Hello there bloggies! Welcome to Trainee Tuesday!

It is almost time for the new year! In August? Yes, in August! It is almost the start of the academic year again!

Undergraduates are starting to appear back on campus, making you feel old and crowding the gym, sidewalks, library, and every other place on campus. The new first year grad students are starting to pick out their rotations. Seminars, journal clubs, and all the pesky mandatory department events (and maybe happy hour or cookie hour?) make their triumphant return.

Just like the real New Year in January, the start of the new academic year is the perfect time to reflect on your progress and to prioritize what you would like to accomplish in the next year.

As cheesy as it sounds, take a moment to objectively look back at the good and bad events in your research the past year. Where did you make the most progress? How or why was that progress possible? What were some of your shortcomings? Why did you fall short? The answers to these questions can help identify your strengths and weaknesses as an early career researcher. By doing so, you can focus on ways to develop your skills and become a better researcher.

But, don’t just look back! Start planning out and making goals for the next academic year. Where do you want your projects to be by the time May rolls around? What techniques do you want to learn? What teaching experience do you want to gain? Which conferences do you want to attend and present at?

It may seem like overkill to start planning out your entire academic year so early. But, there are some key reasons to do so. Some of them are practical. Fellowship, grant, abstract, and other deadlines are peppered throughout the year and come up way to quickly. Mapping out when these deadlines are can help you ensure that your projects are in suitable shape and that you don’t miss your submission dates. Being generally aware of your goals can also help focus your efforts on what you really want to accomplish.

Others are more abstract. Where do you see your career in the future? Where are the holes in your CV? The sometimes difficult answers can point you toward gaining the necessary experiences to become a strong candidate for your future career.

These more abstract questions can lead to some of the major (and scary…) questions for trainees: 1) Do you want to graduate this year? 2) What do you want to do after your training? 3) Do you want to make the transition to a new job this year?

Being a trainee is not supposed to be an indefinite time in your career. Eventually, you need to find a way to move onto your independent career, no matter which track you are on. Taking the moment to reflect on the major and minor things you’ve done this past year and to thing about the big and small things you want to do this year can set you up for a wildly productive year.

Happy Academic New Year! Here’s to a year filled with data, presentations, and papers!

Thank you for stopping by Trainee Tuesday! What are your hopes and goals for this academic year? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter @DrFsThoughts.

See you tomorrow!

-Dr. F

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