ASM's Top 5 Career Advice Tips from 2016

Dec. 20, 2016

In 2016, ASM kicked off a new career section online and started its careers blogs with the purpose of bringing you the most relevant career advice and information about career paths in microbiology. We've covered topics from elevator pitches and to making yourself marketable for a career in science communication. Whether you are a student, postdoc, or early- to mid- career individual, sit back with a cup of coffee and find your career inspiration as we take a look back at the top 5 career advice tips from articles of 2016.

1. "Learning or taking on new projects could turn into a buffet approach - you grab all the delicious looking food but then you realize you have too much and can't eat it all."

Ty Cox, a medical laboratory scientist in clinical microbiology, explains how taking on too many projects and professional development activities can leave you scarce on time. Time management, a skill that he is still developing, can be a struggle for anyone. His advice was to determine what new projects and professional development activities can help you advance your career/goals while still maintaining excellent work at your current job, and then pursue those activities.

2. "Career planning is important because it will help you shape your career aspirations and make you more marketable for a particular career."

With the holidays around the corner or at the next family gathering, students may run into the dreaded question, "What are you going to do after you graduate?" To help you identify your career aspirations, and ultimately answer this question, Shilpa Gadwal (ASM's Career Resources Specialist) encourages students to develop a career plan. These steps are: 1) Understanding You - What are your interests, values, and skills? 2) Exploration - What are the current career paths in the workforce and which do you find most interesting? 3) Building Yourself and Your Network - What skills, experiences, and people do you need to get to career X, Y, or Z? 4) Job Search - How do you put together a job application and execute the interview successfully?

3. "When putting together an application for grad school, more important than straight A's or high GRE scores is a personal statement that shows passion for the subject."

For undergraduate students who are considering a MS or Ph.D. program, you might be wondering how to make your graduate school applications stand out. Dr. Lily Young, a professor at Rutgers University, explains that apart from GPA and GRE scores, passion for the subject needs to be evident in your personal statement. Passion for the subject can manifest in many ways through research experiences, personal difficulties, and/or the motivation to solve problems in or advance microbiology; these should be clearly written in your personal statement. In your personal statement, describe that you have the necessary traits for graduate school like the ability to persevere and commit to a difficult project and your application will stand out.

4. "You have to be extremely risk-tolerant. If you can't stand the thought of losing time [or] money or possibly failing, [working for a business - or starting your own] is not for you."

Crystal Icenhour, co-founder and CEO of Aperiomics, explains that people who persevere through setbacks and take risks are better suited for business. After her postdoc, she landed a job with a start-up company, Phthisis Diagnostics. The company started without a lab, personnel, and money, and seven years later it was acquired by a bigger company. During those seven years, while she learned the ins and outs of business, she had to overcome challenging moments. 

5. "If you're looking at Ph.D. programs, inquire about career resources within the department and institution."

With the trend of recent Ph.D. graduates working outside of academia, students want to learn about their career options and prepare themselves for the workforce. Bethany Adamec (ASM's Science Education Specialist) recommends that current or potential graduate students, research institutions for career resources, events, and internships. For some students this could be a deciding factor for which graduate school to attend, while other can look outside of their institution if these opportunities do not exist - ASM is a good place to start.

As you move into the New Year, we hope that ASM has inspired you in your career!

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Author: Shilpa Gadwal

Shilpa Gadwal
Shilpa Gadwal is the Career Resources Specialist at ASM.