On a few occasions, students have asked me how I made the transition from graduate student into my current position. In this blog, I will outline for you not only my transition but what has helped made it as seamless as possible.
For the new students who might just be learning about me and to refresh the memories of others, I am a graduate of the Integrated Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program at University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. My studies focused on neuroscience but I also incorporated into my graduate training– training for my current position. The following will explain how.
The first thing that you need to hear as a graduate student is, “Graduate students do not get hired for jobs.” What does that mean?
What it means is that as long as you continue to view yourself as a student/trainee and continue to have the habits of such you will not be viewed well in the hiring community.
Whether that is within or outside of the “Ivory Tower.” An entrepreneur raised me; my mother owned a restaurant in which I grew up. It is in my DNA to “work a crowd,” “communicate well,” and “be professional.”
This is not in everyone’s DNA and it is not something that is expected always of a student in the laboratory but it is something expected of a faculty member, industry professional, and leader in the bioscience community.
So as you embark on your graduate training, remember to be visible and get involved. You will receive emails about great events, such as the Science Communication and Outreach Career Symposium, and you should plan to attend!
When you do attend, have a strong introduction. I say “strong” for a reason. You need to practice a short and concise elevator pitch and handshake.
Start asking questions now. If you don’t know someone and want to have them in your network, ask for a meeting. Just learn to ask and don’t be afraid.
Fear is often when holds us back in our careers and from pursuing our passions.
It is that same fear that can keep us isolated and prevent us from meeting new people.
You must MEET A LOT OF HUMANS if you are to convince the world that you are not a student anymore.
Make time to network as you will hear me say every chance I get, “Networking is key to career success.”
This next point can be surprising for some as it has to do with doing favors for others.
I encourage you to do them but not without careful thought and consideration.
The business community does this very well. A good businessman or lawyer, such as those depicted in
the television show “Suits,” know the value of a favor and they will cash them in whenever they get a chance.
I encourage you to help out others and expect that they will help you in return. This builds accountability with your colleagues and often the value of doing favors for others is overlooked.
The more efficient graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have a strategy for each day that they are in training.
This includes not only planning each experiment in the lab but also planning how each activity they take time for will impact their career and by default will result in a line on their C.V.
Yes, I am encouraging you to make decisions about what you do based on what can help to build your C.V. or resume.
There are some very creative ways that you can go about this. If you wish to hear more, meet with me and let’s discuss.
But your goal should be to add at least two new C.V. lines per year as a trainee. . . if not more! This can only be
accomplished with a good plan. I recently reviewed the book, “The Professor Is In,” and found one thing very valuable. That is a template for a five year plan.
We should all have one! No matter the stage of your career.
Further, learn to be SMART about how you set your goals. SMART goal setting goes as follows:
1. Specific: Make sure that your goal is not to broad such as, “Get my Ph.D.” but rather is more specific like, “publish paper on the effects of BDNF on neurogenesis.”
2. Measureable: Set milestones for your goal that will allow you to determine if you have accomplished it
3. Attainable: Do not set a goal that is to big for the time you have allowed yourself
4. Realistic: Think about the realities of the work you do for example and be honest with yourself about if the goal can be attained
5. Timely: Do not give yourself too much time to achieve the goal.
In academia, I think many of us would call ourselves workaholics. . . well workaholics are not what hiring
committees are looking for.
They are looking for high performers.
What’s the difference you ask?
See my table below:
|Let others determine their value||Know their own value||As trainees, we often find our value in how our mentors views us. I suggest that you know your
own value and accept that first.
|Give 110% all the time||Give 100% at the right time||The lab environment often feels like you must be on 110%
all the time. If you plan and are more
organized you will find yourself drifting into the 100% at the right time
category. Be strategic!
|Are reactive||Take initiative||Do not just jump at any opportunity. Think about it before reacting. Further, if you plan you will be able to
take initiative rather than always having to react to your surroundings. You
will be in control of your plan.
|Are busy||Do business||This is something that we can all fall into. You need to work toward efficiency so that
when you are busy it is because business is being conducted and only that.
I have always been told that I should be prepared to run into my future employer or connection anywhere that I go.
My family knows that I would not ever consider going out into public in any fashion not prepared to share my
business card and to be proud of the way that I look.
This does not mean I wear a suit everywhere that I go… it simply means that I am presentable and confident in my dress. If you do not feel like this is something that you are sure about, let’s talk.
Here is a simple formula (Lab=jeans/nice shirt; Presentation=business attire).
The last two things are key; take care of yourself and have fun!
If you do not take some time to look inward and create a support system then you will be traveling this long journey up hill.
Know that you have a system of support all around you and don’t hesitate to ask!
So in the words of Steve Jobs, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
So go out and do great work and find work that you love! I’m here to help!