Secrets to success in your early career, straight from the horse’s mouth…

As a researcher and mentor for the past decade, there are some tricks and tips that I wish I knew to jump start my career and to set me apart from my peers. Here’s what I have learnt. Hope these little tips are helpful for your early success too.

  1. Travel: Get away from your work/ study bench every now and then. Meet people over coffee. Participate in departmental seminars, conferences. Nothing can beat the sense of achievement that you get when an abstract to present in a conference gets accepted. Be prepared when you are traveling. Dress up– It’ll make it much easier for you to strike up conversations with people. Arrive early, so that you can be confident with the setting before people arrive.
  2. Speak up: Are you the one to sit back quietly? You may be missing out on opportunities. Engage in conversations when you go for a meeting, a talk or a conference. Do not sulk in a corner or be a silent spectator. You are likely to make effective contacts and network when you speak your mind loud and often. When you are in a conversation with someone, asking questions shows you are interested in them and their work. Listen closely and ask relevant questions. Listen before you speak. Open ended questions lead to a conversation, starting with how? What?
  3. Read and Write: Reading and writing maybe a part of the schooling process, but for some people it’s their profession. It opens multiple paths for alternate career options. Our writing skills are very important for simple things like writing emails, texts, connecting to people, writing a resume and more lucrative like pitching ideas for money, so start writing now. Get into the habit of proofreading everything that you write. Reading improves writing skills, gives you new vocabulary, so read!
  4. Socialize: In this world, it’s very important to network/ socialize with people. New survey reveals that 85% of jobs are filled via networking. So start early and build contacts. Start by getting on email lists, subscriptions, and going to a few events. Keep in touch with people who you meet at conferences/talks/networking events. Send out a note with a request to connect with people. Acknowledge when people connect with you. Your connections can give you a wealth of knowledge about new career options, what skills should you possess for your dream career options. Even new career options that you never knew existed.
  5. Online presence: Search for your name and see what are the results that show up.  At least one of the top five search results for your name should relate to your professional interests. Use your social media profiles to demonstrate your strengths. Your unique interests can be a strong complement to your professional credentials.If a search results shows up different people than you, look for ways to differentiate yourself.Even if you are not on the job market, keep your social media updated with your current job title and interests. You never know who’s looking.Today, these profiles are an extension of your resume and should be used to help – not hurt – your chances of landing the next golden opportunity.
  6. Find a Mentor: People have done the same things you are doing. They have been in your shoes. Never be afraid to ask a dumb question. Finding a mentor is a great way to give your career a boost. A mentor can guide you along your career path, remind you about achievable goals, gives you advice on how to get there, be a wall for bouncing ideas, and finally a person who is right there in case of doubt
  7. Collaborate: Don’t be the lone wolf. Do not try to re-invent the wheel. Collaborating with people can help get results faster and more efficiently. Collaboration gives you access to the other partner’s contact and network, which are now your contacts. Everyone benefits from a collaboration and each person brings in their own expertise. This is the best place to shine with you own expertise
  8. Transferable skills: Hone your transferable skills and flaunt them. Considering everyone has the same curriculum at school, flaunting these skills that you already have, will give you an edge over your peers. All of us have these skills, but we usually don’t put them forward as skills. As a student all of you have worked in team (team player), managed time to get all the assignments done to go out with friends (time management), figured out how to go from one place to another (problem solving), made a decision (decision making), and the list is endless. Recognize all these skills are use them for your applications.
  9. Name recognition and Social Branding: In the era of google and searchable engines, name recognition is a really important step to success in your career. Every internship, voluntary activity, and extra activity that you do counts, and makes you a bit closer to success. The best way to gain name recognition is to participate in events, volunteer, present. Believe it or not, if your name sounds familiar, then the hiring manager tends to spend an extra 30 secs on your application, then a complete stranger. There and then you gained an advantage of scrutiny of your application, and everything counts. Helps you get references, even recommendations.
  10. Have a plan: The most important of all the things is to know about all your options and then have a plan ready to reach your goal. And always have a back-up, just in case if your initial plan doesn’t work out.If you have a specific goal to reach, then it’s easier to use all available tool to reach there. It’s okay to explore your options and learn about all the possibilities, but the sooner you know exactly what you want, the sooner you achieve it.



Kirti Mittal is a Research Lab Manager at Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto. She is a Human geneticist by trade and an expert in large-scale data analysis and visualization. She has served as a chair to the post-doctoral advisory committee as a post-doctoral fellow, serving ~300 postdocs, creating and building career development opportunities. She is the coordinator for STEMPEERS in Canada and is actively involved in creating resources for PhDs career building and networking. She loves to interact with budding scientists, ranging from high school to PhDs and leverage research and relationships to design, promote and deliver skill-based learning. In her free hours, she like to enjoy the snow and ice in super cold Canadian winters.


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