Part of the Self-Reflection; series by and for early-career researchers
We all are different. We all like different things. We all think, behave and react differently. Therefore to suggest a list, to actions to follow with the aim to develop a niche and instruct how to be noticed in a specific field, is not an easy task.
However, as a first step, I humbly think there are several important considerations, taking into account the experience of several colleagues I know, and my own:
You should choose a career pathway you love. It can be academic or non-academic related. It does not have to be a “traditional” scientific path. The most important aspect is that you love what you do. It does not matter you are introverted, extroverted, shy, talkative, etc., if your career is about what you are passionate doing, you will thrive on it.
You should follow this path whereas you can demonstrate your creativity. You should look for new paradigms, new ways to do what everybody else is doing. It is so great to be around creative people!
We all love people who can think outside the box!
Here are some examples:
You can be an undergraduate teacher with revolutionary ideas about how to teach!
You can be a science writer using social media to access a broader audience and create interactive platforms!
And the most important aspect, I think, you should direct your attention to resolve problems. It is very important that your presence in your field has a meaning, more likely because you are the person who can do and teach specific techniques or answer specific questions with reliability, work ethic and integrity.
As a Self-reflection exercise, I can tell you about my experience. First of all, I am very fortunate to do what I love. There were certain times during early stages of my career when I did not. It is very normal. You have to experience failure, frustration, rejection and even change paths several times, in order to find your true interests and, when you discover them, you have to focus energy and eagerness to make them your life project.
For me, this was the key point to start to get noticed by people in my field. In the United States, I started to work on a recently rediscovered research topic, “the microbiome”. Our research team was very creative and once I came back to my home country, Mexico, I was already known as a specialized researcher on plant microbiomes. I have isolated interesting microorganisms, directly from important crops endosphere and tested several ways to use them, for a more sustainable agriculture. The last three years we have been focused on drought but we have many more problems to try to solve. This is my passion and my life project and I hope to become a mentor to many future scientists in this field and beyond.
In conclusion, we all have the potential to thrive in what we all do. The trick is to find what we love and be creative and resolve problems while we are doing it.