As I write this, I’m taking a break from teaching duties while at Cold Spring Harbor Labs in Long Island, NY. This place is breathtaking (and not just from the humidity)! It’s hardcore science mixed with art and nature. Two doors down from my imaging classroom is Jim Watson’s (co-discoverer of the structure of DNA) office. Out the window is a gorgeous view of the harbor and just beyond the building is an artist’s rendition of biology in action. It’s times like this that I love my work.
This is my second year assisting as an instructor for a summer course (invited out for a short week), and it suddenly occurs to me that I need to update my resume with my newly acquired professional experience. Even though I am happily settled in my job as a government scientist (no plans to start job hunting), it’s still important that I keep my resume and project accomplishments up to date. No matter if you’re a high-school student or a project manager, here are a few reasons for keeping current:
1. You need to submit a current resume for your scholarship/fellowship/grant application
2. The person writing your letter of recommendation needs content to work from
3. A promotion opportunity arises and you want to negotiate with a list of your accomplishments
4. To produce an annual review of your progress and contributions to your employer
I like to keep a “master” or “all-inclusive” document which includes (in a rather wordy form) all of the professional experiences/papers/presentations/projects that I’ve worked on. It isn’t a document I would distribute. Rather, it’s a handy file from which to hand-tailor and generate professional profiles.
I’ve only been at my current position for 4 months, but the government collects self-assessment reports from employees each June. I first saw assessment reports when I was working in the biotech industry (between the BS and the PhD) and found them infinitely useful. They were practically non-existent in academia. As a grad student, my only formal opportunities for feedback on my progress came during committee meetings. I had two: one at candidacy exams and another 6 months before I defended. Looking back, I wish I’d had more meetings, though they were nerve-wracking encounters and a pain to coordinate.
In an effort to introduce feedback in an academic setting, I started generating my own assessments and applied them to my mentees, the summer students who come to work with me in the lab. My version is a short questionnaire that is presented before the summer program starts with the understanding that it should be filled out at the end of the term. Plus, it’s stressed that a completed questionnaire is utilized as the base for writing the student a great letter of recommendation.
I’ve found it to be a great tool for all parties. Students carry a greater sense of responsibility for their work with questions like, “What are some of the skills you learned and how well do you think you learned them?” or “How would you describe your summer project?” I get great feedback on how I performed as a mentor, a feel for how well the student understands the science, and healthy fodder for writing those letters.
My next thought – writing postcards to home. Did I mention Cold Spring Harbor is beautiful?