Getting ahead

I’ve thought a lot about the best ways to stand out in my career and to get ahead in life.    I’m not perfect though and sometimes need to remind myself of this list! Always strive to be better but be ok with not being perfect.  These are things that I have learned work for me.


  • plan your days – if you have a busy day, planning is key.  My work varies so much because I’m running experiments, collaborating with other researchers, and writing grants, manuscripts, and review papers.  If I didn’t make a list of things I need to do everyday I’d likely forget something. Having a list gets you motivated to check off the most important tasks first and then deal with the less pressing items.  It’s the only thing that keeps me on track everyday.
  • Take every opportunity even if it scares youI will be presenting my research at two upcoming conferences in the next few months.  I’m pretty much used to it now because I’ve done it so many times. But each opportunity is a pathway towards growth.  You never know what will come out of learning new skills. Iit could be a new job or meeting new people. Then, don’t forget to add it to your CV or resume!
  • PracticeThis ties in with #2.  Practice, practice, practice!  I used to be so bad at scientific writing.  I remember in grad school how long it would take me to write even one paragraph and my advisor would rip it to shreds anyway.  But, after I wrote a few manuscripts, it got easier and I was able to switch to different fields of research and still use the same writing skills.  I’ve written book chapters, reviews, and grants now and I can write them pretty quickly compared to years ago.
  • Save money This is more life related than career related, but everyone should have the ability to save money instead of spending that disposable income.  I pack my lunch everyday to save from spending money buying lunch. My husband and I only eat out once a week max, and usually cook at home every night.  There are many ways to save money. You never know when you might need it for car repairs, home repairs, insurance costs, etc. Plus, if you ever lose your job, you should have money saved up as a cushion in case that happens.
  • Intern or shadow with people you admire This is great for people of any age.  No matter what stage you are at in your career, you still might be interested in switching careers or making a slight change in your career.  Before making the leap, the best option is to meet with people who you admire or who’s career you admire. You could intern for a few weeks/months or just have an informational conversation with them about how they got to where they are.  
  • NetworkI’m going to be honest, I am mostly an introvert, especially as I get older.  I do not like to network. Small talk makes me anxious and I find it exhausting mentally.  However, if you want to get ahead in your career, the best way to do it is to network and let people know who you are and what you are looking for.  I would suggest networking in a way that’s comfortable for you. I find it easier to have one-on-one or small group conversations as opposed to a giant networking event.  Do what works for you.
  • Avoid office gossipAvoid gossip at all costs.  Gossiping about others at work is the best way to make yourself look bad.  Focus on work. It’s ok to be friendly and ask co-workers about their lives but don’t allow yourself to talk about others behind their backs.
  • Know there is no set timelineI mentioned this in an earlier blog post.  Having an internal timeline is fine, and working towards a goal is great.  But, if you have a timeline because you are comparing yourself to others, this sets you up for failure.  No one ever has the same time line for accomplishing goals. Have faith you are doing your best and look for opportunities to be better.  But, don’t compare your place in life with someone else. You have no idea what they went through to get to where they are.
  • Put in the workIf you want to get ahead, then put in the work.  If you agree to do something, follow through and do it on time (or even better, early).  If you need help, ask for it.  I’ve agreed to do things that I’ve had no idea how to do.  I put in the work, calling old colleagues, searching the internet, reading scientific papers in order to learn what I didn’t know yet.
  • Create boundariesCreating boundaries is key for having less stress in your life.  I limit checking work emails on weekends and at night unless I have a deadline coming up or am waiting for a response from someone.  It’s all about balance. I will work on weekends if I am particularly busy like writing a grant or manuscript, but I try to keep it minimal so that I can focus on my home life.