I hope to share some thoughts and takes from the ASP Distinguished Lecture Series on Tues and Wed – an events inviting speakers to give lectures on research, academia, and career choices.
Mar 25 2023, Boulder
The last week has been busy and fruitful. The ASP postdoc group in NCAR held an event called the Distinguished Lecture Series (DLS) – inviting three speakers from different fields to share their research and career advice to postdoc fellows. In these two days, we had lectures, individual meetings, Q&A sessions, and Happy Hour (of course)!
The three invited speakers are Dr. G from federal agency, Dr. AS from University, and Dr. AH from industry. It’s also noteworthy they represent a range from young scientist to established career, so that they can provide diverse perspectives from various angles.
One of the biggest themes of this event is about job search – We had a quick survey at the beginning and found out most of postdocs are currently actively looking for jobs and are concerned/worried about it. As for myself, I joined the ASP postdoc program in 2023 Jan (only two months ago). I am not looking for jobs right now (will likely do so in the future) so I am not very concerned about (don’t really know what to expect). But it is never too early to learn good advice from others. Therefore, I believe most of us have found the DLS event very useful and have learned a lot from it.
I will write this post into two sections – 1. About the advice shared from speakers and 2. My personal take and thoughts from them. This writing serves as a summary or recap of the event for myself – but if readers can learn anything, it will be extremely amazing.
I had ask the same question to all three speakers – what do you think is the one thing matters the most to us (young scientists) right now? From the experience of their early careers, three speakers gave different answers but we can grasp the similar spirit from them.
AS – writing first-author papers. In the academia, papers are like currency. It is the first metric that people look at in academia, particularly in job search, although not the only thing, it really demonstrate what you have been working on and have contribution in this field. If you go to talk to others about your research ideas, then people ask you “Do you have a paper on this?” You better be prepared.
G – is to find your identity (G’s answer is very philosophical). You have to answer some key questions: “who are you?”, “what do you do?”, “what’s your contribution?”, etc. Things like publications, first author or co-authors, citations, connections, are the things that support your identity. But first you really need to establish your identity on yourself.
AH – This question is very different for me when I started five years ago and now. For five years ago, when I first joined Jupiter, we are trying to establish products – So a lot of the work I did focused around the motivation – to improve our modeling products. Does our regional downscaling work beat reanalysis products? To add on that, it is important to set a metric of measuring (goal) at the beginning. It’s like going on hiking and understanding the top of the mountain. So that you understand how you are doing, am I going towards the right direction?, and know when you need to stop and rest. Otherwise you will have endless goal and never stop.
Some of us have some concerns about networking, especially after the pandemic. We now have so many meetings and meetings with other people, is networking merely about meeting other people? how do we know we are doing good networking or just doing in vain?
G – Of course, networking is not only about meeting people. For me, it is about getting to know “who is doing what” and how my work is fitting into the bigger development of the field. Our scientists can so easily putting ourselves in our offices and working on our own, without making connections with what other people are doing. It was a part of my struggle on my early career – because at my time, not many people are doing cloud physics. That’s why I think I have to put myself out there and see what other people doing and make connections with something bigger of a goal – otherwise I just end up with a sad little space.
AS – Oh, it is a real challenge for introverted people. The biggest lesson I learned from my early years was, you can be a little bit strategic. For example, two of my friends, when they go to conference, can have a list of people that they want to meet and talk to them, at the beginning. Then they go to conference and meet with them, then check each name on the paper. So that you know what you are doing, you have a target in every move, and won’t get lost in the conversations or being shy or afraid of getting embarrassed. (this is very analytical)
My thoughts and takes
I had learned a lot from these two days, really got inspired by the speakers and felt encouraged in the ASP postdoc group.
The biggest lesson I learn is more on the identity and philosophical side – I have to find out “who I am” and “what I want to do” before I get into the job market. The simple answer like – “I need a job” – is not a good answer. The hard truth is that that may be the most common answer people have in mind – I need a job then I have to do this and that, which make them feel miserable and sad.
To really put myself out there and show to other people what I have got – my characteristics and work. Then everything else – like publication, networking, mentoring and teaching statement, things like these, will then following. Be self-consistent and coherent!
I am so much motivated and inspired after these two days – Now I understand what I need to work on – land surface model and contribution in convection. It is the unique area that I am most curious about and can contribute the most. For my first-year plan, I will work on my research at least for the first year and look into the job market starting in this year Sep.
Best wishes to all my colleagues and friends who are currently looking for jobs and have concerns about it. We all have similar struggles and sure we can learn from and help each other.
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