Early career researchers (ECRs) are well aware academia is a competitive field. These days, ECRs face many challenges as they look to build their publication record, reputations and careers. It may be uncomfortable at first, but learning how to self-promote can help you build your brand and open up a new world of opportunities – even ones outside academia.
So what can you do to make you and your work more visible? Read on to learn how to take those first steps.
Step 1: Self-assess (Prep time: 1 hour +)
You are a brand and when building your brand, there are two essential points to remember: be authentic and be consistent.
First, consider your natural style. Don’t try to be overly friendly if you are reserved, too cool if you are eccentric. Play to your strengths.
Second, brainstorm why you want to improve your brand. Is it to improve your reputation generally? To receive invitations to give keynotes? In order to be sought after for consulting opportunities?
Third, think about the future. How would you describe your work now and what are your future interests? Is there anything you don’t do currently but want to do?
Taking the time to think through these points will help you understand the tone you want to set and the image you want to project. It may be useful to organize your points into handy notes for referring to later – it will make it easier to stay true to your goals.
Step 2: Write your story (Prep time: 1 hour +)
No one knows you better than yourself. The challenge is to distill how you want to present yourself into short biographies. It will help to have the following:
1. A short bio (1-2 lines)
2. A longer bio (1-3 paragraphs)
Short bios can be used on social media sites such as Twitter. Here is an example:
Andrew Jones @AndyBeetroot
Professor of Applied Physiology & Associate Dean, Exeter University. Exercise physiology, sport science, nutrition, training, performance, Gary Numan.
Longer bios can be used on LinkedIn, personal websites, conference programmes, when signing off on an article and more. See an example from Andy Miah.
You want people to find you by directly searching your name yes, but also by topical searching, so don’t forget keywords and/or hashtags.
Step 3: Take your best shot (Prep time: 30 minutes +)
If you want to build a recognizable brand, it will help to have a recognizable image. When starting out, all you need is one good headshot. Whether you recruit a friend with a DSLR or a family member with a camera phone to take your photo, remember to be aware of your background. Why not try choosing one with some detail, rather than a plain background? A university campus courtyard or interesting building could be good options.
Step 4: Build your web presence (Prep time: 1 hour ++)
Now that you have determined your vision for your brand, crafted your bios and taken your perfect headshot, it’s time to get your brand out there. There are many avenues to choose from, and don’t feel pressured to take them all on. Starting with a simple LinkedIn account can be a good first step – it’s simple to set-up, low maintenance, and useful (not all university webpages are easy to navigate!). It’s basically an easy way to share your CV, ideas, and updates on what you are doing or opportunities you are looking for, while allowing you to connect and engage with peers who are doing the same.
Should you want to carve out a more defined space on the internet, consider having your own website. Jon Quah has a personal site to highlight his consulting work, while John Delury uses his to showcase previous publications, and media publications and appearances.
Step 5: Engage the media (Prep time: to be determined)
The fact is there is a lot of published research out there – over 50 million journal articles with that number expected to double every 20 years. If you think your research would be of interest to a wider audience, consider pitching to the media. Many are interested in stories from scholars.
While it can be difficult shifting from academic writing to a journalistic style, the results can be worth it. Take the example of Kim Yi Dionne, an Assistant Professor of Government at Smith College, as mentioned in The Guardian. A blog post she wrote for the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog went viral and resulted in academic opportunities such as a journal article, book chapter, and (indirectly) a National Science Foundation grant.
If this interests you, keep in mind that there are many different ways to accomplish this. The style and tone can vary depending on your publication outlet of choice. There’s a wealth of information online so you may need to do your own research to determine your approach, but the extra effort can be worth it. Take control of your brand and who knows where the opportunities may lead – you may just become the ‘go to’ person in your field.
Jennifer Lien is the Managing Editor for Taylor & Francis’ Social Sciences and Humanities journals in Asia Pacific. She is also the co-author of the business book Asia’s Entrepreneurs: Dilemmas, Risks and Opportunities (Routledge). Follow her on Twitter @lienje.