Awards and Honors are Part of Professional Development

Recognition through professional awards and honors can advance your career and open doors to leadership opportunities.

Professional recognition does not happen ‘by magic’ or without effort. Of course, this recognition must be based on a strong record of accomplishments (appropriate to your career stage). But there are also steps that you can take to increase the chance that you will be successfully nominated for awards and honors.

Step 1.  Know your eligibility.  Many awards and honors are granted by professional societies, which often offer recognition specifically for younger researchers. You can, of course, do your own research to find relevant awards and honors. Before you make this effort, check to see if your institution (i.e., your employer) has already collected this information.

Step 2. Know who could nominate you.  There can be different restrictions on who can submit nominations for awards and honors. For many professional societies, this is limited to members, but members of evaluation committees are usually not allowed to submit nominations. People who have already won an award can provide a particularly strong nomination. In some cases, nominators must be invited to submit a nomination. Self-nominations are allowed for some (but not all) awards and honors.

Step 3. Approach potential nominators.  Many of your professional colleagues might be willing to nominate you for an award or honor. But it’s not likely that this is the top item on their ‘to do’ list. You can approach a potential nominator to express your interest in a specific opportunity. Don’t be shy! It might be easier for you to approach an intermediary, who could solicit a nomination on your behalf. 

Step 4. Make it easy for your nominator.  Submitting a nomination takes work – this should not be underestimated. There are some things you can do to make this process less burdensome for your nominator. First, have a website that includes an up-to-date biographical sketch, short CV, and full CV as downloadable pdf files. If you have changed your name at any point, make this clear in your CV. Try to be as consistent and complete as possible in how you identify yourself as an author. Include your ORCID persistent digital identifier in your CV. (Don’t have one? Sign up now at orcid.org/.) If your home institution allows you to have a personal homepage, take advantage of this opportunity. Second, write a ‘plain language statement’ that describes the importance and impact of your work. Focus on content and avoid jargon. If you can, make this accessible through your website or on social media.

Step 5.  Pay it back and/or forward.  Don’t just focus on getting nominated. Also think about nominating your colleagues. Although you may think first about nominating your junior colleagues, you may also be able to nominate or support the nomination of a senior colleague. This is a nice way to support someone who has been an inspiration or a mentor for you.  Be aware that women tend to be underrepresented among award winners, partly because they are nominated less often.  

Step 6. Celebrate!  If you receive an award or honor or make a successful nomination, take the time to celebrate your achievement. Let the Communications Department know and enjoy the recognition. Have fun! 

Further information

Harvey, C. (2021) “Nominees for a Science Award Were All White Men—Nobody Won”, Scientific American, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nominees-for-a-science-award-were-all-white-men-nobody-won/

Hering, J. (2019) “Counting is not enough - rediscovering the value of narrative”. Elephant in the Lab. https://elephantinthelab.org/counting-is-not-enough/ 

Holgate, S.A. (2017) “The benefits of awards—even if you don't win”, https://www.science.org/content/article/benefits-awards-even-if-you-don-t-win  

MIT Research Administration Services (n.d.) “Prestigious Prizes and Awards”, 
https://ras.mit.edu/finding-funding/find-funding/prestigious-prizes-and-awards

Watson, C. (2021) “Women less likely to win major research awards”, Nature, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02497-4 

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Janet Hering
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