4 Pieces of Career Advice from Women in STEM

Jeff Hagen

Jeff Hagen

Post written by Jeff HagenStaffing Exec ◉ Educator ◉ Award Winning BBQ’r ◉ DIY Hack ◉ Rotarian

A few weeks ago Grafton had the privilege to sponsor a Women in STEM event at Wichita State University.

It was a great event that was well attended by both industry professionals and students.

BioKansas was able to secure four excellent panelists to share their career knowledge: Jennifer Akers – AccuWeather, Jessa Wright – ICM, Janet Twomey – Wichita State University, and Sheila O’Conner – NetApp.

Below is some of the great advice they shared that is helpful for anyone looking to make a change.

1. Network

If you’re uncomfortable networking, start by simply practicing. Everyone has heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”


Networking can be difficult for a lot of people. I know I wasn’t even comfortable with it for a long time.

I started by asking friends to introduce me to people and then we’d meet for lunch or coffee and have a conversation.

Today it is easier than ever. If you have difficulty networking, pick three people each day to reach out to on Linkedin.

Pick an old friend you haven’t talked to in years or find someone from the same industry and ask if they’d be open to meeting.

With a little practice and perseverance, you’ll quickly get better and expand your network.

2. Use mentors and sponsors

Mentors are a great asset for anyone. I’ve typically used them to help solve problems that I’m facing at work. However, they can and should be used for more than that.

Mentors can help you evaluate job opportunities as they get to know your strengths and weaknesses.

They have a 3rd party view that can help you determine if an opportunity fits your skillsets and matches an environment you’ll be successful in.

A sponsor is generally someone in your company that has influence and is willing to help you. They can assist you in getting key projects or obtaining promotions.

This type of relationship takes a long to time achieve but will be well worth it over the course of your career.

3. Be flexible

Careers don’t always have to take a linear path…in fact, they rarely do.

Some of the most successful people I know have worked in multiple industries and/or have changed positions to have completely different roles and responsibilities.

If a role seems interesting to you, look into it. People do a better job when they’re in a role they’re passionate about.

4. Use your peer group

A peer group could be people you went to school with or perhaps people you worked with in the past.

Whoever they are, make sure you have a group that can be honest with you. They should be able to give you constructive criticism.

There are choices you’re going to have to make in your career and you want them to be able to help you evaluate options. They should know you well enough to let you why you should take the next opportunity.

Be prepared, though. This group can, and should, be brutally honest with you, but that will help you make well-vetted decisions along your career journey.

Hopefully, you have some relationship with people in similar roles or perhaps people that you went to school with that are in similar points in life. These people can help you navigate career choices. They’ve seen other people in your situation.

Get out there and start networking! Soon you’ll be sharing stories of how “who you know” helped you succeed throughout your career!