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USAPECS Work-Life Panel Summary (from IGS @ La Jolla)

Work-life balance is something most scientists, researchers, and professionals struggle with. Some people even call it an oxymoron. USAPECS held a panel discussion on this topic at the International Glaciological Society symposium that recently took place in La Jolla, California. Panelists included Dave Sutherland, Doug MacAyeal, Fiamma Straneo, and Helene Seroussi.

The full notes from the event are available here, but we have pulled out some particular nuggets that the panelists shared with the group.

Q: How do you decide what you actually need to do?

A: Whether you know it or not, you actually have the power to pick-and-choose what you want to do (for the most part) … Say no to things that don’t interest you and will stretch you too thin.

Q: How do you figure out how to not work an insane number of hours per week?

A: Acknowledge that you’re not going to be perfect at everything.

A: Set boundaries and carve-out blocks of time for the most important things to you.

Q: Was it hard to find a job that you wanted?

A: If you want to have kids, staying in the same place for a few years can be easier on you, especially if you’re a woman, because you don’t have to prove that you’re a good scientist while your kids are really young and taxing.

Q: How do you know when you need to take a break?

A: If your advisor doesn’t support you taking breaks for mental health, you may want to reconsider who you’re working with.

Q: We’re in a culture of instant gratification. How do you deal with the pressure to get results in an unrealistic amount of time or even do something like answer emails immediately?

A: Don’t feel bad about how you allocate your time … make it clear what is expected of everyone and whether those expectations are realistic.

A: Try to work with people that you like, that you know do good science, and that you know will be helpful in advancing your research objectives and your career.

Q: How important is it to build relationships with people that will advocate for you and help you advance your career?

A: It’s incredibly helpful to talk to senior scientists at conferences and communicate with them in other ways.

A: Don’t be afraid to initiate conversations via email then follow them up with in-person exchanges at conferences … Make sure you don’t over-strategize because it probably won’t help to think through things so much.

The takeaways from the event were these:

  • Quality, not necessarily quantity.

  • Good science is the best strategy for success.

USAPECS would very much like to thank the panelists for their thoughtful comments, the IGS for letting us stage the panel, attendees for asking questions, and Ellyn Enderlin for organizing the event.

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