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The Positives of Career Envy

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch March 15, 2021

More than 75% of people have reported feeling envious of someone in the last year. A growing statistic especially since social media (LinkedIn included) makes it very easy to see what your colleagues and friends are up to professionally and personally.  You can be happy for another’s professional success while still feeling a twinge of jealousy. This career envy can be especially acute if you are job searching and/or making a career pivot and feel like you are starting back at square one.

While jealousy can be motivating for some; it can derail others. To help from falling in the latter category, here are some ideas to make productive use of those negative feelings.

Shift from comparison to curiosity.
Reflect on why someone’s success triggered envy for you. What part of their story has reflected your own values, interests, and goals for your life? As an adult, there are fewer life markers, so it is quite natural to consciously or subconsciously make social comparisons with others.

Pausing and assessing your own skills and accomplishments can also help you measure your own progress and perhaps it will shed light on clearer benchmarks you hope to hold yourself to. Was your friend’s success professional or personal? Did they excel in a hobby/side hustle? If you are strategic about the information you glean from social comparisons, then it can help you modify your approach to certain tasks and areas of life.

Question your assumptions
Social media and a carefully curated feed can really distort the reality of one’s life. Try not to take everything at face value. A shared new job may have come after 20 job rejections. People are more willing to genuinely share their path in a face to face conversation. So, if you really want to learn more about someone’s path, don’t hesitate to reach out and talk to them. They will likely be able to detail the true picture (rife with ups and downs) and perhaps share some insights and advice for you to make your own.


Types of Networking Emails

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch March 8, 2021

Networking doesn’t come easily or naturally to all. With so many connections nowadays starting online, it can often feel awkward and intimidating to write networking messages. The most successful messages are short and succinct. The purpose of your email should be implied within the first two sentences and very clear by the last sentence. People are busy, so don’t include long-winded bios; however, it can be helpful to say a few key pieces of information in your first line, including:

  • Who you are
  • How you found them
  • Why you are reaching out

For example: I am at postdoc in my fourth year at NCI. I found your contact information in the NIH Alumni Database and I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you about your career path in ___.

Here are some other types of networking emails:


If sending a cold message, it will ideally take them less than one minute to read and will be very convenient for them. If you are trying to set up a Zoom informational interview, list two to three concrete dates/times that they could choose. Make it as easy as possible for them to respond to you.  If you find you aren’t getting responses to any cold emails, review your wording and make sure to adjust it accordingly. Some common mistakes fall around lacking specificity in your message. Here are some examples and remedies:

Subject Line: Requesting Info  à Subject Line: NIH Postbac Interested in Consulting

Can we meet sometime this week?  à Does this Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday between 4-6PM EDT work for you?

What advice do you have for getting into this field? à This is likely too much to type out so try to get this information from a conversation instead by asking, “I am exploring options and am interested in hearing how you went from X to this field.”


In the excitement and rush to apply for an online posting, some job seekers neglect to check in with known contacts at an organization. Before you apply to a role (and if job closing timelines allow), try to notify your contact and let them know your plans. This is also the chance to thank them again for their guidance/insights and ask if they have any other suggestions before you apply.  Many times, contacts can internally refer you which can greatly benefit your application’s chances. If you find yourself at risk of missing an application deadline, go ahead and apply, and then notify your contact afterwards.  


Anytime you speak to someone in an interview or an informational interview, you should send a thank you note after the meeting. Some people simply forget to do so and others aren’t sure what they should write, so they don’t do so.

It can be helpful when you schedule you meeting to also schedule fifteen minutes on your calendar for the thank you note. That way it is already built into the meeting time.  You can start your note with a simple sentence thanking them for taking the time to speak with you. Then, if possible, share a specific insight or advice that you found helpful. This shows that you are a thoughtful professional and it will hopefully help move you from a forgotten contact into a referred job applicant.


Ten Tips to Move Through Your Anxiety, Not Around It

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch March 22, 2021

Post Written by: Sara Hunter, OITE Wellness Advisor

Anxiety is a normal and healthy emotion that all humans experience. It’s a way to signal to our brain and body that we should prepare for action. This reaction is part of what contributes peak performance and sustained attention. As a result, we don’t need to get rid of our anxiety; we just need to learn how to respond to it differently.

Anxiety becomes disordered when its intensity is disproportionate to the anxiety-provoking event. With this heightened response, we move quickly into flight, fight or freeze mode, mechanisms of our evolved biology to keep us safe from danger – to keep us alive. But the anxiety-provoking events we experience in today’s world, though they trigger the same physiological response whether we’re in a stressful situation or a life or death situation– increased heart rate, sweaty palms, intensified breathing – are usually not matters of survival.

Consequentially, our strategies of escape and avoidance in response to anxiety aren’t effective like they once were for us when we needed to regularly ensure physical safety. In fact, they tend to reinforce the innate messaging that those behaviors – escaping or avoiding -- are what is keeping us safe and therefore, are necessary to keep doing. So, we cancel our public speaking events, we push back the exam we need to take, we avoid a difficult conversation with a colleague or boss, or we don’t take calculated risks at work because we may be seen as a failure. These avoidant behaviors only reinforce our body and brain’s belief that these scenarios are truly dangerous and that we can’t handle them, creating a feedback loop of a heightened anxiety response when these situations inevitably show up again.

Instead of perpetuating our anxiety by avoiding or moving around these stressful situations, we need to find useful ways to move through it.

  1. Choose something that matters more than the discomfort you’ll experience from anxiety. Write that down and keep it somewhere you can see as a reminder in the moments when you feel your anxiety coming on.
  2. Shift your perspective of anxiety from something that you dread or even fear to a mechanism that is preparing your body and mind for optimal performance.  
  3. Change your rules around anxiety from: I’ll do this until I feel too overwhelmed to I will do these even when I feel anxiety. Find grounding techniques to help you manage this.
  4. Build emotional muscles: the more you practice something the stronger the wiring in your brain will become. You can do hard things and withstand discomfort.
  5. Let go of perfection – develop a growth mindset by asking yourself what skills or supports you may need to acquire to address this problem differently, more effectively.
  6. Let go of the belief that when life doesn’t go smoothly or isn’t easy then it’s bad and time to quit.
  7. Change how you perceive situations by noticing what distorted thoughts you may have and countering it with evidence. This strategy is not functional in the time of heightened stress and anxiety so it will be necessary for you to have awareness around your cognitive distortions and the narratives that effectively combat those.
  8. Expose yourself to anxiety in small steps. Build a hierarchy of tolerance, starting first with the small stressors and building up to the stressors you tend to avoid all together.
  9. Write down goals that are connected to moving through your anxiety. Start small and make them realistic. Remember to take note of your accomplishments and growth along the way.
  10. Get support - practice patience and compassion. 


Submitted by Amanda Dumsch March 1, 2021

Today is the first day of Women’s History Month and it seems like an opportunity to acknowledge the challenges that women have faced, especially in 2020 - 2021.

This past year, the pandemic has had a devastating impact, but in truth, women’s professional lives have been the hardest hit. According to a January 2021 article, US employers cut 140,000 jobs in December 2020. Women accounted for all the losses, losing 156,000 jobs while men gained 16,000.  This is why many are now referring to the current economic recession as a SHEcession.  According to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center, this is the first time since 1948 that female unemployment rate in the United States has reached double digits.

This she-cession is impacting women in two different and equally devastating ways. First, it largely seems to be women who are being sidelined from jobs because of a lack of childcare and the demands of virtual schooling. In September 2020, when the academic year resumed, 865,000 women left the workforce.  Secondly, women make up the bulk of the workers in fields/sectors that have been hard hit like hospitality, service, and education.  

These statistics are not simply sobering for the short-term. According to Bloomberg, this she-cession threatens to wipe out decades of progress for U.S. women. It is expected that the average gender wage gap, which was already not great, will be widened by two points for decades.

Jessica Calarco is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Indiana University. Her work has been focusing on mothers grappling with parenting, partners, anxiety, work, and feelings of failure during the pandemic. She has been focusing her research on pandemic parenting by looking at these challenges empirically.  She views her sociological research as “ungaslighting”.  For those unfamiliar, gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. Those experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious and unable to trust themselves. Dr. Calarco’s paper “Let’s Not Pretend It’s Fun: How COVID-19 Related School and Childcare Closures are Damaging Mothers’ Well-Being” is an example of this form of “ungaslighting”. She is trying to shed light on a current situation. A combination of intense work pressures, intensive parenting pressures, and a lack of outside support whether from the government or even partners has caused many mothers to feel like failures and consequently blame themselves for not living up to these expectations.

Dr. Calarco notes: “In the U.S., most of us aren’t taught to use our sociological imaginations. We’re not taught to think about social problems as structural problems. We’re not taught to see the forces that operate beyond our control – forces like capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. And we’re not taught to see how those forces create many of the challenges we face in our lives and constrain our ability to make choices that could help us overcome those challenges.

Instead, we — especially women and people from other systematically marginalized groups — are taught to self-help-book our way out of structural problems. To believe that all our problems would go away if only we were to strictly follow some seventeen-step plan.”

As the vaccine is distributed and as we focus our efforts on recovery, it is important to remember that it is highly unlikely that those lost jobs will simply bounce back. Nor can we expect those impacted by loss to not continue to struggle to regain their financial footing.


Developing an Effective Elevator Pitch

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch March 29, 2021

The term “elevator pitch” comes from the idea that you get into an elevator with a CEO who is usually going to an office on the top level of the building. Therefore, you have the length of that elevator ride to make your sales pitch. With that in mind, one of the key principles of an elevator pitch is that it is concise, usually about 60 seconds. Within the world of job searching, you need an elevator pitch for everything from interviews to networking events. Your elevator pitch should be a brief monologue answering the prompt “Tell me about yourself.” It is a key statement to prepare as it really forces you to clarify and distill your experiences in a “ready-made” two-sentence answer. 

Ideally, you are going to tailor your elevator pitch for the situation, but there are some good general must have sections.  First, ask yourself, “What is your strongest selling point?” Is it your education, your experience, or your leadership experience in a club? Begin with that point giving a little bit more context including your primary transferable skills, strengths, and/or accomplishments. It is important to mention your goals and then conclude with action items.  An example of an elevator pitch within a networking context might look like this:

Hi, my name is _____ and I’m a graduate student at the NIH working on my PhD in Immunology. For the past two years, I have worked as Health Chair of the Graduate Research Committee (primary selling point), I which has significantly strengthened my communication skills. (transferable skills) Through this involvement I’ve become interested in utilizing my communication skills in a career in public health policy (goal). Would it be possible to follow up with you to discuss your career path at XYZ? (action item)

Your elevator pitch should be practiced yet should come across as more conversational than formal. As with all oral communication skills, try to note if you are rambling or speaking too fast.  It is okay to add in some small personal tidbits, but overall your focus should be on your professional self.

UPenn has a resource for "Elevator Pitch for Scientists" that might be helpful to check out