Using the ASHG Career Center: Tips for Job Seekers

Posted By: Evelyn Mantegani, Public Education & Engagement Specialist

Earlier this year, ASHG launched the Career Center. This online job board connects the innovative and energetic members of ASHG with the newest positions open in the human genetics and genomics community. At no cost, ASHG members can post their resume and search for their next position.

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Visit the ASHG Career Center at https://careers.ashg.org/

Here’s how to most effectively use this resource to find your next position.

Set up Job Alerts. Let the system find new jobs for you: set up your preferred job search criteria, including location, discipline, and level. You will then automatically receive a notification whenever a matching job is posted.

Create Your Searchable Portfolio. Increase your exposure to employers by uploading up to five career-related documents, such as work samples or certification letters.

Preview Your Job Applications. Before submitting your application, you can preview it as an employer will see it.

Check the Commute. Assess a potential commute right from the job detail screen. The Google Map feature will display a map with the distance between your home and the employer.

Save Potential Jobs. Save up to 100 jobs to a folder in your account so you come back to apply when you are ready.

Review Your References. For a discounted fee starting at $79.20 for members, experienced professionals will call your references to learn what they are telling prospective employers. All checks are done with complete discretion and confidentiality.

Have Your Resume Reviewed. The ASHG Career Center provides resume rewriting and critiques, starting at $29.95. This resource is available for resumes and cover letters from entry to executive level.

Find all ASHG Career Resources in One Place. The resources section compiles all career resources provided by ASHG. Browse this page for job application guidance, interviews with professionals across career sectors, and more.

Mastering the ASHG Abstract Review Process: Select the Right Topic

Posted By: Kiran Musunuru, 2019 Chair, ASHG Program Committee

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Kiran Musunuru, 2019 Chair, ASHG Program Committee

As you are preparing your ASHG 2019 abstract, I wanted to take some time to share how the ASHG topics and subtopics are structured and guidance on how to select the right topic. Understanding this will help you score better during review and get your talk or poster in front of the right people.

How ASHG Topics are Structured

Each of the twelve topics covers a large portion of current research in human genetics and are organized to group the most similar abstracts together. The topics and subtopics form the basis of the abstract review and session building process and, eventually, the organization of the poster hall. Program Committee members are assigned to review an abstract topic aligned with their research expertise.

With an average of 3,500 abstracts submitted, it has been helpful to further divide the topics into subtopics based on organ systems and clinical phenotypes. The subtopics are the same regardless of the main topic chosen. When Program Committee members gather to draft the Platform Sessions in July, they will often use the subtopics to build cross-topic sessions covering the most exciting research.

Changes to the Topics to Keep Up with the Field

The topic/subtopic system was last reorganized in 2016. Given the pace of expansion in human genetic research, the Program Committee reviewed and revised the topics this year. The largest changes were the addition of two topics. “Precision Medicine, Pharmacogenomics, and Genetic Therapies” was added to address the rise in genetic therapy development in recent years. “Molecular Effects of Genetic Variation” expands upon the previous “Genome Structure and Function” topic, so that we may group together all the functional genetics and gene expression abstracts that were previously spread across several abstract topics. Look for the new topics as you browse posters in Houston.

Tips for Selecting the Right Topic

Selecting the correct topic for your research is important to make sure it is reviewed by the appropriate experts and programmed with similar abstracts in either an oral or poster session. Each topic is represented proportionally in the talks, so there is no advantage to selecting one topic over another. In fact, submitting to the wrong topic will likely result in a poorer score because experts from other fields may view your work as less compelling.

Before submitting your abstract, make sure you read the definitions for each of the twelve topics. Determine which topic is most likely to have closely related studies to yours, as that is likely the best fit. Taking a few extra minutes to find the right home for your abstract will help you achieve the best possible score and boost your visibility with relevant colleagues.

Submit by June 6, 2019, to have your work considered for ASHG 2019. Then, check out the overview of ASHG’s abstract review process and register to see all your colleagues’ impressive research.

Kiran Musunuru, MD, PhD, MPH, 2019 Program Committee Chair, is an Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Genetics, and the Director of the Cardiovascular Institute’s Genetic and Epigenetic Origins of Disease Program, at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Be Well to Do Well

Posted By: Ann Klinck, Communications and Marketing Assistant, ASHG

Earlier this month, ASHG hosted a webinar titled Resilience and Wellness, which focused on strategies to maintain your mental wellness in the scientific workplace and improve your resilience to the challenges and setbacks we all face.

Sharon Milgram, PhD, Director of the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reminded webinar listeners that to function at the highest capability, you must take your own well-being into consideration.

Developing Resilience

“Those who are resilient prepare to be resilient,” said Dr. Milgram. Developed through education, self-reflection, and practice, resilience can help a person navigate through adversity constructively. Here’s how:

  • People: Find people you can trust, who will give you energy when you feel stuck, and go to them to find compassion, a listening ear, or just companionship.
  • Process: Figure out what wellness practice or resources you can focus on that will help you in that moment.
  • Prepare: You cannot try to discover these things in a moment of crisis; you have to set yourself up for success.

Dr. Milgram also provided this helpful tool to identify characteristics of a resilient person.

Handling Our Inner Critic

To improve the way you view difficult situations or setbacks, analyze your self-talk. Are the stories you tell yourself harsher than they need to be? Consider whether you would say the things you tell yourself to a friend. Are you seeing the broader picture?

Destroying Cognitive Distortions

Dr. Milgram described cognitive distortions or automatic negative thoughts as “Characteristic ways that our mind convinces us of something that is really not true to reinforce negative thinking or emotions.” Some examples are:

  • All-or-nothing thinking: Your performance is either perfect or a complete failure.
  • Catastrophizing: You exaggerate the implications of a setback or mistake.
  • Mind reading: You make assumptions about what someone else is thinking.

Here’s how to tame them:

  • Journal to identify your most common negative thoughts.
  • Talk to mentors and peers.
  • Use your science voice to question them: Where is the evidence that this is the worst thing to ever happen in my life?
  • Be open to counseling when it’s unmanageable.

Never Feel Like an Imposter

Imposter fear is a type of cognitive distortion, qualified as “The feeling of phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable, or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” Dr. Milgram pointed out that “If you are working towards a PhD in the sciences, if you are a postdoc, if you have been working as an undergraduate in a high-knowledge research environment, there is much evidence of high achievement already, though we often find ourselves feeling like fakes and phonies.”

Imposter fears include attributing success to luck or discounting your successes. You’re not alone! 70+% of individuals experience imposter fears at some point in their educational and work journey. Fight that feeling by practicing accepting praise and reminding yourself that impostor fears happen to everyone.

To Do Well, We Have to Be Well

Dr. Milgram provided a model of holistic self-care outlining four quadrants of wellness.

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In her shared slide deck, you can find a wellness assessment for each quadrant. While everyone defines these quadrants differently, each needs to be fulfilled to feel well. Dr. Milgram reminded us we can’t fix everything at once, and to take time to work on one area instead of trying to change too many habits too quickly.

Watch the full webinar, or check out our Twitter account to see live engagement from listeners!

Make the Case for Conference Attendance: Here’s How

Posted By: Ann Klinck, Communications & Marketing Assistant; and Amanda Olsen, Meetings Assistant, ASHG

Many institutions and organizations are on a yearly budget, which means now is the time to request funding for any educational and professional development opportunities you have in mind for 2019. If you’re attending the ASHG 2019 Annual Meeting, the best way to get funding is to submit your request early, appeal to your institution’s mission, and fulfill any promises you make during your appeal when you return.

Starting Early

With more professional development opportunities arising in the form of webinars, special-interest conferences, and service-learning, your department likely has a hard choice to make when deciding who and what to fund, even with an increased professional development budget. Many of these allocations are first come, first serve. Now is the time to do your research and put in those requests!

Figure out approximately how much you’ll need to attend the event including travel, registration, and hotels. Not every conference or meeting will have registration open in time for your request, but ASHG shows the benefit of early registration by sharing prices and price increase timelines well ahead of the ASHG Annual Meeting. Many organizations, including ASHG, share hotel rates ahead of time. Booking flights early doesn’t always get you the best savings, but using tools like the Kayak Travel Hacker Guide will help you know when to start booking and what kind of price you can anticipate.

Clearly indicate the financial savings of booking early and include all your research in your value of attending letter. Use our blog from last year to cut costs when traveling.

Appeal to the Mission

20190131_roitoolkit-imageThe Return on Investment (ROI) Toolkit helps you convey that while this meeting will benefit you, it will also benefit your institution since they are supporting your attendance.

  • Note which topics are being presented that directly correlate to your work.
  • State that the meeting isn’t just a learning opportunity but is also valuable for networking and can increase the possibility to collaborate.
  • Consider presenting your work, which would help get more visibility for your research and your institution.
  • Most importantly, explain that you’ll be ready to share all this new information upon your return. Sharing your findings with colleagues increases the value of attending to your institution by increasing the number of people who benefit from the cost.

See some other ways to get the most of a scientific meeting.


Fulfill Promises

Meetings can take a lot of energy, both mental and physical. Days full of new content can leave you burnt out and speechless when asked “what did you learn?” That’s why ASHG created several tools to help you keep track of it all. Track your participation on paper, or use our app! There are notes sections in each session listing where you can type about the session, and then email them to yourself later.

We’re looking forward to collaborating with you in Houston, so use the ROI Toolkit and get moving on those value of attending letters!

Navigating a Scientific Meeting Alone

Posted By: Ann Klinck, Communications & Marketing Assistant, ASHG; Amanda Olsen, Meetings Assistant, ASHG; and Emily Davenport, Member, ASHG Training & Development Committee

You’re reading part two of our three-part blog series on attending the ASHG Annual Meeting. If you want to check out part one about budgeting, click here.

The ASHG 2018 Annual Meeting is getting closer each day, and advance registration is only open until October 15.

This month, we’re going to talk about best practices for navigating a meeting or conference alone, and how to enjoy the process.

Know What to Expect

If you’ve never attended an ASHG Meeting before, it might help you to look at materials from previous meetings such as blogs, videos, or tweets. Visualizing your setting is likely to relax some nerves.

Planning your days helps you focus your attention on networking instead of worrying about where to go next. The printed Program-at-a-Glance includes a schedule overview, scientific session information, and maps of the convention center. Check the schedule online, and learn about the app in advance.

Emily Davenport, TDC member, shares that the ASHG meeting is an introvert-friendly environment: “I was nervous, but there were a lot of people at meal times willing to eat together, and you’d be surprised how often you can find a friend-of-a-friend. Science is a smaller community than we think!”

Do What Makes You Comfortable and Confident

Know your limits! If you feel like you’re overextending yourself, then go to a relaxing place to unwind for an hour. You’ll get more value out of the rest of the day if you take that time. Think about where that relaxing space is for you, whether it’s your hotel room, your car, a coffee shop around the corner, or the inspiration lounges. ASHG also has a Prayer & Meditation Room at the meeting each year.

Wear clothes that you feel confident in. When you feel confident, you’ll act more confident, and you’ll be ready to mingle. Think sensibly when it comes to footwear.

Talk about subject matter that interests you, and chances are you’ll find someone who has similar interests. Posters are organized by scientific topic, so if you’re presenting a poster, you’ll be surrounded by people with similar interests.

Realize You’re Not Alone

Many attendees don’t come with colleagues, so you’re not actually alone. You’re surrounded by friends you’ve yet to meet! Think about where people are likely to be looking for some conversation filler: in line for an event or food, or waiting for a session to start.

There are many social events built into the meeting, such as: the opening reception; ancillary, satellite, exhibitor events; and inspiration lounges. Use the online schedule filter to see ancillary events, or ask exhibitors directly if they will be hosting something. Trainees should check the trainee events page and watch the video below.

Use twitter to find fellow attendees by using the social media badges, the meeting hashtag #ASHG18, and the trainee hashtag #ASHGTrainee. People are often on Twitter looking for exercise partners and sightseeing buddies. You can also attend the Tweetup social event.

The most important thing to remember when attending alone? Everyone is in it together! If you’ve never attended a meeting or you’ve attended a dozen times, there are new people all around you just as interested in mingling as you are. Come meet our friendly staff at ASHG Central throughout the entire meeting. We can’t wait to see you there!

Starting Your Postdoc Hunt: When and How to Prepare

Posted By: Rohit Thakur, Marie Sklodowska-Curie research fellow, University of Leeds, United Kingdom

“What are your plans after PhD”? – one of the most daunting and stressful questions often asked to graduate students. For many pursuing a career in academia, the obvious next step is a postdoctoral position.

The ideal time to start applying for postdocs is one year away from your graduation. At the beginning of the final year of my PhD, I made a list of institutes to explore. Based on this list, I directly contacted the principal investigators (PIs) whose work I found really exciting. After hearing back from them, I arranged a meeting with them to learn about their research. This provided a wonderful opportunity to network and establish professional relationships with them.

I also found the Conference to Career chat sessions with field experts extremely useful. At one of the sessions, Prof. Fred Winston shared very useful tips on setting criteria for choosing a postdoc lab, such as quality of mentorship, success rate of previous postdocs in academia, and publication rate of the lab. If you start early you are more likely to end up with multiple offers by the time you finish your PhD.

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Mr. Thakur discusses his poster presentation with Martin Lauss, PhD, Lund University, at the 2017 Joint GenoMEL/BioGenoMEL/MELGEN Scientific Meeting (courtesy Mr. Thakur)

Don’t Underestimate Geography

Starting a postdoc hunt can be overwhelming, given the numerous places a graduate student can potentially apply to. It can become easier if you can think about where (geographically) you would like to do a postdoc. After identifying a region, you just have to locate the productive labs that do the science that you find exciting.

Network, Network, Network!

If you are going to a conference, write to PIs beforehand whose work you find interesting. Network with them by inviting them to your poster and follow up with them afterward.

Start Your Application Early

Visit lab websites of PIs who you are interested in working with and pay close attention to the lab’s current interests required skills for postdocs. Use this time to develop a skill that will increase your visibility as a potential candidate. Write PIs an informal query about potential postdoc positions to PIs, including your CV and cover letter, and get your material proofread by your mentor and colleagues.

Get Your PhD Research Paper Ready to Submit

Showcasing your PhD research is a great way to convince future PIs about your skills and your ability to lead a project independently. If you have a paper ready to be submitted to a journal, get its preprint out on bioRxiv and mention it on your CV.

Seek Advice and Feedback

If you are contacting a field expert, openly ask for feedback and advice about your current research project. This is a great way to interact and establish professional relationships with PIs.

Finally, get out of your comfort zone. Aim higher but be realistic. Keep applying until you land an offer from your dream lab. I would also recommend attending the ASHG/JAX Conference to Career Program for honing your networking skills.

Acknowledgments: I am highly thankful to my supervisors Jenny Barrett, PhD; Julia Newton-Bishop, MD, MBChB, FMedSci; Jeremie Nsengimana, PhD; and Göran Jönsson, PhD, for their exceptional mentorship; and European Commission Horizon 2020 program for funding my PhD.

Rohit Thakur, B. Tech, is a PhD Candidate at the University of Leeds. He has been an ASHG member since 2017.

 

Networking Session was Great! What’s Next?

Posted By: Rohit Thakur, Marie Sklodowska-Curie research fellow, University of Leeds, United Kingdom

During ASHG 2017, I participated in the Conference to Career program, organized by ASHG in collaboration with The Jackson Laboratory. The program taught various skills such as networking, elevator pitches, informational interviewing, and how to follow up effectively, some of which I highlighted on the MELGEN blog last month. Today, I wanted to focus on the aftermath of networking: The art of following up! Before I start recommending strategies, I wanted to share my experience of how effective follow-up can lead to wonderful opportunities.

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Rohit Thakur (left) and colleague Joey Mark Diaz (right), participants in the ASHG/JAX Conference to Career Program (courtesy Mr. Thakur)

During the ASHG meeting, I was intrigued by a talk by Manolis Kellis, PhD, after which I prepared my elevator speech and talked to him about his group’s ongoing research. I was very interested in their machine learning approaches. Dr. Kellis was very kind and put me in touch with his graduate student. After returning from the conference, I followed up with Dr. Kellis, and that led to potential talks of collaboration between our groups. Dr. Kellis also offered to host me for a month-long internship in his group at MIT, which I accepted.

From my limited experience, I can say that effective follow-up is a necessary step towards building a strong network. Here are some recommended strategies.

Write an Email – 24 Hours’ Countdown

Follow up with people after networking by sending a personalized email within the next 24 hours, while the meeting is fresh in their minds. This email should include a thank you note and all the relevant information – articles, programming scripts, and anything else you had agreed to share after the networking session – and express interest in scheduling another meeting.

Connect with Them on Social Media

Social media has made it easy to connect with people from around the world, through platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, and ResearchGate. You can keep in touch by congratulating them for their recent achievements and recognitions, and wish them on other occasions such as birthdays, and the New Year.

Invite Them to Give a Seminar

If you are fascinated by someone’s work, you can always invite them for a department seminar. As a trainee, you can recommend speaker names to the head of your department suggesting why they should be invited and how it will benefit your department’s research. Not only will this strengthen your relationship with the speaker, but will also help in fostering collaborations between other trainees/researchers and the speaker.

Always Give First and Expect Nothing in Return

Networking is a team sport. You can follow up with people by offering them your help and suggestions in a constructive manner. If following up leads to a successful collaboration, then you should always give equal opportunity in decision making, leadership, responsibilities, and benefits.

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L-R: Manolis Kellis, PhD; Mr. Thakur; and Alvin Shi, PhD Candidate at MIT (courtesy Mr. Thakur)

Acknowledgements: My project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 641458. I am highly thankful to my supervisors Jenny Barrett, PhD, Julia Newton-Bishop, MD, MBChB, FMedSci, Jeremie Nsengimana, PhD, and Göran Jönsson, PhD, for their exceptional mentorship and encouragement to expand my horizons. I am thankful to the organizers of the Conference to Career Program for developing networking skills of ASHG trainees and to Dr. Kellis for providing me with a wonderful learning opportunity in his group at MIT.

Rohit Thakur, B. Tech, is a PhD Candidate at the University of Leeds. He has been an ASHG member since 2017.