They say raising kids takes a village, and in many aspects, the same can be said for “growing up” in a professional setting. In the majority of practices, clinic chemists are far and few between, often single scientists in a large medical institution or practice group, maybe even the entire city or state. So who do you turn to when you’re the only one?
Early career networking can help solve this problem. One common pathway towards becoming a clinical chemist is participation in a ComACC fellowship program. Each year, there is a built-in “village” of other fellows from your cohort, and networking with these early career individuals can quickly become very rewarding. This group feels your pain and your celebrations, they are in a similar environment, a similar mindset, and can help break down some of the isolating barriers that can often be presented when you’re new and lacking practical experience. As you grow in your career, these connections will grow as well, and can become appreciated colleagues and friends.
The AACC has a subgroup designed to facilitate this interaction: The Society for Young Clinical Laboratorians (SYCL)1. This group specifically focuses on early career individuals, and provides tailored educational resources relevant to that crowd, such as leadership and mentoring. SYCL provides live meetings, podcasts, travel awards and many other avenues toward building your career, and participation can offer a springboard into future leadership opportunities. Additionally, the Fellow Fellows Organization is an informal gathering of current and recently completed graduates, and was specifically formed to encourage early career networking during fellowship years. These direct methods of interaction exposes you to a group of people you can rely on, and form a larger neural network that can help solve problems quicker, and more effectively than you ever could alone.
Volunteering within your society can also be a valuable experience toward networking2. At annual meetings, there are often volunteering opportunities on-site that can introduce you to a large group of people, and should be encouraged while in fellowship. Even attending these conferences, nationally and locally, can help build that network by face-to-face interaction. There are also many opportunities once your career launches, by participating in committees within the AACC, and beyond within your particular medical expertise.
One crucial point to networking, no matter how you get there, is to be sure you are making valuable, lasting connections. It’s not the number of contacts you have, but often the depth of those interactions that can matter most3. In the age of social media, it is easy to have a large network, but equally important is the strength of those connections, so be sure it’s a reciprocal relationship. Offer the same support to your peers, and future groups coming up that you were afforded. After all, once you’ve built your village, you’ll want to keep it populated!
1. McCudden CR, Cervinski, MA, Grenache DG, Haymond S, Korpi-Steiner N, Molinaro R, Saenger A. The SYCL toolkit: Creating a program with a professional organization for young scientists. Clin Chem 2013; 59(9): 1416-1417.
2. El-Khoury JM. Networking and the career opportunities it affords in clinical chemistry. JALM, 2017. 2(2): 284-285.
3. Pain E. American Association for the Advancement of Science. How to network effectively. http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2015/10/how-network-effectively (Accessed March 2018).