Professor Jim Smith delivered the keynote speech at the 2014 London Naturejobs Career Expo.
Like others that have excelled in their field, Smith’s career has the illusion of being planned from the start. He thinks otherwise. In his keynote speech Smith uses case studies from his own career to show that careers in science can be windy, unexpected and difficult to plan for.
He had six key take away points for everyone in the audience. Here’s a short summary, by Simon Hazelwood-Smith:
Learn how to write. Good communication skills are vital in science, particularly when trying to publish. Smith’s advice is to practice and read promiscuously to improve.
Take good notes. “You should record everything in your lab notes, I don’t think it is possible to record too much information,” says Smith. A good lab book will allow you to defend your work from scrutiny, and may highlight correlations in your data that would be otherwise lost.
Be your own biggest critic. “Never fool yourself,” says Smith, make sure you are completely confident that your data supports your conclusions.
Say yes. Smith says that his “Constitutive response to when something turns up is yes,” you never know when a good opportunity might present itself.
Create and use networks. Astute networking can also help young scientists find their passion. “You never know when a connection, however small, may have an influence later in your career.” Collaboration in science is important for building relationships with other scientists and networking will make this much easier.
Take control of your early career. Smith says successful scientists need three key attributes, FBI: Flexibility, Bravery and Imagination. They are often tied together earlier in one’s career and young scientists shouldn’t hesitate to take risks. “It is the easiest time in your life to move, and you will extend and diversify your knowledge and techniques,” Smith says.
Read more of Hazelwood-Smith’s summary of the keynote speech: How to build a career in the biomedical sciences.
Watch the other videos from the London 2014 Naturejobs Career Expo: