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Strengthening Your Elevator Pitch

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch April 26, 2021

Everyone should have an elevator pitch ready – a quick introduction to your professional self. Reflect on your pitch and see if you are making any of these common mistakes:

Lack of Confidence

Confidence is key when selling anything, including your own skills and experience. Some phrases that belie a lack of confidence include:

“I don’t have a lot of experience in _____ yet.”

“I’m just a student/intern/postbac/ (fill in the blank).”

Reflect on your accomplishments and the experiences that you have done. Of course, you can’t invent new experiences or skills, but you can confidently convey the ones you have.

Lack of Focus

Ideally, your elevator pitch will have some action item at the end and will help clarify for the listener how they might help you. If you say you are looking for a job without giving much detail, it will be nearly impossible for the person to forward positions of interest or help in any other way. Some phrases that show a lack of focus include:

“At this point, I’m really open to anything.”

“I have so many research interests that I don’t want to limit myself.”

These should be rephrased into more specifics such as:

“I’m quite flexible and open to a lot of new opportunities, but I am most interested in….(list your top two to three choices so they have a keyword to work with).”

Lack of Marketing

It can be hard to realize that a job search is about marketing yourself effectively, but that is a key principle of your elevator pitch. Our word choices matter. Don’t undermine yourself by saying phrases like:

“My experience in the lab has nothing to do with education and outreach, but…”

Focus on your transferable skills and rephrase to: “My experience in the lab has given me the scientific background and the communication skills necessary to succeed in a field like education and outreach.”

Too Technical

This is a big one for scientists. Ideally, your elevator pitch will be in layman’s terms. Depending on your audience, it might be okay to go into technical and detailed information, but generally when describing your research, try not to get lost in the details of what you are doing or how you are doing it but rather why you are doing it. Put your project in the big picture and explain how this work will be useful for your field or the scientific community.


Resources for Becoming an Effective Mentor and Mentee

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch April 12, 2021

The mentor/mentee relationship is symbiotic and it holds tremendous value in the world of science.  Mentees often come into the partnership yearning for knowledge and skills training. Likewise, mentors need mentees so that they can continue their research effectively and so that they can help train the next generation of scientists.  

We all need mentors to support and encourage us throughout our educational and career journey; however, often trainees aren’t sure how to manage a relationship with their mentor. Similarly, sometimes mentors feel overwhelmed by mentoring responsibilities and feel they trained to do lab work not management. 

For many reasons, and perhaps because of the importance of this partnership, the mentor/mentee relationship can be difficult to manage. Here are some resources if you are a mentor or mentee looking for help on managing your mentoring relationships. 

Resources for Mentees

Managing Mentoring Relationships – Tips for Mentees  - OITE Career Blog Post

Managing Up to Maximize Mentoring Relationships – A webinar video from Dr. Sharon Milgram which you can still view online by signing in.

Resources for Mentors

Managing Mentoring Relationships – Tips for Mentors – OITE Career Blog Post

The Art of Scholarly Mentoring - An article on mentoring written by Robert Lefkowitz, a Nobel Prize Winner


Should I Put Pronouns on My Resume?

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch April 19, 2021

Pronouns including, they/them/theirs, he/him/him, and she/her/hers, etc. are becoming more common to see in email signatures and Zoom boxes, but should you put them on your job search documents? There is not one blanket rule/policy that can apply to all and your decision to include your pronouns is a very personal one.

There are a few ways that you can clarify your pronouns within a job application process. If you want to include on your resume, you can simply add your pronouns under your name in the header (before your contact information). Another perhaps less obvious way to include your pronouns is in your cover letter, beneath your signature at the bottom of the page. You can add your pronouns in parentheses next to your name, or you can add an additional line under your name/title.  Sometimes, job applications will ask you to identify your salutation of Mr./Ms./Dr./other.

Including your pronouns can be a way of preventing accidental misgendering and it could perhaps even help you to find an inclusive workplace.  Lauren Easterling, Director of Trainee Services at the Indiana University School of Medicine, shared an article Navigating Gender Identity and Expression in which she writes:

The pronouns that we ask others to use to refer to us can be incredibly powerful -- and crucial during a job search. Often a job application and selection process is formal, with many "Mr." and "Ms." salutations used in abundance. I include my pronouns in my email signatures and have started to add them on my CV and resume below my name, or in the first line of my cover letter, usually in parenthesis. I want no one to doubt what my pronouns are. This is comfortable for me because I am both out in my organization and a vocal advocate on this topic.

For other people, just putting the pronouns they use on a document can feel intimidating. But including our pronouns -- as we are able to -- is one way to clearly define who we are in the job search process and reduce potential confusion.

While there can be many benefits to including your pronouns, the unfortunate truth is that there is still hiring discrimination, so delineating your pronouns on your documents is ultimately your choice.  


Finding Connection in an Age of Loneliness and Social Distancing

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch April 5, 2021

Post written by guest blogger Angie Snyder, PsyD, Wellness Advisor

Prior to the pandemic, loneliness was an epidemic.  More and more people reported feeling lonely, isolated, disconnected - married people, single people, people living with others or alone.   Then, just over one year ago, with the onset of the COVID pandemic, factors collided to increase an already concerning phenomenon. In this turbulent time of uncertainty, loss, and fear, just when people needed more than ever to feel connected, there was an increase in isolation.  While the implementation of social distancing guidelines has been necessary to maintain physical health, it has taken a toll on people’s mental well-being.  People have lost their ability to spend time in-person with others in their families, social networks, religious communities, and professional organizations. 

The experience of being lonely has real health consequences.  Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former Surgeon General and physician who has been nominated by President Joe Biden to become the 21st Surgeon General, recently wrote a book entitled Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.   Researcher and teacher Brene Brown interviewed Dr. Murthy for one of her podcasts and referenced a study described in his book that found “people with strong social relationships are 50% less likely to die prematurely than people with weak social relationships. Even more striking, she [the researcher] found that the impact of lacking social connection on reducing life span is equal to the risk of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It’s greater than the risk associated with obesity, excess alcohol consumption, and a lack of exercise.” (1)(2)

You are NOT alone in feeling alone, and there is nothing wrong with you for feeling lonely.  Many trainees started a new job with the NIH during the pandemic, and/or moved to a new town.  This is a stressor at any point in life, but when one isn’t able to work in the lab with the usual number of colleagues, when one hasn’t been able to go out after work for a drink or a coffee, or when one can’t join a gym or go to yoga to meet other like-minded people, this limits the opportunity to make new friends or perhaps meet someone to begin a romantic relationship.  Even trainees who are married or live with another also experience loneliness.  Their roommate or partner might work different hours than they, leaving them alone for long stretches of time.  Married or partnered pairs might be so busy working and tending to family and work responsibilities that there is no time to connect.  Others may have a deep and satisfying relationship with their partner but feel lonely without their usual friend or work community.

Given the real health consequences of loneliness, it is important to pay attention to yourself to see if you might be lonely, and then consider steps you can take to reduce this experience.  In his book, Dr. Murthy wrote that researchers have identified three dimensions of loneliness. 1) Intimate or emotional loneliness, which is “the longing for a close confidant or intimate partner with whom you share a deep mutual bond of affection and trust;” 2) Relational or social loneliness, which is the “yearning for quality friendships, social companionship and support;” and 3) Collective loneliness, which is “the hunger for a network or a community of people who share your sense of purpose and interests.” (1)(2)  If you sense that you might be feeling lonely but you haven’t been sure why, it could be useful to think about each of these dimensions and commit to devoting more time to building meaningful connection in that arena.

A recent OITE support group that I led for scientists in training was for people who recognized feeling lonely during the pandemic.  I structured the group in a way to help people not only connect, but also to learn and practice ways to improve the quality of their connections.  This included having members share: 1) what they were struggling with in their lives while others practiced listening with compassion, 2) what they were grateful for in their lives, and 3) what they were celebrating about their accomplishments – small or large.  These practices helped members experience deeper, more genuine ways of being and communicating with each other that enabled them to feel more connected, and a little less lonely.  As your opportunities to spend time with people in-person begin to increase this year, I encourage you to experiment with these deeper ways of connecting with your romantic partner, family members, friends, and colleagues to see if this decreases your loneliness, and increases your experience of quality connectivity.  

If you are a trainee at the NIH, please also consider joining a support group - Connecting in a Time of Loneliness.  This group will be held on Wednesdays 3 p.m. EDT beginning May 5, 2021.  If you are interested in joining, please email [email protected].


  1. Episode Attribution - Brown, B. (Host). (2020, April 21). Dr. Vivek Murthy and Brene on Loneliness and Connection.[Audio podcast episode]. In Unlocking Us with Brene Brown. Cadenc13. https;//
  2. Murthy, V. (2020.) Together: the healing power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World. HarpersCollins Publishers.