Get the Skills!

All right, so I have to write another blog post. Now the problem that I am having isn’t necessarily writing the post. It is more along the lines of what I am going to write about. To be fair and honest, I do have a plan and there is some sort of method to my madness and the reality is I am working on pretty much three different styles of blogs at a time: research based, opinion based, and self-improvement based, as you have seen.

They all take their own respective difference in the amount of time to write as well, something I am sure Wajihah, and any other bloggers can relate to. I have a research based post already in the works looking at success rates of graduate students coming in a few weeks. I can assure you that I have a lot of opinions about science, how it is done and the overall academic community. But given the success of my last post, and my failure to elaborate on an important part, I wanted to do a “part-two” to the final section. You may have noticed I said at the very end “go and get the skills you need to be successful”. The reason I want to build on this concept is because it is not that easy and straight forward to do. And I had a few emails asking me about it too (which was kind of cool I must admit).

So, we all have goals as scientists (or in my case, now a banker and an artist). That goal can be something simple like I had when I first started research a few years back (my goal was to get a first author publication before I completed my first degree which) and it can range to graduating top of your class. It doesn’t really matter cause the next step is the same: Look at someone who has done it before. If no one has done it before, then look at someone who has come very close. Now the point of doing this in my opinion is not to mimic them. No one has the golden egg of getting somewhere. Essentially, you need to make your own path by using someone else’s as guidance; this is what a scientific hypothesis kind of is if you really think about it.

Plan it, map it out, prepare for it and then start implementing it.

Now along this path you will most likely need to do a few different things. One of which is either networking or speaking to individuals (check out Wajihah’s recent Networking post if you haven’t already). Most universities will create networking events, which have a varying degree of success in my opinion, to meet people. What is kind of cool and a newer phenomenon is students are starting to create/plan networking events and opportunities without the administration’s involvement. While some may argue this is a bad thing, I personally think it is a great idea since the students will be able to get exactly what they want out of it by setting it up exactly what they need to gain from it. I have another article soon which will talk about taking initiative to create change for the next generation of students in the coming weeks (shameless self-plug, check).

The other important part is the beautiful (but annoying and frustrating) cold call. For those of you that don’t know, a cold call is when you contact someone out of the blue for a particular reason. It is typically associated with selling something, but the concept is the same. In this, you may be cold calling someone to get their opinion, expertise or even a job from them, and one of two things will happen: they will call you back, or they won’t.

Over my experience in the past few years every person can be divided into two groups in this case, with respect to cold calls. Extremely busy people will call you back even if it is to say the exact opposite of what you were hoping to hear. Busy people who will ignore you because “they don’t have time for you”. In my opinion, the latter people, aren’t worth your time. These people will make you feel like nothing, like you failed, and that everything you have done has been a waste of time – it hasn’t. These people are generally insecure about themselves and have an arrogance of being better then you in my opinion. You don’t need their help. You just have to ignore it, and remember how they treated you when they needed something from you. Trust me, it is a great feeling when someone asks you for something and they previously ignored you, and you point it out in a subtle way.

Now finally, the last part of the equation, in its simplest terms, is the self-education. I find in my experience most people who are academically trained forget how to find information outside of a text book or from some expert. Sadly, there isn’t really a ‘real-world’ problem solving course to take. Most universities offer some form of problem solving, but even then, these are calculated and not realistic of the real world (again, my opinon). If a shark is going to bite your head off, you don’t really have time to “assess all your options ”. Start finding solutions to your goals outside of an academic setting.

There is an entire wealth of people, companies, and information on the internet that will provide you with an alternative way of looking at things. And uniquely enough, make you a little more marketable to your goal because you went outside of the box. In my experience, and this can have been seen as a negative, but it is my opinion in my blog post, those outside of an academic setting were always more willing to help me then those within. I never had anyone from my career or my design firms ever tell me they were too busy, whether they knew me or not.

I am going to keep building on this ‘self-improvement’ concept I think. While I don’t have all the answers, I do know what has worked for me and I guess I want to share that more than anything to my current/former/future peers. Everyone has a very unique story to how they ended up where they are, and the cool thing is instead of critiquing everyone on it, if we learned from each other we could get to our final goals more efficiently. This ranges from a first-year science major to an established professor trying to get a grant. Feel free to comment or drop me a line on about what you do to meet your goals. If I get enough I will even assemble a post for all the readers out there.

Till next time!

-Matthew S. Lytwyn
e: re-spect.science@lytwynstudios.ca

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