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What are the challenges I may face pursuing a career in science, and how can I stand out among the rest?

For my first two years in high school I have been studying biotechnology and I have been working diligently in preparing myself for college and the workforce. Though I have not decided on an exact career, I am deeply considering one within forensics, pharmaceuticals, or in the space exploration fields. What are some of the challenges students may face when applying for college, throughout college, and in the workforce? How can I stand out from the rest?
high-school student biotechnology workforce science career forensics medicine pharmaceuticals space-exploration future technology stem steam nasa astrophysics planetary-science women-in-stem

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Subject: Career question for you

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Ken’s Answer

The thing that will make the most difference is how well you get to know yourself to determine a career focus and then talk face to face in person with people who are doing what you think that you want to do to see what they do, how they got there, and what advice that they might have for you.

Getting to know yourself and how your personality traits relate to people involved in various career opportunities is very important in your decision making process. During my many years in Human Resources and College Recruiting, I ran across too many students who had skipped this very important step and ended up in a job situation which for which they were not well suited. Selecting a career area is like buying a pair of shoes. First you have to be properly fitted for the correct size, and then you need to try on and walk in the various shoe options to determine which is fits the best and is most comfortable for you to wear. Following are some important steps which I developed during my career which have been helpful to many.

Ken recommends the following next steps:

Next, when you have the results of the testing, talk to the person at your high school and college who tracks and works with graduates to arrange to talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people doing what you think that you might want  to do, so that you can get know what they are doing and how they got there. Here are some tips: ##  ## ## ## ## ##
It is very important to express your appreciation to those who help you along the way to be able to continue to receive helpful information and to create important networking contacts along the way. Here are some good tips: ## ## ## ##
Locate and attend meetings of professional associations to which people who are doing what you think that you want to do belong, so that you can get their advice. These associations may offer or know of intern, coop, shadowing, and scholarship opportunities. These associations are the means whereby the professionals keep abreast of their career area following college and advance in their career. You can locate them by asking your school academic advisor, favorite teachers, and the reference librarian at your local library. Here are some tips: ## ## ## ##
The first step is to take an interest and aptitude test and have it interpreted by your school counselor to see if you share the personality traits necessary to enter the field. You might want to do this again upon entry into college, as the interpretation might differ slightly due to the course offering of the school. However, do not wait until entering college, as the information from the test will help to determine the courses that you take in high school. Too many students, due to poor planning, end up paying for courses in college which they could have taken for free in high school.

Thank you again! I really appreciate your time, and I will definitely follow your advice! Ahlyia L.

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Derek’s Answer

I completed my undergraduate in biology and have a Master of Biotechnology degree. There are an endless number of STEM careers and I think what you will find most challenging is zeroing in on your passion. Mastering a discipline is life long commitment to learning.

As you move into your professial life you'll find that it's not necessarily about standing out. You will learn the importance of being a supportive team memeber and how to collaborate effectively.

I would suggest that you continue your studies and allow time to reveal your passion as you are introduced to the all of the disciplines. Once you've set a goal, biochemical engineer for example, start to look for opportunities to shadow a professional in that field to see if that is really what you want to do.

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Molly’s Answer

Great advice already given by others. I have some podcast episodes from women in science who have lots of wisdom to share. Feel free to give a listen!

Thank you! Ahlyia L.