In a recent talk to the Women on Track group, Dr. David Raiford, Chief of Clinical Staff for VUMC and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, offered some advice for cultivating your professional reputation. Women on Track is an organization that hosts seminars throughout the year to promote the retention and advancement of tenure-track women in medical science. Some of the key points are listed below:

  • Identify your talents and passions and make sure that your activities and your rewards (i.e. how you are recognized, compensated, promoted) are aligned with those interests. As an example, a junior faculty physician-scientist who is trying to develop a research career while being adept at treating disease X may be in high demand as a clinician. However, to be successful as an investigator, she needs to be careful that clinical duties don’t require more than 25% of her effort.
  • Actively engage your mentors and senior leaders in thinking of ways to serve or hold leadership roles (e.g. editorial positions, participate in organizing committees for scientific conferences). Ask your mentors, “Do you think I am qualified enough to be considered for participation in the organizing committee of meeting Z?” However, if the mentor does not feel that you are ready, then ask “What do you recommend that I do to help improve my qualifications?”
  • Promote your career, but do so with humility and a desire to further your own learning and provide service to the field. Think about and discuss opportunities in terms of the contributions you hope to make rather than the accomplishments you hope to put on your CV.
  • Be respectful of senior mentors’ time but not afraid to approach and ask for career-advancing opportunities. When approaching mentors, make sure that you are discussing opportunities at a convenient time (“Is this a good time to talk about X…”).
  • Utilize your mentor committee but don’t be timid about reaching beyond the committee to get advice.
  • Expand your professional network by reaching out to others at national meetings with similar interests. Pay attention to the leadership structure within your field (e.g. conference organizing committees) to look for opportunities to become more involved.
  • For promotion, do not assume that the committee will recognize the importance of your accomplishments, particularly if in a different field. Cover letters or letters of recommendation from senior faculty can be used to interpret items on your CV for the Promotion Committee members. For example, they can highlight how rare and highly valued a particular award, talk, or invitation is in your field.

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