Be Opportunistic: Video Transcript

Ryan Batt, PhD (BS Zoology and Environmental Science, Miami, 2009) [marine science Post-Doc at Rutgers University]: I majored in zoology and environmental science. Right now I'm an aquatic ecologist — I study lakes, I study marine systems, I study nature. A lot of people in this field, they spend a lot of time in school. They're trained by academics. But it's long been recognized, and people are starting to sort of promote this more actively, that that's not your only option. You have other directions you can go. There's a lot of governmental organizations that you can work for related to different agencies, sort of a management perspective. I've seen different kinds of NGOs and conservation groups, and there's a lot of these jobs out there if you have an open mind to what you'll do. Your skills could be applied to a variety of disciplines. You can do consulting, you could work for any place that needs to understand a complex system, which is many places; financial markets, for example, are very complex. And so while that's not my particular trajectory, I would always encourage others to keep their minds open to what they really have learned, and what they really could bring to the table, in any sort of discipline. Just keep their eyes open for opportunities that would interest them.

You'll leave Miami with a degree and hopefully some intent of what you want to do with your life. A path, maybe grad school, maybe you're going to take time off to try to figure that out. And I would say that looking forward, you need to look back and understand why you spent time studying things that you did. Why were you interested in those things initially, and think about what trajectory you would want to follow in the future. Have a plan, have a goal, something that you're shooting for. But, even though you have an intention for the future, a goal, something you're pursuing, at the same time, don't get tunnel vision. Keep your eyes open for opportunities. It seems like successful people are people who will keep an open mind, and be opportunistic, but at the same time, aren't just waiting for something to fall in their laps. They'll pursue something and they'll keep going after it. They'll deviate from a plan when a really good opportunity arises, and they'll have the foresight to take advantage of that. I would say have a plan, but keep an open mind.

There's two really important things that I've learned, trying to progress through my young career right now. The first thing is that people matter a lot. Relationships in all directions with all sorts of people are very important. You want to be a good person and a kind person to everyone all the time. Be friendly and open and honest, or more simply, as they say, don't be a jerk. That's important. The second thing is, you need to maintain attention between ambition and complacency. If you don't have drive, you won't go anywhere. If you are too hard on yourself, you will crumble under the pressure that you're putting on yourself. So I would say that it's important to be okay with feeling slightly uncomfortable with your situation at all times, because you're always pushing a boundary, trying to advance knowledge or your place in the world, and that tends to be a very uncomfortable experience. So always push the boundary and feel that discomfort, but don't overdo it.

[October 2015]