How to promote yourself as an academic researcher
The idea of promoting yourself can seem awkward. However, with it becoming ever more competitive to secure positions and funding in academia, we all need to showcase our experience and achievements, and ensure that potential employers can see our best qualities.
What’s true for academia is also true of other jobs. Many of the skills that you’ve acquired and much of your experience can be of interest to other employers, should you decide to look for work elsewhere. Many of us postgraduate and early career researchers will do that, at some point in our careers.
Potential employers will want to see your CV, whether it’s in a format of your choice, or through entering details into a form on their website. Additionally, they may well want to see examples of your work, and they might also search for you online, finding your institutional web page, social media channels, and any publicity you’ve received.
Even if you’re not looking for a new position, getting your name out there and ensuring it is associated with making an impact in your field of interest can help you find potential collaborators, funding, and further opportunities to disseminate your work.
How to promote yourself to potential employers
Potential employers will want to see a strong CV, but they are quite likely to want more than that. When they search for you online, what do they find? You can try it yourself. Ideally, you want them to see your institutional web page, listing your experience and achievements in a way that supports what they see on your CV, and similar brief biographies for your papers and conference presentations. If you have a social media profile, you want them to see you posting engaging content which is getting responses. And they’d love to see you getting positive coverage of your work in the news, or quoted as an expert in your research topic.
If you’re new to academia, or a postgraduate researcher, this might sound daunting. You might find yourself asking how you can associate yourself with your research topic, at such an early stage? The answer is to start now. Employers won’t be expecting you to have a huge profile yet, so everything you do is a bonus. You can put together a strong CV, build a social media profile, and take opportunities to publicise your work. Why not take part in your institution’s public engagement event, talking about your research? Why not think about opportunities to broadcast about your work?
If you start making connections now, start raising your profile on matters relating to your research topic, and boldly showcasing your achievements by posting about them online and listing them in your bio, you can increase your chances of landing that dream position.
How to put together a strong CV
The most important thing when putting together your CV is to tailor it to the position you’re applying for, so you won’t have a single CV. For example, if you’re applying for a research post which is only loosely related to your previous research, you’re going to want to highlight how your experience is relevant. Stress your transferrable skills, and your interest in the area you’re applying for. Perhaps you have taught on the subject, attended a relevant conference, or supervised a student working on the topic? If so, add in the information. While having to fill in your details through a form on a website can be fiddly, it does help you check that you’re not missing anything important.
Whenever you achieve something, even if it’s something small like attending a conference or a training course, or taking on some voluntary responsibilities, you’ll want to make a record, as it will make pulling together a tailored CV much easier. I’ve applied for jobs where I would have forgotten to mention some relevant experience if I didn’t have a record to pull it from. Your institution may offer tools to make this easier, but if you choose to use them, make sure that you can take the data with you if you move elsewhere.
If you have the opportunity to submit your own CV, make sure that it mentions all your important experience, in the expected format, particularly highlighting your research, publications and funding. In the UK, Vitae has some great advice on what is expected in an academic CV. In other countries, details may differ, and if you’re applying for a job outside academia, they are different again, so do check before putting one together.
You may also have the opportunity to write a cover letter or answer some specific questions about your experience and approach. If you do, use it to match your experience to the qualities asked for in the advertisement. And before you send anything off, get a colleague to look it over, to check for any errors or omissions.
How to promote yourself on social media
Social media can provide a good platform for promoting yourself and your research, but it swallows up time. It can be dispiriting if you don’t get engagement, or worse, have to deal with time-wasting, petty or bigoted responses.
The first thing to decide is what you want to achieve with social media. If you’re primarily looking to get your CV out there, and make connections which could be helpful to your career, LinkedIn may be the place to start. If you’re wanting to get your thoughts seen by the general public, as well as colleagues, and engage in debates, then Twitter is probably the best bet. Finally, if you want to get your papers online and shared with comments, Academia.edu can be useful.
There are many other social media sites out there, but most are very focused on social interaction (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter), or have little activity, so you are unlikely to reach anyone. The Times Higher has an A to Z covering many of the less well-known sites relating to social media.
Wherever you decide to focus your attention, decide how much time you can devote to it, and stick to that! Start off by fully completing your profile, remembering that this is what potential employers will see, if they search for it. Connect with colleagues and organisations of interest to you, and post up material which is relevant to the site. Personal achievements and responses to news stories or ongoing discussions in your areas of interest are good on Twitter, while insights relating to work get most interest on LinkedIn.
There’s no need to put hours into crafting a post: something as simple as posting about a conference you are about to present at, and including the relevant hashtag, can get picked up by organisers and make an impact. But when you post, remember where you are posting and consider who might be able to see it in the future. Getting into blazing rows about politics is unlikely to impress potential employers who decide to search for you online.
How to make connections that will help you promote yourself as a researcher
You’ve already got a network. Your colleagues, your supervisor, people you studied with, or are still studying alongside. Some of them you may count as friends, but you don’t have to build a friendship with everyone you want to connect with.
One way to connect with people is in person. You can go to departmental and university events, conferences, and so on, and speak to people, particularly if you are interested in their work. Getting business cards printed with your position and contact details can be helpful in turning these into longer-term connections, and makes it more natural to ask for their contact details. You can then follow up with a quick e-mail, and add them on social media.
Alternatively, you can make connections online. Look for people who you would like to connect with, maybe ones who are posting interesting material, or are doing research you are interested in, and engage with them. You might retweet their post, or respond with a question. Once you’ve interacted, there is every chance that they will accept a request to connect online, and if you may be at the same event or visiting their institution for some other reason, you can suggest meeting over a coffee, if you’d like to build a stronger connection.
Online connections are also useful in that the bigger your network, the more interest your posts can attract, and the greater the rewards for the effort you put in, so unless someone is a time-waster, you may as well accept any connection requests going. Adding your social media details to your institutional website and e-mail signature can help with this.
You can really improve your career and funding prospects by building your profile as an expert in your topic area. Showcase your achievements, engage with debates, and take opportunities to promote your expertise. While not everything you try will bring immediate rewards, the more you do, the stronger your brand becomes, and the more people will come to you with opportunities.
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