Scientists are increasingly required to demonstrate the real world tangible impacts arising from their research. Despite significant advances in scholarship dedicated to understanding and improving the relationships between science, policy and practice, much of the existing literature remains high level, theoretical, and not immediately accessible to early career researchers (ECRs) who work outside of the policy sciences. In this paper, we draw on the literature and our own experiences working in the environmental sciences to provide an accessible resource for ECRs seeking to achieve policy impact in their chosen field. First, we describe key concepts in public policy to provide sufficient background for the non-expert. Next, we articulate a number of practical steps and tools that can help ECRs to identify and enhance the policy relevance of their research, better understand the policy world in practice and identify a range of pathways to achieving impact. Finally, we draw on our personal experiences to highlight some of the key individual characteristics and values that are needed to operate more effectively at the interface of science, policy and practice. Our hope is that the information and tools provided here can help to empower ECRs to create their own pathways to impact that best suit their individual goals, circumstances, interests and strengths.