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URMC / Education / Graduate Education / URBest Blog / October 2017 / URBEST 2017 Retreat Recap

URBEST 2017 Retreat Recap

News Article by Emma Grygotis, Ph.D. Candidate in Pharmacology

URBEST Round Tables

As scientists-in-training, we’re comfortable with the notion that answering one question is liable to bring up three new ones. Uncertainty is an essential component of the scientific process, one that most scientists happily embrace, but it’s far harder to accept the reality of uncertainty when it comes to our lives and careers.

Except we don’t typically call it “uncertainty.” Instead, we’re far more likely to use the term “anxiety. “

How can I use my limited time here at the University of Rochester to prepare myself for a fulfilling career? What does my dream job even look like? How can I possibly devote time to learning about career options when I already have so much work to do?

All of these questions were on my mind going into this year’s UR BEST retreat, as they have been almost every day of graduate school. Anxious doesn’t even begin to cover it.

But one of the first things we discussed was that asking questions that lead to more questions might just be a handy strategy for navigating those tricky career hurdles, including two of the most terrifying – negotiating with employers, and networking. Randy Ribaudo, of SciPhD, leading his opening workshop on “The Art of Negotiation,” suggested a simple technique.

When you are first asked a question, don’t answer right away. Instead, pause. The time it takes to eat an M&M. Then, instead of answering, ask your own question. Then ask another. And another.

We first discussed this as a strategy to de-fuse tension in stressful negotiations. But, as Randy pointed out, practice makes perfect, and the M&M method strikes me as an excellent way to approach career development in general. Then we had the rest of the day to put this into practice. The afternoon was set aside for short talks by guest speakers whose careers spanned a wide range, from writing and communication to nursing and the pharmaceutical industry. But we also had the opportunity to ask questions of our peers, fellow graduate students and post-docs, and to ask questions of ourselves as each of us looked for ways to apply what we’d learned to our own lives and careers.   

In response, I got a few answers.

I learned from our guest speakers that their career paths, neat and polished on paper, were in fact convoluted and challenging. I learned that striving to innovate even when assigned to the world’s most thankless task can open unexpected opportunities, and that creative side projects really can lead to new and exciting job prospects.

I learned from my fellow trainees that none of us have the answers that all of us are seeking, and that perhaps uncertainty is just as essential to the career search as it is to science.

I even learned something from the therapy dogs that came to visit during our afternoon break – that everyone gets a little anxious on their first day of work.  

In all, it was a wonderful day. Every one of the speakers who shared their career stories through short talks and group discussions demonstrated in unique ways how they had identified the aspect of science that they loved most, and were able to turn that into a career. Every one of the participants reminded me of how lucky I am to be pursuing my PhD surrounded by such an inspiring, supportive network. It can be so incredibly difficult to carve out the time and space to invest in career development, and I’m incredibly grateful to Tracey Baas and the entire URBEST community for providing such a wonderful opportunity to do so.

Tracey Baas would like to thank all the people that volunteered at the 2017 URBET Retreat and Career Workshop to make the speakers’ visit to University of Rochester so smooth running and enjoyable. We couldn’t have done it without you: Elissa Wong, Xi Cen, Brianna Shares, Chutikarn Chaimayo, Elissa Flores, Elizabeth Saionz, Emma Grygotis, Eric Vaughn, Harsha Swamy, Hong Zhu, Katrina Jew, Laura Shum, Rebecca Lowery, Sarah Latchney, Sreyoshi Sur, Vamsi Kovelakuntla, Viktoriya Anokhina, Vanessa Fan, Olivia Marola, Kari Brick, Raven Osborn, Brenda Knorr,and  Jenn Brennan

Tracey Baas | 10/16/2017

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