These are challenging times but people in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are helping the world find solutions. Many minority professionals in STEM are in different life cycles, and their careers have various peaks and valleys. Most will tell you their journey is one of hard work, resilience, and perhaps a few missteps along the way. At the 2020 BEYA STEM Conference, STEM professionals spoke about the key lessons they learned. Their nuggets of wisdom help students across STEM fields.
When you graduate from college, you will have the education, and you will have a job. Often students don’t vocalize concerns, thoughts, and struggle. They suffer silently and don’t vocalize what is optimal for them, or that something is wrong. In the workforce, you will definitely need someone to help you navigate the best practices.
Mentors will help you do that. They will be there to help you with life experiences for which you are not prepared or might not have considered as a young professional. And, there are some situations that school cannot prepare you for. Mentors will help guide you in complicated situations. Most will be more than happy to help you out. And they can help grow your professional network, which is always helpful as you continue your career.
Collaboration is critical to success, and it will play a large part in your professional experience. Respect everyone’s expertise and realize that everyone has something to contribute. If you have a good team, you can solve more than the sum of your separate parts. There’s a satisfaction in knowing that, as a team, you produced something together that no one person could produce. Understand who your team is, and learn to trust them. Discover what it means to work effectively with them. Get to know the people around you. Lead from the front, and bring everybody forward together, collectively.
Know that your skillset makes a difference. What you do and what you know is necessary to solve a problem. You are a productive member who can help get a job done. Value who you are and what you can do and others will, too.
Be curious. Explore. Take things apart. Ask questions. Expose circuits. Find out how things work. Learn something new and resolve problems that have never been solved before. Don’t be afraid of being wrong. Embrace the unknown and embrace change. All of your experiences will help lead to new growth. Stretching yourself out of your comfort zone and expanding your boundaries promotes growth and development.
Practice self-reflection. Identify yourself as the head of your ship. You have all authority regarding your decisions and direction. You are the CEO of your life’s manifestations. Discover your blind spots. There are areas in which you will excel, and there are others that will need some work. The latter areas are called “opportunities.” Learn what they are and how to recognize them.
Others, like mentors, can help show you how you operate and help you understand where those areas are. Find a mentor.