Career Goals

Get some great tips on how to achieve your career goals. Keep reading to learn more.

Identifying what career goal(s) you want to achieve

Your career goals will be very much contingent upon your self-assessments that you completed. As you analyze the patterns that emerged in your Skill Inventory Matrix and your SWOT Analysis, you can begin to think about career paths for yourself. If you are unsure of what careers might be right for you, let your networking guide you. Up until I was in my senior year in college, I was certain I was going to go to graduate school in mathematics and/or anthropology and stay in academia. But as graduation loomed, I came to the firm realization that I was not interested in a life consumed by mathematical research, nor was I thrilled about pursuing the profession of a professor. But as I mentioned above, I had no idea what else I could do with my education and training. The reason I was ultimately able to carve a path in science communications, which led to every other career choice I have made, was because I was enthralled by and attracted to science outreach, writing, public relations, and marketing, even if I didn’t know that there was a job with the title of “science communications specialist.” I followed my interests towards opportunities that let me utilize “science communications” skills which led me to network with science communicators which ultimately led to my first job in the field.

TIP: If you are unsure of what career you want to pursue or with whom to network, begin by following your interests. There may be an actual job that exists that encompasses those interests, or you may just end up having to create the job yourself.

If, however, you know exactly what career you want right now, you can craft a networking plan that ensures you talk to people in the discipline of your choice to start making inroads into those networks and networking nodes, to position yourself in front of decision-makers, to amplify your brand and reputation, and to find out about hidden and non-hidden career opportunities. Specifically you want to learn the following:

  • What jobs exist in this field?
  • What career-making opportunities lead to these jobs?
  • What are the entry points to these opportunities?
  • How do people find out about opportunities?
  • What skills are needed for these positions?
  • What assignments are required?
  • What is the organizational/vocational culture surrounding these careers and jobs?
  • What kind of résumé/application is required?
  • What are the deadlines for the job and career opportunities?

TIP: Build a career plan that allows for contingencies and flexibility.

But even if you think you know what you want to do with your life now and in the future, and you have your heart and mind set on a “dream job,” you have to build a career strategy that allows for contingencies. I call this the “Astronaut” Syndrome. At some point in almost every nerd’s life, you probably wanted to be an astronaut. I know I did. But how many actual astronaut slots are there in any given year? The openings are extremely limited. Does this mean that if your aim is to become an astronaut you should give up on your dream? I don’t think you should—in fact, I think you should hunker down and do what you can to achieve it. But at the same time, I think you should be completely realistic and build a parallel career scheme that allows you to pursue an alternate career (or even set of careers) should you find that becoming an astronaut is not possible.

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Need A Job Now

Need a job now? Well, you’re in the right place to get some great tips to help out.

More Networking Tips

Speak up: If the other party can’t hear you, whether it is because it is a noisy room or because you speak softly, you are losing a potentially precious opportunity. This doesn’t mean you should shout it out, but make sure your voice is heard. And there’s another advantage to literally being heard: It denotes confidence, poise, and professionalism. The more you practice this, the more natural it will feel and the better you will become at delivering your brand statement in such a way that the words and the way you speak show the other party you are ready to assist them in solving their problems.

Be prepared for follow up: Any comment that you make as part of your brand statement is fair game for someone to ask follow up questions. In fact, if you craft it correctly, you’ll find that it logically elicits questions, which is a great thing to have in networking – it means that you have enticed the other party to learn more. So be nimble and flexible in your delivery to allow for people to interrupt you. Go with the flow.

Stand by your brand: Don’t say anything in your brand statement that you can’t completely back up – in other words, don’t embellish the truth, lie, or mention something that you knew how to do years ago but have since forgotten. I found this out when I wrote my very first CV as I was graduating college. I didn’t know what was supposed to be on a CV, so I listed every club that I had attended at least one meeting of. When I won a math award, my CV found its way into the hands of the chair of the math department who invited me to his office for a chat. When we met for the first time, his initial words were “how many hours do you have?” I was clueless as to what he was referring, so I responded “Do you mean credits? I have probably about 130 or so credits.” And he shot back “No! How many hours do you have?” He was alluding to what I considered to be a very minor entry on my CV, a listing about how I had been a member of the scuba diving club at the American University in Cairo. And in fact not only was I not a member (I had only gone to a handful of meetings), but I wasn’t even a scuba diver. I tried it at the deep end of the pool and quickly realized it was not for me. But by listing it there I had opened the door for him to discuss it with me. Needless to say I was embarrassed, but fortunately I learned the lesson. I want to ensure that you always feel confident in communicating your value, so you can periodically do a “brand assessment” to determine if you still have mastery of the skills you mention in your statement. For example, after my semester abroad in Egypt, I took many classes in Arabic and became fairly fluent. But that was more than 10 years ago. So although at one point I did mention I was fluent in Arabic in my brand statement and on my résumé, I don’t any more. You always want to make sure when you communicate your brand that it is completely factual and that you have evidence to support it.

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Your Attitude and Finding A Job

They say your attitude determines you latitude. Well, that is true. Want to find out how this can relate to your job search? Keep reading.

Your attitude

You will often hear that attitude is everything, and this is very true. I can hire you for a job and teach you all the skills and tools needed to solve the problems of the job. But the one thing I cannot teach you is to adopt and always have a positive, hardworking attitude. Google defines attitude as “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.” Zig Ziglar, one of the most famous professional speakers and salesman, said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” I could not have said it better myself.

Your attitude is the calling card of your brand: It verbally and non-verbally communicates your brand to others. It teaches people what you stand for and it educates others how to treat you and how to perceive your value. And since every interaction you have with someone reflects on your brand, your attitude must always be positive. If it is not, others will perceive your brand as something it is not – perhaps something that is negative and not of value to them.

This concept can be sometimes challenging to understand, particularly in the sciences and engineering. After all, we are taught as early as our undergraduate studies that what is most important to progress in a STEM career is your STEM outputs, as mentioned above. And we see, comically in academia, professors with “bad attitudes” all the time and yet these people have attained professional success. Although they may have bad attitudes now, I can assure you that when they interviewed for their jobs, they did not display any sort of negativity in their discussions. Furthermore, as they advanced, they may demonstrate inappropriate etiquette or behavior in certain situations, but I can almost guarantee that they did not get tenure based solely on their outputs. In fact their outputs were shaped and propelled by their overall positive attitude towards science or engineering.

But the fact is that people around you at all times are making snap decisions about your brand and the benefits (or non-benefits) that you can provide them based purely on your attitude. You can especially see this manifest itself during networking receptions. You and I engage in a conversation, having never met before. As we shake hands and offer introductions and then proceed to chat, I am consciously and subconsciously making mental notes about the way you are interacting with me. In other words, I am sensing your attitude and then digesting this information to provide me with a conclusion about what your brand is. Your attitude tells me volumes about who you really are, or, more importantly, let’s me perceive who you are.

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