On Admitting Defeat and Prioritizing

I have a confession to make. I am really, really good at hatching ideas and starting projects, but I am only mediocre at seeing them through to completion. This is most evident in areas of my life that have little to no impact on anyone other than myself (I’m looking at you, all my half-finished knitting projects!), because I have made a conscious effort to learn tools and strategies to overcome this affliction in my professional life.

Sometimes, though….

When do you admit defeat? Photo credit: Richard Stebbing via Flicker

When do you admit defeat? Photo credit: Richard Stebbing via Flickr

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Building a Professional Network: My experience thus far

If you’re a business-minded person, you might find this post a little basic, but learning to network has been one of my main focuses (and biggest challenges) since graduating at the end of November. This is a little post about my experience, and maybe it will inspire and bring hope to some other struggling scientist trying to find a career outside of academic research.

Networking is challenging, but ultimately worth your time.

In graduate school, I tried to prepare myself for leaving academic science from the moment I identified that my career goals pointed elsewhere. I went to all the free seminars, all the career development discussion panels, all the career fairs. I spoke with people whose jobs I admired and tried to get advice and information. I thought I was soooo prepared. I was not.

I applied for job after job, searching the online postings and having daily email alerts from various job boards clutter my inbox to the tune of 25 messages per day. I had an entire folder on my desktop devoted to resumes and cover letters, and I spent hours each day writing, re-writing, submitting, and agonizing over why I had yet to hear back. I got attached to certain job posts only to get an email saying that they decided to pass me over in favor of other candidates. After months of this, my scientist instinct told me, “Hey, this experiment is not working. This experiment will not work. You need to find another way to get your desired result.”

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light at the end of the tunnel

Today was special. Not in the big, let’s-have-a-party-special kind of way, but in the quietly special, reward yourself with a pat-on-the-back kind of way.

I felt like I’d been working for-EV-er on my thesis project. Planning, hours upon hours at the bench, and finally, making and adjusting each tiny figure and crafting each word in the 100+ page document that became my thesis.

Yes, today, I finished my thesis. The jury’s still out, so to speak, on how successful this writing attempt has been, but in three weeks I will receive my readers’ comments, and then I’ll be ready to submit.

Even though it seems like there are still so many little steps between where I am today and walking out of Johns Hopkins for the last time, I feel like I’ve already taken so many thousands of steps to get where I am today. Today, I’m going to pause and appreciate the little special joy that comes from reflecting on how far I’ve come from where I started.