Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Seeking Mentoring Support in the Age/Time of Covid

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch September 6, 2021

Guest writer: Anne Kirchgessner, LCPC, NCC, Career Counselor 

You may be feeling the need for extra mentoring support during this challenging time of the Covid pandemic. Staggered work schedules could be making you feel like you are never able connect with your PI or colleagues for one-on-one support. Remember that everyone in the world, including your mentors, may be affected by the disruptions that the pandemic continues to bring.  Also, sometimes a mentor may not be able to help you with a specific concern; e.g. a fellow wants help with an industry job search and her mentor has no experience that is related to Industry.

Have a conversation with your PI/Mentor

If you are feeling burnt-out or having difficulty with your workload, try to consider what might help you adjust or modify your work and talk with your PI or mentor about it. Sometimes it can feel intimidating to initiate that conversation, so if you would like to brainstorm what to say to your mentor and you are a trainee at the NIH, feel free to schedule an appointment with a career counselor who can help you sort this out and practice some of your talking points.

Seek out multiple mentors
OITE has long supported the philosophy of identifying multiple mentors. With this approach in mind, consider reaching out to find new ideas and support from other scientists who share your scientific interests. This can be energizing and help you to move ahead.To find NIH PIs you might want to look at the NIH Intramural Research Reports or NIH Scientific Interest Groups (some are more active than others) to learn about new research, find collegial support and possibly identify some additional, informal mentors.

Lastly, remember the OITE is here to help. We offer stress and resiliency resources to support you during these challenging times. You can view workshops on our OITE YouTube channel and you can register for the  OITE listservs at :  so you will get daily updates on upcoming OITE Wellness Events.  


Stress Resilience in the Job Search

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch September 13, 2021

Post written by guest blogger, Janette Norrington, PhD, NIH Trainee

Job searches can be stressful and overwhelming; we wonder how long it will take find a position and whether that position will be the right one for us. While some stress is normal and even beneficial, multiple stressors or chronic stress can cause our bodies to be in a constant state of high alert. High levels of stress can lead to poor concentration and cognitive functioning, irritability, professional burnout, and health problems. Fortunately, stress resilience can counter the negative effects of chronic stressors.

Stress resilience is the ability to effectively cope and manage adversity. Job searches require high levels of stress resilience because finding the right job can be a long and arduous process; resilience helps us bounce back and see the prospect for personal development even when faced with rejection and uncertainty. While everyone copes with stress in different ways, resilience can be learned and developed to help manage stress during job searches and other difficult circumstances. Here are some tips to increase your resilience and move through stress as you continue to navigate your job search and career:

  • Recognize and counter signs of stress

Our bodies send us signals that we are stressed such as difficulty concentrating, headaches, irritability, and nausea. Recognizing our bodies’ stress responses can help us take action to counter the effects of stress. Sticking to a daily routine, going for a walk, journaling, and practicing mindfulness are a few strategies that may counteract stress responses. Identifying and naming our stress responses and negative thought patterns can help us develop more balanced thinking patterns and effective coping mechanisms to encourage us to look for opportunities in present and future stressors.

  • Practice self-care

While a job search may feel all-consuming, it is still essential to prioritize self-care to maintain your health. Make taking care of yourself part of your daily routine and engage in stress-reducing and health-promoting activities, so that you can stay energized. Self-care can be different for everyone, so you have to define what self-care means to you—whether it is exercise, cooking healthy meals, reading a book, talking to friends, watching a favorite TV show, journaling, etc. Self-care practices and effective coping strategies can strengthen your mind and body to effectively manage stress and build resilience while you are dealing with challenges in your job search.

  • Build your relationships and connections

During stressful job searches, it is important to build connections and maintain relationships. Developing positive relationships with others can help you build a social community that can provide different kinds of support. Being a support for others and having people in your life who can validate your feelings will help you feel more fulfilled and connected while you manage stress. In addition to social support, you can also build professional connections with peers and mentors that may assist in your job search through networking and career events.

  • Embrace healthy thoughts

Two keys to resilience are to embrace healthy thoughts and reframe negative ones. We can celebrate our small wins to develop a positive outlook and challenge our negative thoughts, which will change the way we think about and respond to stress. We can acknowledge difficulties in our job searches but view them as opportunities to learn more about ourselves or to develop new skills. While there are a lot of things out of our control during a job search, we can control how we interpret and respond to stressors through our thoughts and actions. It takes practice to increase our resilience, but we can get better at it over time and learn how to effectively manage stress as we continue to navigate our job searches and careers.

OITE offers a variety of resources that are focused on managing stress and building resilience for NIH trainees. The “Becoming a Resilient Scientist Series” offers monthly webinars and small group discussions that focus on trainees developing resilience and learning to thrive within stressful environments. You can also watch archived Resilient Scientist webinars online, such as Resilience in the Job Search, Work, and Life, through the OITE website. In addition to webinars, OITE offers Resilience Building Drop-in Groups, Wellness Skill-building Groups, Mindfulness Meditation Groups, Wellness Support Groups, and short-term individual wellness advising appointments. If you want more information or resources about stress resilience, please email


How to Make Working from Home Work

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch September 20, 2021

With the delta variant on the rise, many companies have delayed a return to the office. Some companies saw how well employees worked from home and adopted permanent telework policies. Even those who do clinical or lab work find that many projects are being relegated to work from home days to allow for more physical distancing in small spaces.

Whatever the case is for you, it is clear that working from home is here to stay, so here are three tips to make working from home more effective.

1. Create and stick to a work schedule.
One surprise statistic of working from home is that employees tend to work longer hours. To help mitigate the risk of burnout, try to stick to a consistent schedule and log on and off at the same time each day. Once you do so, resist the urge to log back on and catch up on emails at night. It can help if you create morning and evening rituals to start and close your day. Our commutes used to signal our brains that we could shut off work on our way home. Now, it might be necessary to build in some time to help you physically and mentally make that transition.

2. Prioritize going outside.
People are spending less time outside simply because they aren’t commuting to and from work. You might find that working and living from home means that you hardly leave your home now. Outside time is important for human beings and even scheduling a quick fifteen-minute walk outside can prove to be beneficial.

Working remotely means that you need to make sure you are taking time to communicate with your co-workers and boss. The hallway chats and office pop-ins used to be quick ways to pass along information. Now it is more important to make a concerted effort to reach out whether you need to let people know about your schedule/availability, project status, or even an area where you might be struggling.


6-Point Networking Email

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch September 27, 2021

One of the biggest frustrations we hear from job seekers and networkers is that their outreach emails go unanswered.  Much like what is recommended in Science Careers “Cold Emails and Hot Coffee” it is important to write a good message to increase your chances of a reply.

Writing a good email means offering value and respecting their time. Most people don’t read long emails anymore, so when in doubt, edit your message down and make your request very clear. 

In Steve Dalton’s book The 2-Hour Job Search, he recommends a 6-point email which is shorter, simpler, and more efficient than most messages. Here are his key six points to keep in mind:

  1. Write fewer than 75 words.
    This might seem daunting at first, but brevity is key. Most people go into way too much detail about themselves and about their request which just dilutes their message and annoys the reader.
  2. Ask for insight and advice, not job leads.
    Similarly, only ask for a small bit of time from the person. Do you have 20 minutes to speak with me about your career path?
  3. State your connection first and foremost.
    People are more likely to respond to those who are apart of a shared affinity group, whether that is your alma mater or the NIH. For example, “I see we have both been postdocs at NIDA.”
  4. Make your request in the form of a question (ending in “?”).
    Don’t be ambiguous with your request. Come right out and ask it in a direct question.
  5. Define your interest both narrowly and broadly.
    This might sound confusing at first but this advice is intended to help inoculate you against the scenario that the person quickly replies with a blow off email like, “We’re under a hiring freeze now, but best of luck!” Doing this might look like: “I am specifically interested in learning more about X Company, but generally I would love to hear more about your career progression within Y field.”
  6. Keep over half the word count about the contact, not you.
    Show you have done your research about them. This email is not meant to sell them on you, it is meant to open to door to an in-person/over-Zoom conversation. Help them to know you aren’t blasting this email to everyone in your contacts list.

    An example of a 6-point email from The 2-Hour Job Search could look like:

    Dear Sharon,

    I’m Shilpa Sharma, a trainee at NCI. I got your contact information from the NIH Alumni Database.

    I’m trying to learn more about science policy as a career path and your insights would be greatly appreciated.

    Do you have 15-20 minutes to chat with me about your experience?

    Best regards,