Ask Dr. Clemmons is a monthly advice column for scientists and engineers who are seeking top-notch academic, career, and personal development advice. Please read the introductory article to see what the column is all about, and then send me a question of your own!

To kick off the new year, I've provided guidelines to help my readers have the best year possible in 2005. In previous articles, I've written about the politics of work life (see "The Game" and "A Primer on Playing the Game"). Those rules are more relevant than ever. The purpose of this article is to remind you to be aware of situations that can make or break your career or personal life.

Achievement and progress are everything if you want to make it to the top in your career. You have to be prepared if you're going to make serious strides toward your goals. You can feel good about where you are--you are exactly where you need to be in your life right now--but if you wish to achieve your goals you have to keep moving forward.

Outlook

Start with a positive attitude, regardless of what you have experienced in life thus far. There is always a silver lining if you look hard enough, so try to put things into proper perspective. I recently faced a situation where I felt that my contributions were being undervalued by a certain organization, perhaps because I am a minority female. My initial reaction was one of dismay and anger at having to deal with more of the same old stuff.

After careful contemplation, I decided not to let anyone steal my joy. I put a positive spin on adversity, and I got what I wanted. No greater feeling exists than knowing that you have fought for and won a personal victory without losing sight of who you are. As a member of a minority group, you probably feel underappreciated often, but learning to depersonalize such situations is the key to winning the battle. In doing so, you free up energy to think through the real issue at hand and come up with a strategy that produces positive results.

In the spirit of guidance, I offer the following professional and personal resolutions for the year:

Smart Career Resolutions for 2005

  • Write your goals for the next one, five, and ten years. Pledge to meet these goals to the best of your ability while staying flexible and able to respond to environmental cues.

  • Don't get caught up in, or caught off guard by, the politics of work. Stay alert and avoid negative situations by thinking ahead.

  • Make sure that every negotiation regarding your career is carried out positively and professionally.

  • Refuse to associate with people who possess consistently negative attitudes on and off the job. Their presence will only hinder your progress.

  • Always strive for excellence, and expect that it will be rewarded in some fashion. Keeping a log of your activities as evidence is one way to assure that your contributions are acknowledged.

  • Reflect on your personal values and align them with your work.

Smart Personal Resolutions for 2005

  • Spend as much time with your immediate family as possible. Your spouse and children are the bedrock of your support. If you are unmarried and without children, the same rule applies for people in your inner circle of family and friends.

  • Educate others in your community about the benefits of a science and engineering education and the importance of entrepreneurship.

  • If possible, start your own business, even if you have a "day job."

  • Stay true to yourself and loyal to your community by donating your time to local outreach programs that benefit those less fortunate in your city.

The bottom line for 2005 is this: you can overcome any personal and professional barriers you come upon. You just have to be willing to work hard at it. No more excuses!

If you need my advice let me know, and keep it moving in 2005! People of color around the world are depending on you.

- Dr. Clemmons