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Don’t underestimate the power of effective communication. Connect more. Broaden your perspective. Sharpen your soft skills. And make sure to carry the torch forward.

I was 18 years old when I moved to the U.S., a country I had never been to before, for college. I barely knew anyone. Everyone I loved was on the other side of the globe. I did not know what to do or what to expect.

Throughout the next 17 years, I had to carve my own path multiple times. Surviving living abroad, thriving in my studies first as an undergraduate studying Biomedical Computation and then as a PhD student in Neurobiology, following a career path in Science and Research, and finally transforming that career into a more flexible and family-friendly one as I became a mother were some of the things I had to figure out by myself. Of course, I have made some mistakes and sacrifices along the way, but I also had lots of fun and learned a lot.

My journey is ongoing, but looking back, here are five pieces of professional advice I would give to my younger self:

  1. Be a good communicator. This is true for any relationship, but is especially important if you want to increase the impact of your work. Don’t just dig deep in knowledge without thinking about what your work means for others. Engage more with the general audience.
  2. Widen your network. Connect with people who share similar interests and/or professional goals as you. Find a mentor and a role model. It is through your network that you learn the most about opportunities.
  3. Broaden your perspective and explore new avenues. Don’t just focus on your project. Take advantage of classes, training programs, and internships that are outside of your immediate topic of interest. Don’t limit yourself with what you already know. Increase your value.
  4. Sharpen your soft skills. A good presenter will always attract more attention to their work. Work on your teamwork and leadership skills among others. Soft skills are just as important as the hard ones.
  5. When it is time, pass the torch. You wouldn’t be where you are if it wasn’t for the ones who believed in you. Be that person for others. Teach. Mentor. Be an advocate for women in STEM. We can only rise higher if we support one another.

Written by

Neuroscientist. Science Writer & Communicator. Passionately Curious Human. http://www.burcinikiz.com

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