Survive the Shark Tank of Science with a Self-Marketing Plan


Image credit: Benson Kua (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

In a sea of white lab coats, how can science and technology professionals get noticed? The answer is to develop a self-marketing plan — a strategy that showcases your professional accomplishments and expertise — that will put you at a competitive advantage in the shark tank of science.

Why do you need a self-marketing plan? As an early-career researcher, you may assume that everyone knows about your brand new paper, but research is so specialized that oftentimes only a few people will see your work and understand it. You also have a responsibility to show why your work is important and to translate the results to a broad audience.

Additionally, you have a personal priority of finding employment after you finish your education or post-graduate work. A majority of jobs are found by having a connection to the employer that can be made through networking and promoting yourself. Plus, recruiters and hiring managers are increasingly turning to websites like LinkedIn for recruiting efforts. Therefore, it pays to make your work visible and to maintain a good online presence.

Science Careers columnist Dave Jensen makes the analogy that your career needs to be run like a business, “Just like any product-driven company, you’ve got something to offer. You need to find a niche to sell it in, and package it just right.” This attitude allows you to take a strategic approach to your personal career planning.

Many companies and institutions have communications departments that recognize the value in promoting the work of their researchers. “Publicizing accomplishments can help researchers attract collaborators and recruit top talent as well as inform taxpayers and program managers of the return on their research investment,” says science writer Dawn Levy.

A first step in marketing yourself is to learn about the communication services offered through your employer, alumni associations and other institutions with whom you are associated. According to Levy, “Easy ways to promote your work include informing your institution’s news office when you win an award, when you’ll be delivering a talk at a scientific meeting, and when you’ve received notification that your journal article has been accepted.”

Communications experts can help you navigate the proper channels to promote your research. Future articles will follow-up on different techniques and tools for self-marketing.

6 thoughts on “Survive the Shark Tank of Science with a Self-Marketing Plan

    • Donna Kridelbaugh says:

      Some understanding of the need for self-promotion probably comes with age, but it’s never too late to start! Plus, the more seasoned professionals who know how to promote themselves can use these same channels to promote the people around them (e.g., by helping others to network or being sure to mention your junior team members in news articles).

  1. Anonymous says:

    Do talks as much as possible, even when you are on vacation. Call up local universities and ask them to let you speak at department seminars.

  2. Elaina C. says:

    My grad school advisor used to tell me to talk more, not just about my research, but in general. That was probably one of the best help/advice I got. I was a pretty shy person and I am coming out of that shell slowly. I am still finding ways to improve and I think it is a life lesson for all of us to find out how to promote our work or figure out a self-marketing plan. Nice article!

    • Donna Kridelbaugh says:

      I agree that it’s definitely a lifetime process. It was grad school for me too when I learned how to fake a bit of extroversion, but sometimes I just want to hide back inside my shell again. That’s why networking online through LinkedIn and other social media sites is so useful for people like us because then we don’t actually have to “talk” to anybody!

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