Personal Toolkit




Know Thyself.

All types of people and personalities can be scientists. Maybe you are more of a “people person” than the stereotypical “shy scientist”, or maybe you prefer to work at a desk and computer rather than hands-on research in a laboratory or in the field.  For example, an outgoing, type-A person might be interested in public policy, directorship of an institution, or project management.  A thought intensive person might enjoy a career analyzing field data or generating computerized simulations.  There are scientific careers that can fit any personality – find one that fits who you are!


Start Envisioning Your Future Now.

List your interests, career goals, and outline your dream job.  These will likely change over time, so be prepared to update your list as your perspectives change.  Refer to this list often.  It will help you determine the best pathway for you to reach your goals and then help keep you on track to achieve them.

Professional Resources Available Through Your University (and Others).

Many universities offer free online training or coursework in leadership, performance management, effectively communicating with coworkers, talking with the media, writing proposals, etc.  Developing a professional demeanor is an essential skill even if you currently do not manage others or have a leadership role.  Learning these skills and putting them into practice now will help you handle work-related obstacles such as efficiently collaborating with other scientists and objectively reporting scientific results to the media and general public.  In general, the more skills, talents, and technical capabilities you can master the more marketable you become.  You never know what will be in demand as your career PROGRESSes.

Build Networks.

Don’t be afraid to be noticed!  Position yourself at the center of the action and be prepared to participate in group discussions or ask questions at the end of a talk.  At conferences and meetings, be sure to talk with a variety of attendees ranging from your peers to highly successful senior scientists and corporation CEOs.  Talk about your scientific interests, your career goals, and ask about their career pathways.  Relationships that start as acquaintances often have the potential to become long-term colleagues and/or future collaborators. Visit our National Women’s Networks page and National Networks by Discipline page for more information about joining national networks and get involved in the scientific community.

Speak in Plain Language.

Being able to express, in plain language, your scientific interests and your reasons for seeking higher education and/or a career in the geosciences can be a key part of achieving those goals.  This applies to communicating with a potential graduate advisor, a possible future employer, a teammate or coworker, a peer in your network, and even family and friends.  A good practice is to be able to summarize your scientific interests and/or research goals using common terms in 60 seconds or less (e.g., the famous elevator speech).