Something I’ve been thinking about lately are the less obvious signs of reaching a new career stage. I don’t mean the obvious things like being accepted to grad school, or defending your PhD, or signing your first job contract. I mean things that aren’t generally listed as major milestones but that felt important or noteworthy to you (e.g., the first time you bought coffee for someone who was at an earlier career stage than you were).
I’ll give some more examples:
As a graduate student, I remember other students talking about the first time they did an experiment without running it by their advisor first. The two particular stories I can recall were both senior grad students (one may have been a postdoc) who had a hunch about an interesting thing that might be going on in their system. In one case, the person did the experiment, then went to talk to their advisor, proposing the idea. The advisor said it would never work, leading the advisee to get the extreme satisfaction of dropping a figure showing it did work on the table.
As another example, for me, the point that I felt solidified that I was no longer early career was when I was reviewing the application file of a graduate student applicant and saw that one of the letters of recommendation had come from someone who had been an undergrad in my lab (and who now has a faculty position).
To use some I’ve seen recently on twitter:
Having someone seek you out at a meeting to talk science:
(And, since Rachel was my first PhD student, her experience also felt kind of significant for me!)
Your first paper is perhaps an obvious academic milestone, but your first last author paper also feels big!:
(Related: I remember being extremely happy about the first paper that contained data collected entirely in my lab.)
Receiving your first review request is an academic milestone; a less obvious one is reaching the point where you receive too many review requests to handle:
And here’s one based on a recent Eco-Evo, Evo-Eco blog post: being able to stand in one spot for a day and a half and have non-stop conversations seems to be a sign of having reached a particular (well-known!) career stage. (ht for this one goes to Jeremy!)
So, I’m curious: what were some of the less obvious milestones for you? (Update: If you want to tweet them, use #lessobviousmilestones)