This morning The Pub Club had the opportunity to have breakfast with today’s Monday PRL/PLB seminar speaker, John McDowell. We discussed many topics while we munched on our bagels and fruit and drank lots of coffee (Daylight Savings time is so much fun!), including how to obtain management experience for running your own lab, John’s philosophy on post docs taking research with them, how he maintains his excitement in a world of rejection and more. A lot of the conversation centered around how to distinguish ourselves in the job market. What were some of John’s top tips?
- Collaboration – engaging in collaborations shows you have the ability to work as a part of a team. It is also a great networking tool. While meeting and talking to people at conferences is a good way of identifying potential collaborators, John advised us to take advantage of our local peers. Talk science with your friends, do some preliminary work and then see how your professors respond when you come to them with several figures and/or a manuscript outline. While it might seem like a waste of time or not “real” work, many science talks start with “we were just talking about this in the hall way one day and…” You never know where a seemingly casual conversation with a fellow scientist may lead in terms of discovery. Of course we can’t spend all day standing around gabbing, but taking advantage of opportunities with both our local science peers and guests like John may result in a breaking discovery that would never have occurred otherwise.
- Verbal Communication – as we have heard from many others, being able to engage people in conversation is a critical aspect of succeeding in a job interview. Beyond your formal seminar talk, you will be sitting down with many people in one-on-one meetings. Your ability to communicate in these types of scenarios gives them a sense of what type of potential colleague you will be. Do you know anything about their department or their individual research? Do you have thoughtful questions for them about their research or ideas for how you might potentially collaborate if you were to join their “team”? The best way to pull this off naturally is to practice, practice, practice your communication skills now!
- Written Communication – John is the editor-in-chief for the Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions (MPMI) journal and asked us about our approaches to writing manuscripts. We discussed various methods, and John reinforced how the “story” aspect is critical. This is another area where taking advantage of opportunities to share your science can help you best frame and “sell” your story. Keeping up with what is new in science beyond the narrow scope of our own research will help us highlight the relevance and key contributions our work adds to the body of scientific knowledge. This can be difficult for us “younger” scientists, but can be developed through reading and discussing a broad body of literature and science news.
One of our primary objectives at The Pub Club is to provide an informal environment for you to meet and engage in scientific discussion with your peers and professors. As John shared with us this morning, taking advantage of this weekly opportunity can help you hone both your written and verbal communication skills and potentially help you form collaborations for new projects or perhaps complete current work. So, thanks to John for taking his time to come share his perspective on how we can better prepare ourselves for the next phase in each of our careers.