronicle for Higher Education and Science Careers. While colleges and universities might not be faring well in the moment; it is worth noting one observed trend from the 2008/09 economic downturn. Enrollment at universities tends to increase during bad job markets since people tend to use this as an opportunity to go back to school for further education and training.

Here are some general job search tips to keep in mind regarding career options in uncertain times:

  • For postdocs on the academic market – do what you can to stay close to science and research while developing transferable skills that will enable you to be a stronger applicant. For example, learning grant writing, on-line teaching platforms (Blackboard/Canvas), developing writing skills, and working on creating your strongest CV, teaching philosophy and research statement. Graduate students may want to consider looking at postdocs more closely than before.

  • When you were identifying colleges to attend, you likely had several list of colleges - "reach" schools where you met some of the criteria, "fit" schools where you met most of the criteria, and "safety" schools where you knew you could get in.  In this job market, a good job search strategy employs a similar way of thinking.  Identify companies and positions that are "reach", "fit", and "safety" and make applications to each of these types of roles/companies allocating your time and energy accordingly.

  • You may need to change your mindset and the types of positions that you pursue.  Be willing to expand your job paths - your dream job in your dream city may not be the most practical option now.  As noted above, some career options and companies will fare better during this time than others, so target your search accordingly.

  • Consider staying in your current role and using this as a time to continue to develop skillsets that will make you more marketable during your next job search. FAES just released new classes and many sites like Coursera or LinkedIn Learning can be great to explore at this time.  
  • Learn about video and web-based interviews and practice and prepare in advance. Remember that OITE Career Counselors are still available to talk with you in individual telephone or Zoom appointments . To schedule an appointment go to:

2020 Virtual NIH Career Symposium

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch May 11, 2020

Did you miss the Career Symposium this past Friday? Don’t fret! All of the events and panels were virtual and are still available online at our OITE YouTube Channel. Here is an overview of what to check out:

  • Faculty Careers: An Introduction to Academia
    • Dimitra Bourboulia, PhD, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Assistant Professor
    • David Sharlin, PhD, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Associate Professor
    • Kerry Smith, PhD, Clemson University, Professor and Director of EPIC
    • Tracie Delgado, PhD, Seattle Pacific University, Associate Professor
  • Industry Research and Development Careers  
    • Dennise A. De Jesús Díaz, PhD, Remedy Plan Therapeutics, VP Scientific Operations
    • Samantha Yost, PhD, ReGenEx Bio, Scientist-Research and Early Development
    • Catherine Nezich, PhD, Biogen, Scientist II
  • Science Administration Careers
    • Maile Henson, PhD Duke School of Medicine, Research Development Associate
    • Shakira Nelson, PhD, AACR, Sr. Scientific Program Administrator
    • Kristen Kindrachuk, PhD, University of Manitoba, Research Facilitator and, Business Development Officer
  • Industry: Non-bench Careers
    • Brenna Brady, PhD, Lead Researcher, Outcomes Research, Life Sciences,Value Based Care, IBM Watson Health
    • Kimberly Shafer-Weaver, PhD, Scientific Director, Global Medical Afffairs Merck & Co, Inc
    • Martha Sklavos, PhD, Senior Strategic Project Manager, U.S. Oncology Medical Affairs, Heme Franchise
    • Karol Szczepanek, PhD. Medical Science Liaison, AstraZeneca    

Also available on OITE’s YouTube channel are a variety of panels and 1:1 interviews on the following topics:

Transitioning to a faculty job

Government Jobs

Industry: Making the transition

Business, Technology Transfer and Patent Careers

Science Policy

Careers in Science Communication

Science Education and Outreach Careers

Teaching Intensive Faculty Careers

Non-Faculty Research Intensive Careers

Careers in Public Health

(note the careers for clinicians panel has been moved to late summer after consultation with ClinFelComm, more info on that in late-June)

Lastly, check out the career-focused Twitter chat that took place on Friday by searching for the hashtag #OITECareerChat. The live chat function is closed now, but feel free to share your answers as they could be inspirational for another reader. While you are on Twitter, be sure to start following us @NIH_OITE.


Personality Types While Quarantining and Building Resilience

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch May 18, 2020

Collectively, we are living through a global pandemic. Personally, each of us may be responding very differently to this collective experience. Given your personality and preferences, how are you coping? Is this very different than a person you are sheltering in place with?  Your partner, roommates, parents, and child(ren) may be having different responses and reactions to your own. How then can these differences be reconciled within the same quarantined household?

Some of the main differences seem to be between extroverts and introverts. At the beginning of the quarantine, there were many memes circulating around the internet proclaiming that introverts forced to stay at home felt like they were finally living their best life.  Freed from forced social interactions and seemingly unnecessary conversations! Extroverts, on the other hand, were missing these encounters and filling their time reaching out to friends for Zoom happy hours and phone chats. 

According to a Washington Post article by Jelena Kecmanovic:

People with certain psychological characteristics are more vulnerable than others to the effects of staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Also, what works best for one personality type might not be helpful to another. As a psychologist, I see the differences in how people adjust to the challenges of isolation, constricted life, uncertainty and dramatic change. Two personality traits that seem to have especially strong effects on people’s current functioning and household disagreements are extroversion, though introverts can also have issues, and perfectionism.

If you live with people who have different personalities from you, your needs might clash at times. The differences can become exaggerated during the pandemic because everybody is more stressed. “As an extrovert, I want to chat a lot about our current crisis, but my husband is introverted and, after a shift in the hospital, prefers quiet,” McGinley said. 

Forced togetherness can exacerbate tensions. “Since my extroverted roommate is now working from home, it’s been very hard to reconcile our preferences, like her love of loud music,” Wax said. The key is to talk openly about what you need, make a plan to compromise and check with each other frequently. How do you make a plan? “Bring awareness to how your day goes and identify frustration points — they are usually predictable. Then make a simple, doable plan for how you are going to deal with these situations,” Gillihan suggested.

No matter your personality type and preferred method of coping, the pandemic has taught all of us the importance of focusing on our own mental resilience.  Resilience is a skill that can be cultivated by noticing our own thoughts and separating from the non-beneficial ones in order to rebalance. Here are three tips to help you build your resilience:

Calm your mind
The OITE offers Mindfulness Meditation sessions each week. Carve out some time in your week to pause, reflect, and breathe. Check out OITE’s Upcoming Events to see the schedule.

Move your body
The NIH Recreation and Wellness are offering many workout classes virtually. If online classes aren’t your thing, go out for a walk/run/bike ride and find a way to get your endorphins pumping. 

Connect compassionately with others 
The OITE is offering weekly resilience groups on a variety of topics, including: anxiety and depression, preparing for the unknown, dealing with parental guilt, etc. The topics change weekly so check out the Upcoming Events for offerings that might be of interest to you.


About OITE

The Office of Intramural Training and Education, or OITE, working jointly with your NIH Institute or Center, is responsible for ensuring that your experience in the NIH Intramural Research Program is as rewarding as possible. We are here to help all NIH trainees become creative leaders in the biomedical research community.

About the Career Services Center

The OITE Career Services Center was established in 2007 to serve all of the trainees in the NIH intramural community. Our goal is to ensure that NIH trainees are aware of the many jobs available, both at and away from the bench, and to provide the resources to help them identify good personal options. Our career counselors run workshops, lead small group discussions, and schedule individual appointments open to all. These are designed to assist trainees in self-assessment, career exploration, goal setting, and finding positions.

Staffing for the Center includes:

  • career counselors, who can assist you with analyzing your strengths, weaknesses, and values; help you write resumes and CVs; provide information on career options; and coach you through the job search process; and
  • counselors who can aid you in developing a more assertive presence, dealing with interpersonal conflicts that might arise in the lab, managing time and/or stress, and more personal issues.

You can use the OITE Web site to make one-on-one appointments with these individuals. If you are in or near Bethesda, your appointments will be in Building 2 on the main campus. If you are at another location, the counselors will come to you or we will arrange phone appointments.

About this blog

This blog was established by the Career Services Center:

  • to increase awareness of OITE services among trainees;
  • to respond to frequently asked questions about and offer guidance with the career planning and job search process;
  • and to share new and updated career information and resources with all NIH trainees.

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