Learned Lessons: Practical Career Tips From Psych Congress Experts

March 21, 2017

A panel of 6 longtime mental health professionals shared the varied and circuitous routes their careers have taken at Elevate by Psych Congress 2017.

The panelists also offered a range of practical advice to inspire and guide attendees at the conference, which was designed for early career mental health clinicians.

“Everybody here has a fascinating story. Everybody here is really a leader in their field,” said Psych Congress co-chair Charles L. Raison, MD, who hosted the discussion. “I could have used a meeting like this when I was first starting out.”

Here are some key takeaways from their presentations:

Charles Raison
    Charles L. Raison, MD
    Credit: proimagesphoto.com

Dr. Raison, the Mary Sue and Mike Shannon Chair for Healthy Minds, Children & Families, and Professor, School of Human Ecology and School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Madison, dispensed tips on succeeding as an academic researcher.

It is important to have a passion for what you are researching, and not to get wrapped up with teaching or administration early in your career, he said, noting that most successful researchers have a “laser focus” on grants and publications.

“Those are the only 2 things that exist in research,” he said. “That’s how you get your tenure. Everything hinges on that. That is truly the life of a researcher.”

Dr. Raison, however, advised against taking on risky projects early in your career, as he did, because “they often blow up.”

He recommending keeping an open mind and not being rigid when weighing career moves.

“Remember that apparent detours can in fact be the best way forward,” he said. “That’s one of the great things about science.”

Dr. Raison also warned the attendees that being a researcher means putting in long hours.

“You’ve got to work all the time,” he said. “If you’re not ready to work all the time you’re going to have a challenge in this career. Most people work weekends. It’s just the truth of the matter.”