Hey guys! We got a suggestion a while back to talk about how being in STEM has made us more confident so that's the topic for the week.
Having self confidence is easier for some people than others. Some people can walk in any room with any combination of people and be completely comfortable. Others of us take a while to warm up. Me personally, I'd like to think of myself as somewhere in the middle. I'm pretty good talking in front of people but at the same time, internally, I'm probably freaking out. Being in STEM has definitely helped out and I'll tel you why.
1. STEM forces you to present your research/work constantly. Whether it be in a meeting, at a conference, for your boss/advisor, you're talking science most of the time. This was super helpful for me because I'm always talking about the thing that I know the most about, that I've studied day in, day out, and that's MY work. You're typically the most confident with the things that you know the best. Even if you're learning something new, the more you talk about it, the more confident you are about it.
2. STEM forces you to network. Now this is true for all careers and with STEM you have to be able to sit across from people whose papers you're reading, people who've created this great technique that your work is trying to improve, advisors, company presidents, sometimes at the same conference and make yourself known. You have to make room for yourself at their tables and have the experiences and background that they expect you to have at the level you're at. It's basically like you're brain is in constant exam mode because you have to make your science applicable and attractive for everyone. Now this sounds scary, but try not to worry too much. You just have to take it in strides. Sometimes it's easier to tackle people one-on-one and sometimes it's easier to start a conversation about something non-STEM. Either way, I believe in you and think you're wonderful so if you see a grad program, internship, job you want, research the requirements and start by sending an email to the person you want to work for and work your way up to a business lunch.
3. STEM forces you to be critiqued all the time. This is the big one, I think. STEM careers are group efforts. You're collaborating with others, learning from others, teaching others all the time and with that, networking, and presenting, you get critiqued all the time. This isn't a bad thing because most of the time it's constructive, but you do learn very quickly that this is a part of the territory that you can't get rid of. Being able to take and give criticism is an important part of growth. You can't let them see you sweat. You have to walk in that room, convey the info you came to convey, and accept (to a degree) and learn from the critiques you get. It'll only make you a better #MacScientist .
So for all my less confident #MacScientists out there, trust me it gets better. STEM is a field where you're constantly learning and there's always going to be something you know better than someone else. Own that! Be confident in what you know and even more confident with what you're going to learn.
Note: The picture I used for this week is from my department graduation at Pitt with my old advisor, Dr. Tara Meyer. If she didn't push my thinking, my research, my presentation skills and believe in me like she did, I definitely would not be doing well in grad school now. Make sure to listen to your mentors! They know what they're talking about.