It’s a common misconception that acquiring the skills and talents necessary to move beyond the bench, or any position you find mundane, requires formal training or first leaving said bench.
There are skills many of you are developing in your current role. There are skills many of you could develop further. Let’s take a quick look at a few you deal with on a regular basis.
Do you ever help write anything at work – a report, manuscript, evaluation, etc.? Written communication skills are very important at most jobs, but especially those at higher levels in science or business. Most people know deep down how strong a writer they are – or aren’t. If you fit the latter category, and if you are comfortable, ask your supervisor or co-workers for feedback on how well you write.
Ask not so much about content – as that changes from one document to another – but grammar, spelling, and word usage. Do you know how to use these three words correctly: “they’re,” “their,” and “there?” What about “your” and “you’re?” Poor grammar, spelling, and word usage skills might not crop up in your resume, but it will bite you in the behind once you start your new position.
Do you ever present information orally, be it an internal presentation or speaking in front of a poster at a conference? Being able to convey information to those at different levels of understanding is a skill that will take you far.
Can you explain what you do to someone not in science, so they understand it? That’s a great exercise. Grab your nearest non-scientist relative or friend and give it a try. How many times do you say “um” or “like” when you’re talking? I can remember many a terrible presentation where we actually stopped listening and started counting how many times they said “um” in between sentences. Don’t let that be you!
Like many talents, good written and oral skills take practice. If you don’t feel strong in these areas, you may be hurting your chances for promotion or career advancement if you’re not willing to improve. Having people critique your writing and speaking isn’t always comfortable to do – still, it’s important.
Finally, if you ever have to give your opinion about whether some action should be taken, you’ve entered the highly desirable world of “analysis.” Maybe you’ve read some articles and provided insight to you group whether a particular idea is worth exploring. Maybe you’ve helped decide which piece of equipment to buy. When you’ve literally and figuratively “done your homework” to guide decision-making, when you’ve had to support your opinion with facts and information, you make yourself more attractive to those interested in furthering your career.
Good advice? Your … er … you’re welcome!