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Help to Assess Your Career Growth

Submitted by amanda.dumsch@… December 4, 2023
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Post written by: Anne Kirchgessner, OITE Career Counselor

Recently, the OITE career counselors read an article by Leigh Branham about Questions People Need to Ask about Career Growth as posted within the National Career Development Association

We adapted some of these ideas for NIH trainees and hope they will be helpful for you so that you will be able to evaluate your career options. 

There are many factors that lead to questions and uncertainty about next career steps or job dissatisfaction.  These factors are listed below along with some strategies to help you eliminate some of this uncertainty and increase your confidence about your next step:

  1. Lack of clarity about your career preferences (your interests, values and skills):

OITE can recommend many resources for you to clarify your career preferences (interests, values, skills):

• Three short assessments you can take from home that match up your interest and skills preferences with various career paths that are related to science

• In myIDP under “Career Exploration”, “Read About Careers” there is an overview of many career paths in science with links to articles, books and professional associations that describe these career paths.  There are many career paths including academia, science policy, intellectual property, science writing, regulatory affairs, principal investigator and entrepreneurship.

 • In order to have access to the Read About Careers section you need to create an account in myIDP.   However, you don’t need to do the myIDP assessments before you see the “Read About Careers” page.   

  • Many NIH trainees underestimate their skills. Meeting with an OITE Career Counselor can help you to be more confident about your skills and to evaluate what you are assessing/ learning about your career preferences. 

  1. Lack of confidence / knowledge about career options

Questions NIH trainees often have include these: 

  • What am I qualified to do? What career options do I have?
  • What job opportunities are out there?
  • How do I make connections in a field of interest?

One way that you can gain more knowledge about your options and answer your questions is through a process called informational interviewing

Informational interviewing will help you to become knowledgeable about career options available to you and begin to make some professional contacts through the process.

Also, use US Department of Labor resources like the ONET Online to learn basic career information about thousands of careers.

  1. Lack of opportunities for training

Most trainees are interested in learning throughout their careers.

Using informational interviewing questions like: 

- Would you tell me about the type of training employees typically have access to? Are there funds to support my attendance at professional conferences?

If  you are at NIH and finding that the training you expected/need is not happening you may want to watch our YouTube videocast Self Advocacy and Assertiveness for Scientists  and make an appointment with a career counselor to talk about ways that you can strengthen your assertiveness skills.

  1. Lack of opportunities to move up from within 

Most NIH fellows in training plan to move on to another stage in their career outside of NIH after their post bac , graduate work or post doc experience .

OITE has many in-person and virtual workshops about job search in various sectors that you can access on the OITE YouTube Channel  and through the OITE Event Calendar

Job searches take time and effort. If you would like some expert support during your job search, please feel free to make an appointment with one of the OITE career counselors. 

When making career decisions and job searching sometimes trainees don’t know what they don’t know about various career sectors and job search resources. You do not have to throw yourself on the mercy of the marketplace or throw a dart at a dart board to pick a career.  OITE is here to help you progress on a career path that will be interesting and satisfying to you.

Burn Out a Work

Submitted by amanda.dumsch@… December 18, 2023
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Burnout often presents with three tell-tale symptoms. 1. Emotional exhaustion – you might have moments where you feel temporarily re-energized but then it is quickly swallowed up by an overall feeling of exhaustion. 2. Cynicism or feeling disengaged from your work – a feeling that none of what you do really matters anyway. 3. Self-doubt – burnout can also present by feeling like you are not qualified or good enough to perform the tasks of your job.

Burnout results from a combination of what you do and organizational structure. There are things that you can do to feel better, but you also have to find an organization and a leader that helps contribute to your wellbeing. More and more research is pointing to the fact that your individual level of burnout is deeply impacted by the type of relationship you have with your direct supervisor. 

Four things to help combat burnout:

1. Self-energy Audit
The first thing to do is to help understand yourself better.  Most people think they have a pretty good sense of what they enjoy, but often have some blind spots. One way to clarify this is through a self-energy audit using an app to track your energy and interests throughout the day. One some have recommended is “How We Feel”. In sum, determine what gives you energy and when you have the most energy. 

2. Create a personal toolbox of self-care rituals 
As an example, a weekly meeting you find challenging – create some rituals that help you prepare. Or if you are feeling really stressed, take a 10-minute walk. Create your own toolbox list ahead of time to prepare for situations that stress you. That way you don’t have to overthink and can just turn to your trusted tools. 

3. Find ways to refill your energy before hitting empty. 
What energizes you? How do you refill your energy? Some people report working out or talking to best friends as energy boosters. Find your go-to techniques for filling your bucket.

4. Find joyful ways to help others. 
Helping others and practicing empathy can also be a way to help pull an individual out of a self-focused lens and see the bigger picture to help find joy in connecting with others. Even trying to do a few small acts of kindness a week can be really helpful. 

5. Assess ways to deal with demands/control at work. 
People who have too much demand and/or don’t feel like they have control over their schedule often get more burnt out. Also, employees who feel like that don’t have collegial or managerial support often experience high levels of burn out.  Sometimes it is important for people to set clear boundaries in terms of online connectivity. Self-awareness can lead to better self-advocacy in professional settings.  

In addition to these tips, there is growing evidence that having a gratitude mindset at work is beneficial. Gratitude prompts at the end of the workday to reflect on what went well and who you were thankful for can help you set a more positive tone. 

Another frequently mentioned tip for combatting burn out is being able to detach from work at the end of the day.  Many people struggle with this, thought, so it might be helpful to write down a comprehensive to-do list to tackle the next morning. This can also be a helpful brain dump at the end of your workday –it’s easy to implement and effective.