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Interview Presentations – Top 5 Tips

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch August 2, 2021

Many trainees find themselves in the process of preparing for interviews which will require a presentation of their research. This is common for both academic and industry positions. A former NIH postdoc who successfully transitioned into an industry role shared some tips on how to nail your interview presentation.

1. Present a cohesive story showcasing past research
One to two really solid and relevant stories are the key here. Bounce your ideas off lab mates, mentors, etc. Practice your talk and ask for feedback. Sometimes ideas that seem to flow naturally for us feel jumbled or confusing to our audience. Appreciate any insights others share as valid critiques to pay attention to.

2. Select figures that highlight skills or techniques that maybe of interest to the group or found in the job description.
If you did your due diligence when applying to the position, you will find that the interview preparation is a bit easier. You can simply review your tailored resume/CV and cover letter. Don’t worry about restating what is in your written documents. It will feel different coming verbally from you in the interview and most interviewers only skim your documents ahead of the meeting.

3. Clearly state findings and broader impact of work.
All employers are looking for accomplishments-driven workers. Explain the larger context of your work to show impact.

4. Be prepared to answer technical questions and to discuss the relevance of your findings to the group’s area of interest.
The hardest and longest part of an interview is often the preparation. In order to ensure success, make sure you do a bit of research on the website since very few specifics tend to be provided in the job description.

5. Note any collaborations.
You will likely be working as a member of a team, so showcasing past evidence that you have successfully worked as a member of a team is key. If you liaised with other labs, spearheaded new collaborations, sustained continued connections or work – these are all selling points in the eyes of employers. 


PART ONE: Are You Tough or Resilient? How They’re Different and Practical Skills to Increase Your Resilience

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch August 9, 2021

By: Sara Hunter, Wellness Advisor, OITE

The difference among scientists at NIH is many, creating labs colored with diverse ideas, insights, and perspectives. But despite these important and notable differences, a commonality seems to be an essence of toughness. It feels like an unspoken norm among scientists of enduring grueling hours and demands without feeling the inevitable wear this creates on our bodies and minds. We move forward with our head down, sometimes out of exhaustion and other times out of complete will to achieve (often both), wearing the stress and busyness this creates in our lives as a badge of honor. We rationalize our way through our days, paying little attention to warning signs from our bodies to slow down or adjust. We continually convince ourselves that a little less sleep and little more work will earn us our worth and be the answer to the problem of feeling constantly behind despite the early mornings and late nights to which we are already indebted.

This takes toughness; there is no doubt about it. But in all this external toughness, there is an internal, silent suffering of self-doubt, fear of never quite being good enough, fatigue, and fruitless striving toward the impossibility of perfection that serves to hide our deep-down insecurity of not measuring up to expectations, mostly created by ourselves. This mismatch between our external behaviors of “toughness” and internal experiences creates the perfect recipe for isolation, unnecessary mistakes in our work, burnout, illness, lack of compassion for self and others, and even feelings of depression and anxiety. The list goes on. 

Clearly, we’re tough because we’ve pushed through; we’ve made it this far. But are we resilient? Toughness is our ability to get through difficult experiences. Resilience is our ability to get through difficult experiences and bounce back stronger and wiser. The former requires a head-down, clenched-fist, heavy-eyed stubbornness that wears on our psyche over time, decreasing efficiency and joy in our work. The latter requires a compassionate, present-minded humility that continuously builds our repertoire of skills and resources, increasing our overall well-being as we’re more agile in our response to the inevitable setbacks we all face. 

So how do we know if we’re strengthening our resilience or shielding ourselves with the aging armor of toughness? Here are a few key questions for you to explore to better understand where you may fall: 

  • Do you pull-back from new or difficult tasks to avoid mistakes?
  • Do you feel shame when you need help or make a mistake?
  • Do you tend to over-work, avoid, or procrastinate out of fear of not getting something exactly right?
  • Do you avoid feedback, especially around work that is challenging or new?
  • Do you ignore, push-down, or minimize signals of distress from your body or heightened emotional responses to stress?
  • Do you experience feelings of guilt when you’re not “on” or working? Or do you struggle saying no, even when you’re overworked?
  • Do you engage in avoiding or numbing behaviors when you experience discomfort or stress?

If you answered yes to some or most of these, chances are you’ve developed a toughness that has pulled you through. Good for you; that’s not easy. But, if I had to guess you’re probably feeling tired, overwhelmed, and unsure of yourself despite your outward successes. Next week, we will discuss some basic tips to begin to move away from the ineffective and exhausting patterns of toughness and closer to a more resilient self.


PART TWO: Are You Tough or Resilient? How They’re Different and Practical Skills to Increase Your Resilience

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch August 16, 2021

By: Sara Hunter, Wellness Advisor, OITE

In last week’s blog post, we noted some key differences between being “tough” and being “resilient”. Here are some basic tips to begin to move away from the ineffective and exhausting patterns of toughness to help move you closer to a more resilient self:

  1. Recognize setbacks as a part of the learning process: Resilient people don’t complacently invite setbacks (or like how they feel). Rather, they accept them when they happen, identify where they can have impact next time and adjust as needed.
  2. Practical Skill: RADICAL ACCEPTANCE – Identify what you can and can’t control. Shift your focus to your sphere of control. This is especially helpful if you’re prone to rumination, worry, and anxiety.  
  3. Practical Skill: SHIFT YOUR PERSPECTIVE – Altering your cognitive appraisal or interpretation of a situation takes practice and intention but can be helpful in seeing setbacks as opportunities to learn, grow, and change. Build awareness around what cognitive distortions you may be prone to that keep you stuck in unhelpful thought and behavior patterns. Begin to write a story that is forward-focused and empowering.
  4. Listen to the wisdom of your body and emotions: Resilient people tend to have emotional intelligence that helps identify signals of distress from their body or emotions so they can respond to stress more effectively as opposed to react impulsively. 
  5. Practical Skill: RAINN – RECOGNIZE what emotions are coming up for you; ACCEPT what you’re feeling (judgment of our emotional response to difficult situations often creates more suffering); INVESTIGATE why this emotion is showing up so intensely for you; NON-IDENTIFY with the emotion or see it as one part of you – a piece of information in the larger picture – not the defining part of you; and finally, ask yourself, “NOW WHAT?” What do you want to with this information, in this situation, to respond intentionally instead of react impulsively?
  6. Practical Skill: “Name it to tame it” – When you simply name the emotions or difficulty of what’s showing up you are actually inviting the higher order functioning parts of your brain to step into the driver’s seat as opposed to letting your amygdala run the show.  When you name the problem, you aren’t making it bigger, as many falsely assume. Instead, you create a heightened sense of understanding (and therefore control) to more effectively decide how you want to deal or cope.
  7. Prioritize rest: Resilient people not only know how to rest but they value it because they fundamentally understand that we are not wired to be on all the time. There is a reason sleep has evolved as a constant part of our being. It’s necessary. We are not the anomaly to this truth so let’s stop trying to be. 
  8. Practical Skill: Schedule in periods of rest in your DAY, WEEK, MONTH, and YEAR; don’t wait until you “need” it because it will never feel like the right time. Create a list of down-time activities if you’re prone to worrying about “doing it right” or guilt-ridden free time. Also, get comfortable with doing nothing. Your worth is not solely based on your work and what you produce. Practice acting opposite to your impulse to reinforce this cultural sentiment.
  9. Practical Skill: Create a simple night-time routine that helps signal to your body and brain that you’re turning off. Be mindful of minimizing screen time and not eating or exercising too close to bedtime. Try separating your sleep area from where you do the rest of life. 
  10. Lean into discomfort: Resilient people aren’t worry-free. In fact, they feel stress and anxiety in the same way as everyone else. The difference is they develop tools to more effectively regulate their bodies and tolerate the discomfort stress creates in their lives, signaling to their brain that “they’ve got this” and it doesn’t need to go into overdrive (think flight, fight, freeze responses) to protect them.
  11. Practical Skill: ACT OPPOSITE to your impulse to avoid feelings of stress or discomfort. Build emotional muscles to expand your window of tolerance for stress. Some examples include: deep breathing, grounding skills, exercising, connecting with others, and journaling. As we practice skills to better manage the stress we experience, we become more equipped to move through it as opposed to avoid it (avoidance usually leads to it showing up stronger later). 
  12. Practical Skill: Seek support and feedback – You don’t live, work, or succeed in isolation, and therefore, your struggles shouldn’t play out in isolation. Carefully seek out support, whether it be from a therapist, mentor, or friend, who allows you to more effectively gauge where adjustments in your work can be made and gives you both internal and external resources to operationalize those changes.
  13. Take care of the basics: Resilient people can endure the ebbs and flows of life without feeling like they’re on a never-ending rollercoaster because there is a prioritization of routines that foster their well-being, even in the most difficult circumstances. 
  14. Practical Skill: Move your body in a way that feels fun and enjoyable at least once per day. And a bonus here - do it with someone else. 
  15. Practical Skill: Connect with safe and trustworthy people.
  16. Practical Skill: Sleep - We already covered this one.
  17. Practical Skill: Feed your body the way you would feed someone you love. 

Building our resilience and interrupting old patterns of toughness is an on-going learning process that requires self-awareness, practice, and self-compassion. If you’re unsure of where to start, simply pick one of the tips above and focus your energy there. If you want more information or resources on the tips briefly noted here or you’re in need of support as you’re finding a different way through stress then reach out to our OITE wellness team at [email protected]. We’re here for you.


Should You Include Your Address on Your Resume/CV?

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch August 23, 2021

Traditionally, an address was always included on a resume simply because physical mail was the main means of communication. Today, most hiring takes place online, so a full physical address often seems unnecessary. To be clear, you should always include your name and contact information on your documents, but many applicants are simply choosing to include their phone number and email.

Employers often like to see an address on your resume because they are creating an applicant profile for you in their system and traditionally, your address was one component of this profile. Some employers also like to see your location in relation to the job’s location. This lets them know if you would require relocation services. In truth, the only time your prospective employer really needs to know your home address is in the final stages of a job offer.

Your home address is potentially sensitive information and there are many reasons why people choose to omit it from their job search documents. You can keep your address private and should do so, especially if you have any security concerns. Another reason to keep your address off is if you are using third-party job sites like Monster or Craigslist.

Some employers do screen for local candidates. If you are looking for a job in an external location, you might want to address this in your cover letter to the organization. Some candidates choose to include a line on their resume where their address would be, stating: “Relocating to Washington, DC in Fall 2021”.

Ultimately, the decision about including your address on your resume or CV is a personal one, so use your best judgment about what works for your current situation.


The Great Resignation

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch August 30, 2021

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a record four million people quit their jobs in April 2021 spurring what many are calling the “Great Resignation”.  Research by Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index also showed that 41% of the workforce is considering leaving their employer this year.

In normal times, people quitting jobs in large numbers indicates a healthy economy with plentiful jobs. Hiring is quickly accelerating again, but these are still not normal times. The pandemic has caused a recession and millions of people continue to be out of work. Yet despite all of this, employers are now complaining about acute labor shortages across many fields/sectors.

What is Causing This?
The pandemic and the great migration to remote work has made people begin to see their lives differently. It has had a profound impact on how people think about when and where they want to work. Tsedal Neeley, a professor at Harvard Business School, in an interview with NPR noted, “We have changed. Work has changed. The way we think about time and space has changed. Workers now crave the flexibility given to them in the pandemic – which had previously been unattainable.”

73% of surveyed works want flexible remote work options to continue, while at the same time, many companies are now considering re-designing physical workspaces to better accommodate a hybrid work environment.

While there are many reported benefits to remote work, it could also be the reason so many are resigning. The huge real-life experiment of quickly moving to remote work proved to be surprisingly successful. Managers who once worried employees would take advantage of the system and slack off found quite the opposite. Productivity surged and work hours lengthened with remote work. This high productivity is masking an exhausted workforce. 54% of employees reported feeling overworked. In addition to increased personal demands during the pandemic, many employees are just drained and needing a break. Many are choosing to prioritize their own well-being and take some professional time off.