If you're graduating from college or graduate school next month, I have a few suggestions. (Yes, sorry, another "to-do list" for your last month of school, which is surely busy enough.) Before you leave campus, find the time to:
1. Make fast friends with your favorite female professor.
Of course, to work in STEM means you'll need to be comfortable with guys. Hey, you made it through the program, right? This is clearly not a problem for you. With that said, I'd highly recommend you double down in your last month to make fast friends with a female professor. (She may get more out of it than you, trust me, so don't be shy!) I wish I'd done this in undergrad; I developed a very strong relationship with a favorite female professor during my MBA, and that relationship provides me with a great sense of camaraderie. So, book a meeting, ask her to tell you her story and see what post-graduation advice she offers.
2. Drop in on an art or writing class.
I can barely draw a stick figure; I'm not exaggerating. This is deeply embarrassing, especially now that I've experienced being in my son's Kindergarten class and being put on the spot to draw a portrait of him in front of the class, the teacher and the other moms. Take this chance to drop in on an art, writing or similarly non-quantitative class while you have the chance. Even embrace being "bad" at something, which is easy for no one, I know.
3. Go for a midnight run around campus.
One of my fondest memories was jogging around campus in the dark, to the sound of my friend Mike belting out his ROTC songs. (Surely, you've got a large male buddy who'll do this with you, for safety's sake.) You get a special glimpse of your labs, libraries and lunch halls at the midnight hour. You're going to miss this place, no matter how challenging it's been.
4. Host a STEM women's dinner party.
I was lucky to live with three other female engineers my senior year (all much smarter than me), and I still keep in touch with many of my college and grad school girlfriends. Yet, I wish I'd done more to get a pulse on where other female engineers were headed after graduation, what their individual goals were so we could support one another post-graduation. If you can have a casual meal together, you can get each on record with her aspirations and help one another make them happen.
5. Spend one hour writing your life vision.
It's not as dramatic as it sounds. Just find your favorite quiet spot on campus, and spend one hour writing -- pen to paper, no devices allowed -- an ideal day in your life, 10 years from now. Don't correct yourself; don't cross anything out. Let your hand get a cramp while free-form writing what a day in your life is: Where are you living? What's your morning routine? What's your work schedule and major tasks? Evening routine? Who's there with you and how do you feel?
You can't live it if you can't imagine it, but if you can imagine it (and put it on paper!), you can make it happen. You don't have to show anyone what you hope for; just write it down, and be honest about what "ideal" is for you. Don't throw this vision story away, but don't worry about looking at it every day either.
There are so many great challenges and opportunities in our global, hyper-connected economy. The world's your oyster, but the world desperately needs you to be true to yourself, most especially you women who love innovation and technology.
Follow Elizabeth Golluscio on Twitter: www.twitter.com/egolluscio