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Job Search Uncertainty

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch October 4, 2021

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

Job searches are filled with uncertainty at every stage of the process, from the time we submit our applications to waiting for the results of a final interview. There is uncertainty about whether our hard work will pay off in the application process, if we will find a job, and how long a job search will last. As human beings, we crave security and a sense of control over our lives, so waiting to hear back about a job decision can be difficult and even painful.

Job search uncertainty can cause us to feel anxious, stressed, and emotionally drained. To cope with uncertainty, many people use worrying as a tool for trying to predict the future and avoid unpleasant surprises. Worrying can sometimes feel like a form of preparation and provide a false sense of control over uncertain situations. However, regardless of how much time and energy we spend worrying we still cannot predict the future or control what happens. Fortunately, there more effective ways to cope with uncertainty that can help alleviate stress and anxiety. As you continue in your job search, here are a few strategies that can help you move through uncertainty with more confidence:

  • Focus on what you can control

There are a lot of things in a job search that are out of your control but it is essential to focus on the things that are within your control. Taking control of the things that you can helps empower you even if it is something as simple as sending a follow up email to a hiring manager. Establishing routines and creating structure into a daily job search can also add a sense of control in your life and alleviate worry from uncertainty. Think about the things that you have control over and focus your attention on those tasks.

  • Practice Acceptance

While it is important to focus on what we can control, it is also important to accept that there will always be uncertainty in job searches and life. Practicing acceptance of uncertainty can be difficult and frustrating, but studies show that our ability to accept uncertainty reduces stress and positively effects health. Once we accept that we sometimes have limited control over aspects of a job search, then we can move forward while managing what we can and letting the rest go.  

  • Reflect on past experiences

Think about experiences from your past when you had to handle uncertainty or overcome stressful events. Reflect on the skills you used during those stressful experiences that were helpful, what you learned about yourself, and things you might do differently this time. Thinking about those situations can help you learn something new about yourself and provide valuable insight about your abilities and skills. You can use those abilities and skills to support yourself in current and future uncertain situations.

  • Take care of yourself

We can’t let stress from uncertainty derail our self-care practices, and it is important that we proactively monitor our physical, emotional, and mental health. While in an unsure waiting period, define what caring for yourself means to you and prioritize what brings you relief or joy—whether it’s talking to a friend, reading a good novel, walking outside, meditation, etc. Self-compassion is another form of self-care and it is essential that you offer yourself kindness, empathy, and patience during uncertain situations and job searches. 


Updated Career Resources for LGBTQ Scientists and Allies

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch October 11, 2021

We have updated some blog posts with more recent links and helpful articles. Here are a few to check out, in addition to the OITE blog posts below.

Nature Articles
“Be kind to yourself”: an interview with Sebastian Groh on being a transgender early career scientist during a global pandemic

“Turning point: Empathetic outreach”


LGBTQ Employment and Training Opportunities: In addition to the helpful employment resources referred to in the in the 2014 Happy Pride blog, here are some additional resources:

National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technology Professionals (NOGLSTP).  A professional association that provides a listing of  career opportunities for LGBTQ science and technology graduates, mentoring, fellowships, and other forms of support.

New Scientist has published a useful article highlighting LGBT employers in the sciences. published an article with links to an excellent on-line LGBT Student Guide to Studying Abroad that provides resources and helpful information that will help LGBT community members prepare to go abroad for studies.  The guide is also useful for international applicants seeking knowledge about LGBT safe communities across the world.

PFLAG International extends its advocacy for LGBT individuals and families globally.  This is a useful resource for LGBT individuals and allies who are preparing to go abroad for short or extended periods of time.

Preferred Gender Pronouns:   When applying for internships, jobs, graduate school, and/or professional schools, you may notice a question related to gender pronouns is added. This question allows applicants an option to request their preferred gender pronouns to use when referring to them.  Colleges, universities, and human rights organizations provide excellent resources used in ally trainings for students, faculty and staff about using gender neutral pronouns.

Ally Training: Many organizations (including the NIH Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) offer Safe Zone training that can allow allies the opportunity to learn more about the LGBTQ community and assist in the creation of a more welcoming environment.

LGBTQ Terminology:  One way to contribute to a culture of inclusion and respect for community members is to become aware of accepted terms to refer to members of the LGBTQ community. The human rights organization, PFLAG, publishes a terminology glossary  that is a useful reference to learn about the latest acceptable terms.

As you can see, it is important for job seekers and their allies to address LGBTQ-related topics in order to keep stress from derailing their life, job search, and/or educational process.  The OITE offers career development workshops and/or career, wellness, and pre-professional services. We suggest that you learn when to seek counseling from our office or the NIH Employee Assistance Program.  We encourage you to register for the Workplace Dynamics: Diversity in a Multicultural Society workshops and/or join the NIH LGBT Fellows and Friends (LGBT-FF) community.  Not at NIH?   We recommend using resources offered by your college and university or local community centers. It can be helpful to chat with other professionals who have been through this process to seek advice and support. Out for Work and Out and Equal Workplace Advocates are two good introductory resources.


Dealing with Naysayers

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch October 18, 2021

Post Written By: Sara Hunter, Wellness Advisor, OITE

The progress of knowledge is predicated on the development of new ideas and hypotheses that undergo intense scrutiny in order to be validated. This process is important. But that doesn’t always mean it’s easy. 

We all know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of this scrutiny - to have our work be harshly criticized or our ideas or goals be completely shut-down. It’s uncomfortable, disappointing, and at times even anxiety provoking as it can spark unhelpful thoughts of self-doubt and disillusionment around our work. So, in order to sustain in this field, how can we better equip ourselves to take the hits of naysayers without letting it get us down?

Consider the source: Not all critics should be treated equally. Feedback from a PI, a parent, a colleague, mentor or boss all can take on different meanings and have a different impact, depending on the context. Sometimes people around us question our ideas because they want to protect us from failure. Other times they are genuinely interested in the direction we’re going but see some holes in our initial logic. Navigating these nuances can clarify the intent behind criticism and ultimately, be helpful in deciding if we want to take it or leave it. 

Find the kernel of truth: Be careful not to demonize the person providing criticism, even if it’s poorly delivered. This may mean working on your own relationship around conflict and stepping back from your impulse to take feedback so personally. Even if your initial impulse is to reject or ignore the naysayer, try asking yourself, what parts of this alternate opinion could be useful to consider? Maybe nothing. But, either way, it’s important to remember that negative feedback isn’t a reflection of your intelligence or worth. It simply could be another way of looking at an idea. 

Explore how your own inner critic may be magnifying the message: Naysayers have a way of activating our own internal dialogue of critiques and put-downs. Become aware of how you talk to yourself, especially in times of stress. Are you your worst naysayer? Explore what cognitive distortions you tend toward when this starts to unfold so that you can interrupt it quickly with more helpful, objective responses. You can do this by pausing before responding to yourself or those giving you feedback by taking a deep breath (or several deep breaths). Note what thoughts and feelings may be rushing through you in reaction to this naysayer, and instead of following those thoughts and feelings in the moment as if they are the full truth, simply use them as pieces of data in the bigger picture to decide how or if you want to respond. Practice self-compassion by developing helpful affirmations that are reflective of a growth mindset as opposed to distortions that are rooted in rigid thinking. 

Let it roll: Striking a balance between remaining open to feedback without being too porous can be difficult. However, when we can embrace intellectual humility - a practice of recognizing our limitations from a healthy, non-judgmental standpoint - we are more apt to let unhelpful critiques of naysayers roll off us while absorbing the more helpful feedback of supportive mentors, PIs, and colleagues. If you find yourself in the company of naysayers often, consider setting boundaries around the time and place when critiques are given so that you’re not constantly absorbing these hurtful hits. 

Respond with respect: Diversity of opinion is important for the progression of good ideas. It’s important we invite feedback, not avoid it, but we can’t always control how this feedback is delivered. And unfortunately, all too often it's delivered poorly. This is out of your control, but your response is not. Thank the person for taking the time to share their response and ask for more clarity if their message was vague. Usually this means asking for specific suggestions of improvement or adjustments in your work. If you’re not sure how to react in the moment, simply let them know you will sit with their feedback and decide how you are going to move forward after further reflection. 

Believe in your ideas and create a safe landing place for them to develop: Ideas need space and time to grow. Finding people you trust to share your thoughts with is important in your professional development so that you can approach your ideas from a place of curiosity and openness as opposed to constantly fighting your self-doubt or fear of being torn down. But this doesn’t mean seeking out people who will just tell you what you want to hear, never challenge you or give you feedback. This means surrounding yourself with thoughtful, self-aware, and intellectually curious people who bring with them different backgrounds and perspectives that can enrich your ideas.


Ghosted During the Hiring Process? You are Not Alone!

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch October 25, 2021

For those not familiar with the term, ghosting is the act of suddenly ceasing all communication.  More and more job seekers are presenting with a uniform complaint – they suddenly haven’t heard back from a company; they have been ghosted. Sometimes even after rounds of interviews and worst of all sometimes even after a verbal offer has been extended.

This shocking and egregious behavior has sadly become a widespread practice. – one of the largest job search aggregators has confirmed in a survey what every job seeker, HR professional, recruiter, and hiring manager has long suspected – ghosting job search candidates is on the rise.  In fact, according to this survey, 77% of job seekers say they have been ghosted by a prospective employer since the onset of Covid-19; 10% reported being ghosted after a verbal job offer. Very unfortunately, ghosting has become a standard part of the hiring process, even though it leaves job seekers feeling confused and defeated and also creates bad press for a company potentially threatening their brand with pools of applicants.

What is causing this increase in ghosting?

The job search has become more impersonal over the years. The large number of job search aggregators and sites like LinkedIn have made it easier than ever to find and apply to jobs, which in turn has left the main work to technological algorithms to sort through candidates. Applicants that get through the first computer filter make it into another huge stack and it seems recruiters and hiring managers are swamped with applications.   

What can a job seeker do?

If this happens to you, try not to give up. It is perfectly acceptable to follow up with respective parties regarding your candidacy, especially if you have interviewed with them. Try to approach the interactions with polite persistence and even though you have a right to be angry, try not to come across as indignant. Rather present as simply curious about updates. Hopefully, more employers will start doing the right thing and following up properly with applicants, especially those they have interacted with personally in an interview.

Ultimately, being ghosted by an employer is more of a negative reflection on the company and not you so try to stay positive as you continue along in your search.