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02/11/19
Professional Profile. 5.
Filed under: Recent Posts, Position Searching, Networking, Job Offer (Situations), First Year on Job, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 8:04 am


Profile: Policy & Advocacy Fellow at Society for Neuroscience


- What do you say when asked about your personal style and responsibilities?

In terms of overall work, I like to be given a project and work independently, while knowing where to go for help if needed. It’s also very important for me to know where my work fits into the overall mission of the group, and that we all work together towards a common goal- that is usually very motivating for me. I also typically enjoy being given a great deal of responsibility in my work, as I take that as a sign of trust and therefore try to achieve the goals at hand as best I can. I try to utilize these principles in my current job, where I am part of a great team and also feel that I am given enough freedom to learn, explore, and manage projects and assignments. We have plenty of meetings about various aspects of the work, which is very helpful. I enjoy the group interactions as well as the independent work.  


- Are you challenged?  What stresses you?

I’m challenged every day in the sense that I am faced with having to find something, learn a new system or vocabulary- sometimes I am challenged in terms of time constraints, other times because I am working on a task that I’ve never done before. But this also contributes to the value of this experience. I was lucky enough to be given this opportunity to be a Policy & Advocacy Fellow at Society for Neuroscience. This is my first exposure to working in a department where there is a blend of biomedical PhDs and those from other backgrounds, and first time working for a scientific society and seeing how that works, while also learning more about policy & advocacy. I enjoy being fully immersed in all the novel experiences in this position, whether they are in the office, or outside going to Hill events (which is a lot of fun!). What stresses me is sometimes the element of surprise or changing circumstances, meetings or tasks, although currently I am fascinated by everything and soaking it all in. In general, I like stability, but in some cases, especially if it’s something I am interested in and wanting to learn more about, I welcome chaos and embrace new things no matter how hectic it is, because I know it’s a tremendous learning opportunity and I feel passionate about it. I suppose a lot of how we approach life comes down to our attitude towards things- if we think that something is exciting and we are grateful for it, we will enjoy it more. I am also stressed sometimes about not knowing what comes next in my career, however from past experience, my plans don’t usually work out but something else works out which typically turns out to be even better than I could have ever imagined. So I’m trying to learn a bit of the art of “going with the flow” and seeing where my interests and passions will lead, and enjoy the process.


- Describe your title, how long you have been in your role and your most enjoyable responsibilities and tasks.

I am the Policy & Advocacy Fellow at Society for Neuroscience. I started in this role on January 2, 2019. I enjoy having variety in my day, therefore the ideal day is a combination of office work and Hill time, which is not very common (although Hill Day in March will be exciting). The idea of interacting with people outside the office during the workday for networking is really important, and I’m trying to also take advantage of living in D.C. and engage in experiences outside of work as well, because there is so much here for me to learn from and I don’t want to miss useful opportunities. In terms of specifics, I enjoy drafting letters and working on excel sheets with information, especially if I know what the goal for them is, and in particular if they are collaborative efforts. It’s exciting to contribute to a collective project in the office, but I also enjoy being out of the office to and getting some practical experience.


- How did you land your current position?  
Do you continuously keep an open
mind to changing positions?  
How long should we stay in our positions?

I had some prior science policy experience. Once I realized that I wanted to pursue this as a career path, I applied to relevant jobs that fit my background. Out of all the jobs I applied to and interviewed for, this was my favorite, so I am very happy to be in it now. I searched for and applied to jobs for some time, and in the process learned the right level of job to apply for, my application materials improved and my Skype interview skills sharpened with each conversation. This position just happened to be there at the right time, I was very excited about it (which probably showed in the process!) and it was just a really good fit overall. I was happy to learn that, when I got the position, everyone in the office unanimously voted that it should be me. I am reminded of this every day and I am really grateful for how accepting and welcoming they have been towards me since the very beginning. I’m also lucky to be in a really good working environment, which I didn’t always have. I think we should stay in our positions for as long as we are still learning and growing in them, and when it starts becoming boring and not useful, switch. We should not switch if it’s challenging, however, only if there are good reasons to do it. We should always be striving to better ourselves and thus look for that next thing that will allow us to accomplish that. The exception to this is a situation where the environment is really toxic or detrimental to our well-being, in that case we should leave it immediately.


- What do you believe aided you in being awarded your position?

I had demonstrated prior interest and passion in the area that I was looking to get hired for, and this position was a logical next step for me. I was able to articulate what I had previously learned and done, but also knew exactly why I wanted this position. I was looking for exactly this type of experience as the next step in my career. Although I had some experience with policy, I had never worked in a department like this. I work hard and I think I had demonstrated that in the past, so I came across as someone who was reliable and whom they could count on for pretty much any task at hand, which I imagine is what they were looking for. Finally, I also had the scientific background, and I believe they wanted a PhD graduate for this position, and that serves me well now as I am able to apply that background to this position. At the same time, I am also learning the policy & advocacy side of it, which is what I wanted to learn. Overall this is a win-win situation, and I think that everyone on the team is gaining from it. Plus, it is a really good working environment which is great.


- Have you refused an offer that you think you should have taken?  
What were the factors in your decision?

Not an offer. There were other potential interviews on the horizon when I decided to accept this one, and some of those were more long-term and potentially more stable as well. But this was my only offer I had at the time, and I didn’t want to wait any longer before moving in this direction, so I accepted immediately. At the time I was still toying with several options as to where I wanted my career to go, and I applied for jobs in two different directions along the same continuum. In a sense it was maybe a bit of a coin toss in terms of which one would work out first. Interestingly, I interviewed for the other type of job first, and I got pretty far in the process (I got to the in-person interview) but then ended up not getting the job, which I was very disappointed by. In retrospect, I am grateful that happened because it determined my direction towards something else that I instinctively knew was the right thing for me, and my current position was exactly that. I remember saying to a friend after I didn’t get the other job offer that it would be ideal for me to work in policy at a scientific society. I am now doing that, so it couldn’t have worked out any better!


- What opportunities and challenges do you see provide growth for you?

Right now this position is both a tremendous opportunity and challenge at the same time, and I took the job knowing that it would be both, and I need both. I haven’t entirely figured out where to go from here, but I am learning more every day about what my future interests might be and where I might want to take it, just by being exposed to various experiences. My opportunity right now is to work with people from a different background, and learn how they think about the same issue that I am bringing my scientific expertise to. This is really valuable. The challenge is that I to put myself in situations which are outside of my comfort zone. I purposely seek them out because I know they will be growth opportunities for me. Sometimes this means talking to someone I might be intimidated by, so I force myself to just go up to them and start talking! This job is definitely teaching me how to network, and I find it’s getting easier overtime. I also often seek out projects that I know nothing about but could help with, in order to gain that expertise and grow in a different direction that I might not have explored otherwise.


- What are ways that you go out of your way to expand your network?

Being in DC provides a lot of opportunities to meet people, and I find that most people are happy to have an afternoon coffee and talk about what they do. This is usually very  informative for me, and provides good practice for me in talking about my interests and goals to as many people as possible. The interesting thing is that I almost always get a different response, a new perspective, or a resource I didn’t have before. I attend some events related to work, and others on my own in particular if they are on something I am interested in (for example at the NASEM) but wouldn’t have the opportunity attend in person otherwise. I also try to go to social events related to policy work, where either peers or higher level experts would be present, and seek to meet both types of people. I find that talking with peers is helpful for practicing my pitch before going up to someone who might be more intimidating.


- What comments do you wish to make for people who are graduating or planning on moving on in the next year?

I would say that career exploration should be a constant endeavor, and not done only when you are in your last year of your PhD, for example. Don’t wait until the end to try and figure out what you might want to do. Every day is an opportunity to explore something new, and everything you do can change your career trajectory. If you work in the lab, get out and meet people, especially those from different research areas or non-scientific backgrounds, because you will learn a lot. Keep an eye out for opportunities to grow and help others in your community. Never stop learning and growing, and find opportunities that will facilitate both of these things.


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