A postdoctoral fellow in my lab recently got an outstanding tenure-track faculty position with a great startup package and hard salary. This is so exciting! But at the same time, I hear of trainees overcome with fear because they feel the road to a tenure-track position is simply too hard and competitive. This is worrisome because fear causes inaction and can really limit productivity and creativity. Science definitely takes courage, but there are lots of reasons for hope and optimism. Here are ten reasons you should take risks and go for it!
- You are very important. You are a creator and steward of humanity’s knowledge. Frankly, there is no higher calling. The fate of patients, the creation of effective public policies, the emergence of new industries and the fate of the planet depend on the knowledge you and your colleagues create. Few people are empowered to have the positive impact that scientists can have.
- To succeed, all you need to do is keep asking interesting questions and root out answers! You can do that!
- Fall in love with telling great stories. A great scientist is a great storyteller (non-fiction!) – what could be more fun than that! The world is full of great stories waiting to be uncovered and shared – be the first to tell an important story to the world.
- You are going to fail many, many times in many ways – and it’s OK.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. We are all working on different problems. Some are harder than others.
- Don’t worry about things you cannot control. Let go of whether or not you will publish a Nature paper and enjoy the process. The community is gradually embracing open source journals anyway (eLife, Cell Reports, Nature Communications etc.) – so we can all get back to thinking about the actual science.
- There are very effective ways to manage the risk of an experiment failing – the best is to have multiple irons in the fire. Do this and you will always be making some progress.
- Take everything as an opportunity for growth and development. Don’t take criticism personally – it is only a tool to improve your science, which is what matters.
- Allow yourself to become passionate about your work! Embrace the challenge. Imagine how big the impact could be. Become obsessed!! If you are passionate about what you are doing, you will succeed. It will happen naturally.
- It is a great job. We are so lucky to be able to do science. So many people spend their lives toiling away at repetitive, dull professions with little potential. You could be the first to discover something that changes the world. There are few jobs that compare. Don’t forget to be grateful.
Take pride in your work. Don’t sweat the small stuff. You can do it!!!