Being resilient in STEM is a combination of being resilient in our personal and our professional lives. I recently did a workshop with a group of women STEM faculty and graduate students. When I asked them to define their dream, legacy and their challenges, some of them asked me to explain in more detail just what I meant. Were they supposed to discuss their personal or their professional lives. I let them know that for this portion of the workshop, it was whatever they wanted it to be. This was because later on in this professional development workshop – we would focus on the so-called work-related aspects of these same issues. The interesting thing was that they came up with a very interesting list of items ranging from completing their Ph.D. to managing graduate students, dealing with rejected grants and managing aspects of a family members estate. The purpose of exploring these issues together is that we start to understand that we all have “issues” in both the personal and the professional realms.
It’s like the storm that you may encounter on a flight traveling from one side of the country to the other. In the initial climb, there may be some “light chop” as the pilots often say. The flight may be smooth for about an hour and then you have turbulence or “choppy” air in the vicinity. Then it can be smooth for the remainder of the flight. The interesting thing is that all flights that are traveling from one side of the country to the other will experience the same sequence (especially if on the same flightpath) – perhaps at different times (or intervals) in the flight.
In the same manner, in the world of STEM professions, you will go through some “professional choppiness” – and you will NOT experience it at the same time in your career as another person. For example, if you are a faculty member and there is a major proposal that you have written – that has been declined. You should know: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!! Just like pilots rely on the various air traffic towers to inform them of upcoming “choppiness” you can seek out the assistance of those who have been in that position before. People both in and out of your network can provide a roadmap to success. You do not have to be “best buds” with those who can inform you of the way to handle different situations. The interesting thing is that we can not have complete control of the seeming randomness of proposal review panels, scholarship review committees or the decisions of colleagues to include you on a project or not. Just like we can not control the weather – we need to look at what we can handle and manage in these situations.
Connecting with wise (and even semi-wise) persons is critical for an expansion in the core knowledge of your profession. These individuals could be in the form of mentors, coaches or advocates that you know – or that you need to find. As you develop a portfolio of “wise advisors”, you will collectively ascertain just what aspects of your professional, personal or your personal/professional integration need to be worked on. A diversity of folks in your portfolio who have demonstrated resilience will empower you to do the same…..
RESILIENCE – can be natural and it can be a developed skill/behavior….
Stay STEM Resilient!!