"How can I ensure that my work and contributions are recognized by my team / manager when I’m working independently most of the time?"
In short, DOCUMENT and TALK.
In the chemical profession, independence is valued. However, one needs to demonstrate that independent work is being done successfully, productively and efficiently. Only through communicating this independent work with data to back it up will such contributions be recognized.
Most chemical professionals are responsible for some type of written report of their work. It may be a brief weekly write-up or a more formal monthly report. Be sure to document what you have done in these monthly reports clearly, concisely, and in a way that’s easy to read. Support your conclusions with clear data. Take the time to connect the dots for your boss in these reports – remember it is your job to do this!
As you are writing accomplishments in these monthly reports, you should also be documenting these accomplishments in your written performance review. Most companies will allow you to start a draft of your performance review so that you can add accomplishments to them while they are fresh in your mind. If your company doesn’t allow this, you should set up a list of accomplishments that you do want to bring up during your performance review as a way to advocate for your own excellent performance.
Some companies also offer the opportunity to archive your research in internal technical reports or to present them at internal poster sessions. Your company may also encourage you to present the work that is able to be disclosed publicly at an external scientific meeting, such as an ACS National Meeting. Take advantage of these internal and external opportunities to promote your accomplishments to your team and manager and document these opportunities in your performance review.
Finally, verbal communication is critical. Keeping your supervisor informed of progress and citing supporting data is vital to getting your accomplishments recognized. If you and your supervisor meet in person on a regular basis to go over your work, then this is the opportunity to present your independent successes. If your supervisor doesn’t schedule in-person meetings with you on a regular basis, then try to meet with your boss at least once a month. Group meetings are also an excellent way to promote your work verbally in a forum which gets instant recognition by supervisors and peers.
There are plenty of opportunities to have independent work recognized – take advantage of as many of these opportunities as you can to promote your work and your career.
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