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Happy New Year! This time last year I talked about taking action. I have many ideas and things coming up this year. After reading the #BLACKandSTEM major tweets roll call last week I was inspired to share my top lessons to my younger self.

Lesson to my Younger Self (STEM Edition):

1. Don’t let your major define you:

My advice is to make a list of words that describe what you want to do. After some time you will start to see a theme. Now you can contact others in similar fields to learn more about prospective STEM careers. Remember your major is part of your career, but it does not define you. Your goal is to graduate, finish strong with your STEM degree and land a career that suits you.

2. Get mentors early:

Everyone should have at least one mentor. When I was younger I didn’t have many mentors around. My aunt (she is an electrical engineer) was my first STEM mentor. It’s good to have a STEM mentor because they give you the guidance as you progress into a STEM professional.

3. Find a creative way to share science:

Last year I had my 1st blogiversary. Blogging is something I wanted to do for a long time and I decided it was time for me to just do it. I never knew that there was a blogging science community until I started blogging. If you like to write, start a blog. If you like to create visual content, start a YouTube channel. Social media is huge now and it’s time to see more science in social media! #scicomm

4. Don’t be afraid to fail:

I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. We fail, we make mistakes, we get better. When I was in high school I was a star student. When I went to college I realized star students were everywhere. At times I felt overwhelmed and thought, “How can I compete?” Remember it is normal to feel this way. If you fail, get help. If you fail, again try again. Failure builds strength, resilience, grace and teaches you life changing lessons. After you fail pass it on to help someone else. A STEM career is not easy, but you can do it!

5. Gain research experience early:

Did you know that you can work in a research laboratory at 16 and sometimes even younger as a volunteer? There are so many opportunities out there for young budding scientists interested in STEM. It’s nice to see young people learning about STEM early. If you want to become a researcher start research. If you want to teach become a teaching assistant. To be a STEM professional you have to take action. The time is now!

6. Find a group of peers that are STEM-ers like you:

I found my group when I joined NSBE my junior year of high school. NSBE opened so many doors for me and it was good to have a group of people who knew exactly what I was going through. Plus, it was nice to have a group of people that looked like me, especially as an undergraduate student at a PWI. Find the STEM organization for you or create one.

7. Study Abroad:

When I was in college I didn’t get the chance to study abroad. Looking back I wish I did. I have friends that have traveled abroad and I can’t wait until I have the opportunity. If you want to study abroad do it.

Let’s start a conversation in the comments about your top lessons you would tell your younger self.