Watch Words: Go Slow
Go slow was the theme of a recent visit by Janice L. Gabrilove, MD. She met with K-level faculty in small groups and gave a talk to over 60 mentors, early career faculty, and postdocs at dinner as the honored guest for Visiting Scholar’s Day.
Take the more deliberate route, even when others seem to be whizzing by, she said. Stay focused on your goals and get the training you need to accomplish them. The process is as important as the product.
Dr. Gabrilove highlighted how her own career had benefited from slowing down and persisting.
Rather than leaping for an Assistant Professorship at the same time as her peers, she followed a fellowship with an additional year of research training to continue build skills in the lab of Dr. Malcolm Moore. She attributes her discovery of new applications for human granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) in part to this extra training. Having time to parse unexpected findings from her work and that of others allowed for incubation of ideas that have revolutionized chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation. Depth of knowledge and growing a strong research team ultimately led to four patents.
She encouraged those who are still postdocs to take instructorships or non-tenure track positions if offered, rather than racing to start the tenure clock, creating more time for training and exploration. One scholar wrote she encouraged him to insist that his “career trajectory be dependent primarily on my own aspirations for my research, not just on the timeline and path laid out by mentors or peers.”
Dr. Gabrilove encouraged all to explore and to center careers on one’s passions. Scholars noted her best advice was to: “Align your job with your passion and your personality and you will excel in what you do,” and “love what you do. Each person has a different career path.”
A K08 recipient herself, her genuine enthusiasm for mentored research experiences filled the day. She encouraged those on mentored research awards to make the most of the time by learning and exploring what you love. Seek help from others, such as mentors, in helping you identify what you have yet to learn and explore. “You can’t ask for enough constructive criticism,” she said, and advised early career faculty to not be afraid to email other scientists to ask for advice, conversation, or help.
She also advised what not to do: Specifically, think carefully about mentoring someone else. You become responsible for guiding them to success.
Your mentoring should feed into your research (as with giving a talk on your work to undergrads, or allowing high schoolers to spend a day in the lab) and not distract from it. A mentor who is still focused on their own career growth—rightly so—is not good for the mentee’s own career development either.
The mentoring experience should value emotional and intellectual growth in concert, and balance character development and academic acumen. Dr. Gabrilove said her time as a mentee turned her from a daydreamer to imaginative and open-minded; from talkative to articulate, inventive to inventor, inquisitive to investigative, and unsure to confident. Slow down and use the time to grow.