Reflections on FOM Young Scientist Day

Posted by on Dec 2, 2011 in Career, News | No Comments

I spent the day at the FOM Young Scientist Day which aims to give young physics researchers in the Netherlands the tools they need to manager their careers effectively, be they academic or otherwise. I ran a workshop on academic career development alongside Sylvie Roke which I’ll post details of later (probably in the next few days!).The day started with three very powerful presentations from people with different career paths – Dr Wim van Saarloos, Director Foundation at FOM; Professor Sylvie Roke, EPFL and Dr Joost van Mameron, Coordinator Institute of Physics at UvA. Their careers have taken very different routes, but the messages they gave to the room were consistent.- take control of your career. All of them had invested time and energy in broadening their skills. Whether it is learning to touch type, volunteering for committee or paying for coaching, they have all done interesting and different things which made them more employable and broadened their perspectives. Sylvie went even further – she invested financially by paying a career coach to help her maximise her potential. To hear somebody of her calibre talking about the value and impact of the coaching on her effectivess (I work fewer hours than my colleagues so I have to be more efficient) was a real wake-up call for the audience, some of whom (it transpired later) were still to be convinced of the value of skills & career planning). We had a discussion later about the value that we give to our personal development and it made me think about the difficulty engaging many people to think about these issues even (or perhaps because!) when expert advice is available for free.- other people matter. Every presenter talked about a time where they had been “lucky” but on closer inspection, this luck was about being made aware of an opportunity they hadn’t spotted, being encouraged to apply for something or been recommended by others. In other words they were so highly regarded by those around them that their networks were looking out for them, recommending them and nurturing them. I think that this is a measure of the positivity that the first point illustrates. By being personally committed, they show that they are worth the investment of others.- know what you want and enjoy it. Joost talked about his dilemma when choosing the path out of academia and the factors which influenced this choice. He balanced his desire for a certain kind of work against a desire to work abroad. All the speakers made a series of moves which took them towards a particular goal. These goals weren’t necessarily ultimate goals, just the next step in their development. Careers often make sense in retrospect and for all that I advocate the process of career planning, I also recognise that you can only see so far ahead and career choice is often a step into the unknown. The key is to keep thinking “Am I learning? Am I happy doing this? Are there other things out there?” and to make the move when you need to.All in all a really inspiring day and I’ve added a couple of great people to my network. I’ll be writing a post about my workshop when I get back to the UK, but right now I’m off to put my shoe by the chimney, put a carrot out for the horse and sing??Zie Ginds Komt de Stoomboot. (Careers musing with free cultural insights…)

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