Thursday, October 30, 2014

Things Change

Submitted by: Dr. Donna L. Vogel, MD, PhD
Director, Professional Development Office, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions


My original AWIS chapter is Bethesda, where for the last several years, I’ve been participating in the annual mentoring dinner. Those who register as mentees choose from a list of mentors, then are assigned to tables. We get food, find our places, and get to know each other. This year I had an interesting mix – from NIH, Walter Reed, and other government agencies. What were some common themes? How to figure out the right career path, how to get better visibility, how to deal with work-and-life. I brought to the table (literally) some of my own experience as a career-changer, along with what I’ve learned working in career development, so let me share some of the discussion. A key point is that Things Change. What may seem “right” early on may not be right later. It’s best to keep your options open by not closing any doors. Your own priorities will probably change. If you had asked me eight or nine years ago, what would be my top priority for my next job, I would have said “an easy commute.” I now take two trains and a bus every morning and people think I’m crazy …but I really love my job…and I never saw it coming. And networking is critical. Of all the moves I’ve made, I’ve gotten exactly one job by replying to a published announcement. All the rest were through networking. Which brings me to visibility. As women in STEM, we tend not to self-promote. How often to you even hear “self-promoter” without its being preceded by “shameless?” You might not be comfortable with the idea of networking, but you can’t avoid it. So start off small, but get out there! Build a rich LinkedIn profile and grow your connections. People in your network will have interesting careers, and you can set up an informational interview to learn more. As for work-life, that’s another whole post; I’ll just say there’s no such thing as “balance.” People in the field use other terms now, like work-life intersection. One is always up and the other down. It’s very individualized – you’ll find your own path. My two pieces of unsolicited advice are, 1) choose your spouse or partner carefully. He or she must ”get” what your life is like, and 2) when the time comes, do whatever it takes to get the best child care. It’s worth it to not have that anxiety. Knowing your child is in good hands makes you more productive and contributes to your success.

Wishing you success

About the Author
Donna L. Vogel, M.D., Ph.D. is the Director of the Professional Development Office, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.  She graduated from Bryn Mawr College, and the Medical Scientist Training Program at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Her
Ph.D. is in developmental biology, and her clinical subspecialty is endocrinology. She worked at NIH for 25 years, initially as a fellow conducting clinical and basic research.

Dr. Vogel managed a grant program for 13 years, and then became the first Director of an office for postdocs at NCI. She joined the Professional Development Office in 2007. She has an ongoing interest in career development and mentoring for students, postdocs, and early-career scientists.   A member of AWIS for over 10 years, she was a co-founder of the Greater Baltimore chapter in 2009.