Navigating my first Crafting your Career (CYC) workshop at RYIM Srinagar

Arushi Batra & Ankita Rathore

The second Regional Young Investigators’ Meeting (RYIM) 2023 – 2024 took place at University of Kashmir, Srinagar, from 19 to 21 September 2023. RYIM Srinagar offered a vibrant platform for early-career researchers and scientists with the theme, Igniting curiosity and training young scientists of J&K for a sustainable future.’ In this article, IndiaBioscience team highlights the key takeaways from the CYC workshop held at RYIM Srinagar.

RYIM Srinagar titleimage
Glimpses from CYC at RYIM Srinagar. Picture Credits: Ankita Rathore.

In August 2023, I began my role as the Program Manager — Digital Initiatives at IndiaBioscience. Surprisingly, just a month into my journey here, an exciting opportunity unfolded — to participate as a workshop trainer for the Crafting Your Career (CYC) workshop slated for the Regional Young Investigators’ Meeting (RYIM) Meeting in Srinagar. This 3‑day meeting took place against the breath-taking backdrop of Srinagar and was hosted by the University of Kashmir in collaboration with the Central University of Kashmir and Cluster University Srinagar. RYIM Srinagar marked the second iteration of the RYIMs 2023 – 2024, held from 19 to 21 September 2023.

Under the theme, Igniting curiosity and training young scientists of J&K for a sustainable future’, the RYIM Srinagar offered a vibrant platform for early-career scientists hailing from all across Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. RYIM Srinagar was organised by the lead organiser, Bilal Ahmed Mir along with conveners Zahoor A Kaloo and Ashfaq Ahmed Zarri, all from University of Kashmir, Srinagar. The co-organisers, including Aijaz Ganie and Nazima Rasool from the University of Kashmir; Javid A Parray from Cluster University Srinagar; and Nisar A Wani and Owais M Bhat from the Central University of Kashmir, contributed to creating a welcoming and well-structured meeting.

On 21 September 2023, I along with Ankita Rathore, Program Manager — Science Communication from the IndiaBioscience team conducted the CYC workshop specifically tailored for the PhD researchers and postdoctoral fellows participating in RYIM Srinagar. The workshop was designed to focus on exploration of career strategies, funding opportunities, and the hurdles encountered by early-career researchers, presenting a distinctive layer to the overall scientific gathering. In this article, we highlight the key takeaways from the CYC workshop held at RYIM Srinagar.

CYC workshop — our flagship initiative

Crafting Your Career (CYC) workshops, a flagship initiative by IndiaBioscience since 2019, stand as a deliberate endeavour to empower master’s students, PhD researchers, and postdoctoral fellows with essential knowledge and skills needed for navigating their career trajectories effectively. Although typically CYCs comprise full-day workshops integrating various hands-on activities and interactive sessions, our approach at RYIMs involves more focused 2 – 3 hours sessions specifically tailored to address particular needs. 

IndiaBioscience has spearheaded Careers in Science’ (since 2017) and CYC workshops, curating comprehensive courses and training modules that encompass a multi-faceted format, including videos, podcasts, presentations, reading material, and worksheets. The workshop content covers a wide spectrum, ranging from nurturing essential skills and fostering career development to guiding through job application processes, facilitating effective scientific networking, and engaging discussions on professionalism, work ethics, role models, and mentors. The overarching goal of these workshops is to raise awareness among students about the plethora of career paths within the scientific domain, equipping them with the tools needed to make informed choices as they progress in their careers. You can also check out the recordings of the CYC webinars and podcasts here.

CYC participants at RYIM Srinagar. Picture Credits: IndiaBioscience team.
CYC participants at RYIM Srinagar. Picture Credits: IndiaBioscience team.

Before knowing your career, know yourself 

The significance of self-awareness in choosing a career, especially in the field of science, cannot be overstated. Understanding one’s skills, interests, and values forms the cornerstone of determining a fitting career path. Personal values, whether centred on financial gain or geographic preferences, significantly influence career decisions. Aligning these personal values with individual skill sets becomes pivotal in making informed choices. 

In the evolving scientific ecosystem of India, numerous opportunities await those aspiring to forge careers in science. Yet, there’s a pressing need for professional guidance to assist students and researchers navigating this dynamic terrain effectively. Creating awareness about the diverse career paths available post a science degree remains an essential undertaking. In our CYC sessions, we’ve got this fun yet engaging activity that helps you figure out your skills, interests, and values. After going through it, you can list your must-haves, should-haves, and nice-to-haves. Eventually, you’ll zero in on your top skills, areas for improvement, and what really sparks your interest. The participants loved this activity in the workshop and said it gave them a bunch of clarity about themselves.

Having personally explored different career avenues both during and after my science degrees, I firmly advocate for a shift in perspective regarding non-academic careers. 

Instead of labelling them as alternate’ or non-science’ these paths should be recognised as integral components of science careers.’ This change in perspective is crucial as it empowers individuals to make informed choices aligned with their unique skills, interests, and values.

What to do during an interview?

In our sessions, we explored interviewing etiquettes, creating an engaging space where participants not only absorbed theoretical knowledge but also actively experienced the art of effective communication through immersive hands-on activities. We believe that true mastery of interviewing skills comes from practice, and our workshop provided just that. We conducted mock interview sessions, allowing participants to navigate the intricacies of interview dynamics. We covered essential aspects, discussing what a participant should do during an interview to leave a lasting impression and also shared effective strategies to gracefully handle inappropriate questions if they were ever thrown their way.

Our approach went beyond the conventional lecture-style learning, emphasising the importance of practical application. By simulating real interview scenarios, participants gained invaluable insights and honed their abilities to articulate thoughts, showcase strengths, and navigate challenging situations. The hands-on experience not only enhanced their interviewing skills but also instilled confidence, ensuring they are well-prepared for the nuances of the professional interview landscape. Also, we addressed post-interview etiquette, guiding participants on the optimal timing for follow-ups and equipping them with strategies for successful salary negotiations, ensuring a comprehensive preparation for every aspect of the job application process.

Practice your elevator pitch

As the workshop facilitator, I had the pleasure of witnessing incredible enthusiasm during our interactive session: practice your elevator pitch. We divided the participants into groups, assigning them unique situations and roles for elevator pitch simulations. In these lively sessions, each group had a brief 2‑minute window to practice, resulting in a mix of laughter, valuable insights, and a strong sense of camaraderie among everyone involved. The activity became a fun exploration, allowing participants to identify successful techniques and learn from different enactment approaches. 

Similarly, our hands-on practice session for informational interviews added a layer of practicality, making the workshop not just informative but deeply engaging. To show our appreciation, we awarded science books sponsored by Taylor & Francis as prizes, further enhancing the participants’ connection with the scientific community. It was an enriching experience that blended learning, interaction, and fun, fostering a supportive environment for skill development and networking.

Feedback from the Participants

The majority of participants, comprising approximately 70%, hailed from The University of Kashmir. The remaining participants represented various institutions, including Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar; the Wildlife Research and Conservation Foundation, J&K; the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi, the CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIM), as well as CSIR- Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), Lucknow among others. This diverse array of affiliations underscores the broad spectrum of backgrounds contributing to the event.

The feedback following the workshop left a profound impact, notably expressed by a participant who exclaimed, 

I felt alive after the workshop. 

This feedback perfectly captured the vibrant energy that filled the room. As the facilitator, these words struck a chord, emphasising the personal connection formed through the immersive learning experience. 

When participants were asked about their new learnings, responses varied: 

I learnt that there is a vast scope of science beyond academics.” 

It helped me identify my strengths.” 

The interactions with diverse researchers were fantastic!”

The overwhelming positive feedback not only highlighted the workshop’s success but also underscored the meaningful connections formed. It transcended mere learning; becoming a shared journey of growth and self-discovery, making the Crafting Your Career workshop a cherished memory for us.

Leaving the city, we were inspired and grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the growth of these budding scientists during our three-day RYIM journey in the scenic embrace of Srinagar.