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Career tip: The cumulave effect of any edge May 30, 2010

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.

I was talking to someone this past week about how communications skills get you ahead in your career. What I talked of was gaining the skills to be a good writer and a good speaker. The sooner these are gained, the more advantage they are in making you stand apart from the crowd.

I have written about good communications skills many times before, but only because they are one of the huge differentiators. There are tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of young scientists. They are all energetic, enthusiastic, and bright. Being brilliant may be the most commonly perceived difference maker, but you have a very hard time learning skills to be truly creative and innovative.

Speaking and writing skills, however, are fairly easily gained. Good talks are received better. The science seems more well done. A reviewer likes a clear, well-written manuscript better than a poorly written one. The science seems better. Every good talk and every good paper build visibility, build a reputation.

If you develop this skill by the time you finish grad school (or even earlier for a fortunate few), you immediately start pulling away from the pack when you become an independent scientist. You gain note, notice builds an image, the image leads to opportunities. It is no random occurence when authors are asked to write review articles or book chapters or are specifically asked to be part of a topical session at a meeting. More of those ensue, along with being an invited speaker (This term is often used too loosely by young scientists to fluff up a CV. I mean here a seminar speaker or someone invited to speak at a meeting and who has expenses paid for in one or the other case.)

Et cetera, et cetera. Your CV grows and grows.

Too often building these talents are deferred, put off while the “real work” is done in the laboratory. That is instant gratification that has less long-term impact. You still will only have a limited response to your science if you cannot deliver its message well. Unless you have a really fantastic experimental result or groundbreaking theory or something truly extraordinary, your good science will sink a little if you write or speak about it and do that poorly.

Or someone writing or speaking better will get the attention you want.



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