I’m co-teaching a graduate course called Science Career Next Steps this semester. It’s a new course we’re piloting, and I’m thrilled to be leading a specific mindset and work-life-harmony thread of the course. I’m also coming to the course as someone who didn’t start in academia and only recently considered an academic career as a viable option. So, I’ve spent a lot of time looking for insights and resources to help me navigate my own transition into academia.
Prepping for this week’s time-tracking workshop (woot! yes, I am actively enthusiastic about that kind of self-study), I ran across a set of advice and resources I compiled for graduate students a few years ago. I’ve updated them and shared them below, in case they are of any help to folks who are early-career or considering a career transition.
There are a number of possible approaches for making progress toward academic and professional goals that I’ve found useful at various stages in my own (often-rocky) transition into an academic career. I started out with a “yes to everything” workaholic approach. That became starkly unsustainable, and I’ve now spent years figuring out an approach that enables me to do meaningful work without crashing and burning. I’ve especially prioritized advice and perspectives that now help me stay focused on the work that I am passionate about: making the world a better place by facilitating change and capacity building in people and systems/organizations.
The perspectives below are derived from a host of sources. This means different approaches will work for different people, and/or your mileage may vary depending on project stages, life events, external circumstances, etc. By no means are these nuggets of insight the only advice, or even the best advice.* And, some of these approaches may be difficult or even counterproductive for some folks. However, they are some starting points into discourse and resources around these ideas. (Please share yours in the comments or on Twitter!)
Last year, I launched Meteor, a podcast, with friend, collaborator, and fellow dreamer-schemer Virginia Schutte. We just wrapped Season 2 a few weeks ago, and I am so pleased to have so much to share with you!
We started Meteor because we crave advanced-user conversations with other mid-career scicomm professionals (like us!). We intended to use Meteor to learn and grow together, and check each other when we need it. Our plan was to dig into things as wide-ranging as branding, projects that matter, privilege, and inclusive science communication, with actionable, tangible steps to level up.
I have been working in scicomm for over 20 years, and it’s like you areinside my head. ~Meteor listener
In the first ten episodes, we covered all sorts of topics. Here are a few of my favorites:
Last fall, I had the great pleasure to accept an invitation to write a paper for a special issue in the journal Human-Wildlife Interactions. The issue focuses on ravens, and the editors thought the topic needed a scicomm perspective. I like to share the love/fun/platform whenever possible, so I reached out to three scicomm colleagues who I know think long and hard about effective, inclusive scicomm in applied/policy/human-wildlife settings.
Now, nearly a year later, I’m delighted to share that our paper has been published and is available for free/open access. It is especially satisfying to have this paper out in the world just in time to share it at the upcoming Ecological Society of America annual meeting, a training for a state agency’s wildlife biologists I’m leading in August, and as part of the portfolio of work two of the co-authors can submit for their PhDs!
Nearly two years ago, I started collaborating with an international group of researchers interested in enhancing mentoring for scientists within academic settings. Last week, we published a paper that details one of the essential approaches that we’ve identified through a scan of 27 career development, leadership, and mentoring programs worldwide. That is: multi-mentor networks rather than relying exclusively on an individual mentor (often an adviser or superviser). We also recommend this structure be invested in and developed across training stages, to support a more diverse pool of scientists as they progress through their careers.