After reading an article written by Nathaniel Koloc for the Harvard Business Review (1) about being successful, I took a step back to think about my own road to success.  Was it as easy as many movies had lent me to believe it would be (Hello, Legally Blonde!); or was it a windy road full of obstacles that led me to become the person I am today?

Of course, it was a no brainer. I was a “windy-road” sort of girl. The road to success is never easy, but it is nonetheless very meaningful.

So what are the keys to success? Nathaniel provided quite a bit of advice on the topic in his own article (1), so I will just add a few of my own which I think we should all think about:

Be goal-oriented. Most of us have no idea what we would want to do for the rest of our lives. And that’s OK! I think this is most prevalent in women finishing with their PhDs in the biological sciences (of course, I am speaking from personal experience amongst me and my friends). Now that we have our PhDs, what do we do? Rather than thinking what do I do, think what CAN I do. Ladies (and gentlemen), you have gotten this far. You were driven, motivated and goal-oriented. And keeping those skills and using them in your new professional life can only help. So if you want to use your degree to, say, teach children about science, then research how you can get there.  Talk to other people in the area and network.

Talk to people. If you are interested in any sort of job, try to reach out to as many people as you can to learn more about it. For example, if you have always wanted to be a nurse, why not talk to the nurse at your doctor’s office about hers (or his) job?  If you are in the sciences, talk to more people at conferences. And don’t be nervous or scared.  The fact of the matter is that most other people are just as nervous or as scared as you.  Be outgoing, chat, and learn about what they do. At worst, they just won’t talk to you. At best, you have managed to get a new contact.

Network, network, network. They don’t have seminars on this for nothing, folks.  Networking is one of the most important tools we have in our job-search arsenal. Not only does it help you learn more about your prospective new job, but it also “adds a face to a name” when you are applying for jobs. Let’s say you talked to person X at a meeting. Months later, you send person X an email about this-that-or-another. The chances of you getting a response are much higher because this person will remember you.

Get started now. While it may seem like a daunting task, just simply doing a Google search or sending an email will not only bring you one step closer to getting the job you want, but it will also relieve some of the stress and concern with job searching. Why? Because you have started doing something. The worst that can happen? You don’t get a response. However, sending multiple emails will increase your chances of hearing back and learning more about your potential future career.

You can always change your job. The best advice I have ever received about careers was from my cousin, actually. As I was looking for jobs last year, he told me “Monica, do the job you want to do now. You can always change later.”  Even though that last sentence seemed so obvious, I never thought of it. And hearing it (and subsequently letting it sink in) was quite freeing. I can do the job I want to do right now.

Now, while that advice was what I needed to hear at the time, now, I realize that any job I have should be a stepping stone to the career that I want. Admittedly, I am not sure of what the career I want actually is at the moment. But I know that every job I have and every volunteer opportunity I take will help me to figure it out. And it will bring me one step closer to the career that will make me happy.


(1) Koloc, Nathaniel. Build a career worth having. Harvard Business Review.