As a graduate student, I thought being a postdoc was a rather bad deal. On top of the bad pay, no retirement benefits, and the countless hours in the lab, postdocs must sometimes rely on their antiquated, anchored-in-academia mentors for career advice.
When I arrived at the NIH, I learned that the postdocs and other trainees in the intramural research program had an office that was directly devoted to their training experiences: the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE).
The OITE provides free career and professional development activities to help intramural trainees learn about their career interests and the necessary skills to progress successfully to the next step in their careers.
OITE programs include:
• Scientific writing courses, both basic writing as well as manuscript preparation• Grant writing workshops
• Courses on scientific presentations and communication skills
• Leadership and management training
• Career sessions on jobs in academia, industry, and other career options.
The OITE Career Services also provides individual appointments to help trainees assess their career interests and goals. Advice for improving resumes, CVs, cover letters, and interviewing skills are also provided by the staff.
I have taken advantage of OITE programming, primarily through two main activities:
• Annual NIH Career Symposium: This entire day of panel discussions and skills workshops is devoted to highlighting the diversity of career choices available to biomedical researchers. Each year, it is an excellent opportunity to network with people who currently hold positions that might be of interest to you and get all of your questions answered.
• Scientists Teaching Science Pedagogy Course: This 2-hour/week 9 weeklong course is for both experienced teachers and those of us who have not had formal teaching experience. Held each spring, this course notes that expert content knowledge does not necessarily translate to effective classroom teaching, and, therefore, it discusses learning theory, curriculum design, and educational philosophies.
While my mentors at the NIH have been very supportive of and helpful in my career exploration and development, they are not always able to provide all the training that I may need or seek. Therefore, the OITE is a great resource for the extra skills and professional development that will come in handy when I start my job search.
For more information about the OITE, see website: www.training.nih.gov
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Government.
Wenny Lin, PhD, MPH, is a fellow in the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at the National Cancer Institute. Prior to joining the Nutritional Epidemiology Branch in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Wenny earned her MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2009 and her PhD in Cell & Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008.