Choosing Your Career


Some sage advice from scientists at the National Atmospheric Research Center on how to launch your career in the geosciences:

Think outside the box: You don’t need permission to be innovative and challenge the status quo. Find a creative way to do what you love! Followers rarely get noticed.

Toss the dice high: You miss 100% of the shots you do not take. Apply for opportunities that may seem out of reach, including jobs that don’t exactly match your training or experience.

Build your networks: Stand out and don’t be just another face in the crowd. Talk to people with jobs that you strive to have. Ask how they got there. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to successful people – they started just like you!

Risk Failure: Fail early and fail often in what you attempt to do, because in so doing you are learning valuable lessons and stretching yourself. Make time to pursue ideas that you feel passionate about.

Be a triple threat: The more talents and technical capabilities you can master, the more marketable you become. You never know what will be in demand as your career progresses.

Position yourself at the center of the action: Opportunities rarely knock, and you alone know your address. You have to go find them.

Notice when your learning curve flattens out: Recognize when it’s time to try a new challenge. Exit on your own terms with your head held high and your integrity intact.

Q. and A. with scientists at NCAR:

  1. What do you think is the most important characteristic for a person to be a good scientist?

A very healthy dose of skepticism. Because it’s published, that doesn’t mean it’s correct – be critical. Some of the most amazing discoveries disproved commonly accepted theories.

  1. What non-science education would you recommend in order to have a successful career?

Science is increasingly a people-oriented, collaborative process, and interpersonal skills and teamwork are crucial to being successful. Educate yourself on emotional intelligence. Avoid being a victim of your reactive brain – don’t get hijacked by your amygdala.

  1. How do I chose what to work on?

Pick the person you would like to work with and the topic will follow. There is no shortage of fascinating topics in science. Become an apprentice to a person that inspires you, who leaves you awe-struck by what they are doing.

  1. What is the thing you wish you knew most before embarking on a career in science?

Science is a passport to the world. Science reaches beyond political boundaries. Working in science means being exposed to international culture and becoming a citizen of the world.