Young scientists at the Lindau Meeting. Photo/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings
Hi Lindau Nerds! If you are reading this, you are either heading to the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (#LiNo18) or are a Lindau alum. Or perhaps you are merely a fan. I get it! I’m a Lindau Lover, too! There’s something so special about this annual conference of established and emerging Nerds, held every summer in the quaint town of Lindau, Germany. For 68 years, this charming hamlet has hosted Nobel Laureates (and a few Nobles too!) along with upwards of 500 young scientists from 80+ countries. It is a knowledge and networking jubilee, where nerds from the four corners of the Earth and at least three parallel universes get to engage with laureates, hear their wisdom, and exchange ideas to improve the human condition. It is truly #NerdHeaven!
But there is a problem here. Once you get a taste of Lindau, you want more. #NerdHeaven sticks with you – it burrows into the deepest part of your heart, and it inspires you to be brighter and better. It’s the culture of Lindau that has made the biggest and longest lasting impression on me, and it’s why, after having the privilege of attending three times, I still look forward to experiencing, participating in and partaking of this nexus of creativity.
So how to solve this lust for Lindau? As a Lindau alum, you should continue the leitmotif of Lindau – Educate, Inspire, Connect – throughout your career. When you do, you will help other scientists and engineers, you will be able to solve humanity’s grand challenges, and you can and will change the world. And in doing so, you will find intense professional satisfaction.
But to change the world and achieve career bliss, you have to start by recognising your own power that you have as a STEM-educated professional, understanding your value to employers and collaborators, and realising your career options are limitless.
Indeed, scientists and engineers have a wealth of career potential – there are myriad and diverse jobs you can pursue, professional paths you can take, and organisations that covet, hire and pay people like you (handsomely!). But to access these career opportunities and land these jobs you have to think strategically about the value that you offer.
And as we move forward, endeavouring to advance your career, I want to offer you a few fundamentals to ponder. These are concepts that will help you design your own professional path and land the career and job of your own making.
- You, and only you, define and decide on what your career will be. This is an extremely important mantra to always remember. It can be a challenge to realise that you are the one in the driver’s seat of your career and you alone get to make the decisions about how your professional experience will play out and transpire. I know that in science, particularly when you are early in your career, everyone seems to be doing the same thing – grad school, postdoc, research, publishing, presenting at conferences. You are all on the same road together, seemingly going towards the same goal. And yet, this is merely an illusion. Look to your left and right – your peers will take different roads to find professional bliss and you will too. No one’s career looks the same. Furthermore, your career is up to you – it is not your PI’s career or your parent’s career, it is yours. So you get to make the rules and define success for yourself.
- You are a rock star. You are of enormous value to many, many ecosystems. Your career and job search are not limited by the discipline of your degree or the title of your department. You have extensive technical skills, but you also have talents in project management, business, communications, teambuilding, marketing and even negotiations. These hard and soft skills contribute to the extensive value you provide any organisation that is lucky enough to get you as their employee. And as a rock star, this contributes to you having even more choice of careers.
- You are a problem solver. This is the central component of your value. Know what kinds of problems you can solve and where those problems exist. Since the core of every job is to solve problems, you give yourself a competitive advantage in the job marketplace when you can elucidate this critical information.
- You must understand and be able to articulate your brand. A brand is simply a promise of value, and your promise of value is your promise to deliver excellence, dependability and expertise in whatever you do. Your brand consists of your STEM education and training and all of the skills and expertise that you have acquired in pursuit of your degree. Communicating your brand to others via appropriate self-promotion channels is what will open doors to professional advancement.
- You must network. Networking is the most honourable enterprise that you can undertake, because it is about crafting win-win alliances with other parties, where you are both providing value to each other in various ways over time. Networking is NOT me trying to take something from you; rather, networking is about exploring what I can offer you and what I can do to inject value into your team. With this positive definition of networking in mind, you can begin to appreciate that the action of networking must be done all the time to ensure you find collaborators with whom you can partner and for whom you can solve problems. The Lindau Alumni Network is just one of the many networks you have access to that can help you access hidden career opportunities.
The extent of the value that you offer and how you can leverage this to craft your dream career is one of the many topics we discussed in the first webinar for Lindau Alumni and #LiNo18 participants, as part of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings Alumni Network Initiative. The webinar, ‘What Should I Do With My Career? Recognising Your Passion and Catalysing Your Potential’, took place on 22 March at 1700 CET. You can watch a recording of the full webinar below.
We discussed how you, as a science-educated professional, have a lot more career opportunities than you realise. The key is being able to identify and articulate your unique value and problem-solving abilities to diverse decision-makers and build and nurture strong networks to create career opportunities for you and those around you. When you do this, everyone wins. Even science wins!
With tens of thousands of Lindau Alumni worldwide, the Lindau Team is taking on an ambitious scheme to Educate, Inspire and Connect alumni, to enable your success and to assist you with your career explorations and examinations. Indeed, you should think of Lindau as your strategic career partner, and over the next year, you’ll see some very exciting projects and events launched all designed to help you be a better you. So stay tuned! More webinars abound, as do career advice articles and blogs and a special career development presentation taking place during the European Science Open Forum (ESOF) this July in Toulouse. I am very excited and honoured to be a part of this initiative!
You’ll be hearing more from me and my colleagues in the Lindau Alumni Network. And we want to hear from you! How can we help you achieve professional victory? In the meantime, remember that you move mountains – your energy and dedication to improving the world, which allowed you to experience Lindau in the first place, is what will enable us to address our Grand Challenges, improve the human condition, and peer through the mist of knowledge to know our place in time, space and history. I can’t wait to see what your future has in store for you, and the Lindau Alumni Network will be right there with you! #LindauForLife
Author’s Note: Some of these concepts have appeared in other works by the author, including her book, Networking for Nerds, career columns in Physics Today and Nature Astronomy, and other publications.