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Pearls For Career Success: If I Only Knew What I Know Now

By Currents Editor posted 02-14-2023 21:50


By Paola Martinez, MD; Diana Alsbrook, MD; Stefanie Cappucci, MD; Shweta Goswami, MD; Eunice Lee, MD; Naomi Niznick, MD; Fajun Wang, MD; Rachel Beekman, MD

The NCS Trainee Section has launched the second year of the Professional and Career Development Workshops Series. This interactive webinar series provides trainees and early career faculty with tools for career planning and is a unique opportunity for networking, collaboration, and resource sharing. 

During the first session in September - “If I only knew what I know now” –  we had the opportunity to learn from three leaders in the field about their professional development journeys: Dr. Aarti Sarwal, Dr. Shraddha Mainali, and Dr. David Hwang. They each shared their challenges, successes, and pearls they wish they had known when starting their careers. Whether you are job hunting or starting your career, this session provided valuable tools to help navigate challenges and foster success. 

Here are ten pearls of wisdom shared: 

1.   Find your community. Seek allies even in an environment where you don’t feel supported. Find collaborators you can trust and rely on. One advantage of professional societies is to find people who want to encourage and mentor you. On the other hand, it is as important to pay it forward to your community when you have the chance. – Dr. Mainali

2.     You are your best advocate and you are not on your own. There are many resources out there to help, such as leadership courses, books, video series and podcasts. Life is not always fair, but you have the choice to accept that and make the best of what you have. It is your choice. – Dr. Sarwal

3.     When finding a research mentor, one valuable resource is the NIH Reporter website where you can see all researchers’ NIH grants. It might help you figure out who you would like to approach. It is also a good place to visit beforehand to have a more efficient meeting. – Dr. Hwang

4.     Know that Imposter Syndrome – the feeling where we are constantly doubting ourselves in our talents and accomplishments –  is just a feeling. It can affect our work and may breed anxiety and depression. It is common. It is just a mindset that can be changed, and knowing this will be a good place to start seeing yourself in a positive way. – Dr. Mainali 

5.     Own your journey. We are in an environment where we will always be dependent on others. Medicine is a team sport and there is enough to go around. Promote your colleagues and give them space to grow. Don’t compare yourself to others, be proud of who you are. – Dr. Sarwal

6.     “Percent effort” is not well defined in critical care and it may take many forms. When navigating details of your first job, understand the concept of percent effort specific to the employer. Specifically, what are the baseline work expectations and how will your time be managed? Ask questions such as: how does the department adjust when you go above your FTE, how does the department value various efforts (research, committee, administrative, etc.)?  – Dr. Hwang

7.     Instead of trying to find work life balance, focus on organizing your life. Prioritize what is important in your life. Try to outsource things that do not advance you as a person so that you can focus on your life mission and career goals. – Dr. Mainali

8.     For building a research career, think long term on how to best position yourself and how you’re going to be a team leader. The most successful researchers build a team and master the transition from first author to senior author. – Dr. Hwang

9.     It is okay to grow horizontally. You do not have to be checking boxes at every stage of your life, you can just let it run its course. Sometimes you won’t know until you try, and life will give you the answer that you did not know you were looking for. At some point you must be honest with yourself and focus on growing vertically. – Dr. Sarwal

10.  If you find yourself at a convention and you feel like you don’t know anyone, know that it will change. With time, you start to know people, and meetings become fun and a great way to network. Just get out there. – Dr. Hwang

These valuable pearls of wisdom are generalizable and applicable to a variety of practitioners from physicians, advanced practice providers, pharmacists, and nurses. We hope you take advantage of these phenomenal opportunities to continue learning from our speakers and building your community in Neurocritical Care. You can find the recordings for this session and all previous sessions on the NCS Trainee Webinar Series section of the NCS website.


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