Professional Networking and Re-evaluating Your Definition of Success, with Dr. Christine Ponder – Ep #16

Do you ever find yourself so caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of your research that you don’t know how to take advantage of professional networking opportunities? When was the last time you ventured out of your daily work routine and explored new professional development opportunities that piqued your interest? On this episode of When Science Speaks, you’ll hear from Dr. Christine Ponder as she touches on the need for professional networking and evaluating your definition of success.

Dr. Ponder is the Director for Postdoctoral Affairs at the Washington Square campus of New York University (NYU). She established the program in 2011 and has since been part of two large projects in postdoc career development, the NYU Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) is funded by a Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to expand career preparation and outcomes for biomedical postdocs, and the NYC Advancing Computer Science Careers through Enhanced Networking and Training (ASCENT) program funded by the Computing Community Consortium, to do the same for Computer Science postdocs. Christine has a PhD in Genetics and Development from Columbia University and was a postdoc at Rockefeller University before joining NYU.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

  • [1:10] Mark introduces his guest, Dr. Christine Ponder.
  • [4:00] What does success look like for postdoc researchers?
  • [7:00] Why informational interviews are so valuable.
  • [9:15] Get out of your venue of research and network.
  • [13:00] Dr. Ponder talks about her office’s efforts focusing on communication and policy.
  • [16:00] How have postdoc researchers’ interests changed over the years?
  • [20:00] The difference between political and partisan involvement.
  • [22:40] Mark and Dr. Ponder talk about their professional goals for 2019.
  • [25:45] Closing thoughts from Mark and Dr. Ponder.

Connect with Dr. Christine Ponder

Get out of your venue of research and network

Everyone gets enveloped in their work from time to time, but you can unnecessarily stunt your career growth by missing out on professional networking opportunities. It is a good idea to put a plan in place or even mark a date on the calendar to remind yourself about the world outside of your research venue. Unfortunately, the best candidates for particular positions don’t always get the traction they deserve; you’ve got to be willing to make the professional connections necessary to advance your career.

Dr. Ponder says that professional networking played a large role in her ability to rethink and reevaluate her goals and career trajectory. When you network, you don’t always have to have career advancement in mind. You can use networking opportunities to broaden your horizons and connect with peers you usually wouldn’t get the chance to associate with. What do you have to lose? Consider prioritizing professional networking as you set your goals for 2019.

Reevaluating your definition of success

As the new year progresses, many professionals are taking the time to reevaluate their definition of success. Do you have a definition of success in mind? Has it changed at all over the years or is it mostly the same? The need to reevaluate your definition of success will also arise once you reach the mark you’ve set. Once you’ve achieved your goal you don’t have to stop there. It is a good idea to keep pressing forward and to challenge your abilities and your capacity.

For a long time, Dr. Ponder’s definition of professional success was tied to securing a position in academia. Even though she entered her graduate degree studies with a goal of going back into the private sector, Dr. Ponder found her scope limited to academic work. Many PhD students find themselves tied to this idea that success can only mean advancing their career in an academic setting. Dr. Ponder’s experience highlights the need for students and other professionals to take the time to reevaluate their definition of success periodically as they progress in their career.

Connect With Mark and When Science Speaks

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