Career Tips from ARVO Advance

Just finished up ARVO Advance, a fantastic two-day research career development conference. My Tweets on the conference are #ARVOAdvance. Honored to have presented in this conference on the importance of self-advocacy.

Some tips include:

  1. Think of running your lab from a start-up business perspective.
    1. What is your pitch? Competitive advantage? Strategy? Write it down. The strategy is going to be putting out papers as this will enable more grants which will then enable more papers
    2. Create a pipeline for generating papers
    3. Create a calendar for milestones
    4. Is what you’re doing disruptive? Changing the status quo? What is the unmet need?
    5. First hire should be someone who has a wide skill set: good at benchwork, writing, adaptable
    6. Define the lab culture. What kind of environment are you creating?
    7. Consultants in business = mentors in research
    8. Partner with other labs to expand and “build your product”
    9. Regularly meet with your “chairperson” aka director of your institute or head of school to update them on what you are up to
    10. Use Arial size 11 for all your writing as this is the required font for NIH grants
    11. Take some grant writing workshops and get some templates from them
    12. What is your “burn rate”? You got the grant money, now you need to spend it! Get data, not equipment. If you can pay someone else to bring data it, do so.
    13. Hierarchy of importance: papers, grants, posters, lectures
    14. Write live = as you go! Create a google doc or Dropbox file where you can import figures and write up figures legends or methods as you go. Use templates to streamline the process that everyone can access and edit in Dropbox
  2. Managing a research team
    1. Choose a goal for your lab (something that you want to achieve in 5 years), break it down into smaller steps. Periodically revisit and revise these goals
    2. Encourage lab members to complete courses e.g. ARVO SciCommTF, local writing workshops and apply for prizes and awards
    3. Use a Gantt chart for project management to visualise progress
    4. Give timely feedback to lab members
    5. Ensure that everyone feels valued, that their ideas matter and contribute to triggering new ideas
    6. Maintain ethical standards with data sharing and collection
    7. Strategize goals, align expectations and motivate
    8. Create a lab manual detailing the onboarding process for new lab members, training protocols, expectations for grading undergrads, mental health resources, policies for authorship, research meetings, all lab members names/emails, projects, how to set up your lab book, Friday afternoon cake and coffee (Swedish fika concept)
    9. When hiring, have a 3-6 month probation period.
    10. Actively listen with your eyes and ears to your lab members to understand how they are feeling, schedule time to get to know them
    11. Motivate lab members towards the solution but don’t tell them what you think the soultion should be, but rather guide them to help them build the confidence and foster independence
    12. More tips by Wellcome here
  3. Mentoring
    1. Build a system to remember all the people you meet and all your mentors
    2. Be proactive in maintaining your mentor relationships
    3. Build a nurturing network
    4. Mix of peer mentors and more senior mentors
  4. Advocacy
    1. Joseph Campbell: advocacy is a deeply embedded sense of purpose
    2. Remember WHY and WHO you are doing the research for
    3. Who inspired us? Who did you choose this career?
    4. Interact with the public and listen to what they have to say
    5. Help to eliminate disinformation, earn trust in science back
    6. What will your impact be? How can you make your impact?
    7. Address healthcare disparities
    8. Consider our own implicit biases
    9. Build a team with intention of diversity. Higlight women and underrepresented minorities (URM)
    10. Use social media to amplify the voices of women and URM
  5. Build your innovation capital
    1. Disrupt yourself, reinvent yourself
    2. Build your own personal moat
    3. Dent from the outside: Learn new skills and incorporate these into your core skill sets
    4. Innovation is nothing about success, it’s about increasing your chances of getting lucky i.e. building your innovation capital
    5. Share openly and execute relentlessly
    6. The more you give to the world, the more you get back
    7. Persuade by showing not telling
    8. Develop these skills: imagination, creativity, empathy, intuition, communication, improvisation, emotional intelligence

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