To get a job, build a career, craft a partnership or collaboration, learn about new opportunities and position yourself to access those opportunities and for success and professional bliss, you must market yourself. You must inform others what your specific expertise, experience, skills and knowledge are and how you can solve problems in a unique way that will advance the mission of the organization or colleagues with whom you desire to work.
Marketing yourself and your value is how you land jobs and advance in your profession.
There is nothing shady or dirty about promoting yourself. Although business students learn about marketing, selling and self-promotion as soon as they commence business school, it is rare that scientists and engineers hear about the importance of marketing one’s value. And yet we do it all the time. When you write a paper or give a talk, you are marketing yourself. When you serve on a committee or take on a project, you are marketing yourself. When you submit a grant proposal or a job application, you are marketing yourself. And when you network and introduce yourself to new people, you are marketing yourself. All of these are commonplace in STEM. The only difference between this universe and the “business” universe is our choice of vocabulary- indeed, we don’t necessary refer to these outputs as “marketing” outputs, but the fact is that’s exactly what they are.
So take comfort in the fact that not only are you already marketing yourself, but so is your PI or boss. They didn’t get the position they are in without sharing, in a strategic fashion, what value they could provide other parties with whom they partner.
But let’s be clear- I am not talking about bragging. I am not suggesting you run up to Dr. God at a mixer and scream in her face how awesome you are, or lie or embellish the facts of your skill set. You are a scientist and are far classier than that! What I am discussing is a very specific kind of self-promotion or marketing that enables you and your colleagues to move forward in your careers and achieve your goals, via a mutually-beneficial partnership. To put it simply, self-promotion or marketing:
- Authentically and truthfully
- Provides strategic information
- About your value
- In an appropriate form and ecosystem
- That encourages me to make a decision
- To engage you in some positive manner
Think of your outputs, like your scholarly papers, grant proposals, and job application materials such as your CV and cover letter as strategic means in which I can learn about your brand, which is simply your promise of value. This is exactly the function of a trailer to a movie, which draws one in, gives one specific information about the movie and entices one to learn more and watch the film in its entirety. When we market ourselves appropriately and successfully, we are aiming to do the same thing- to share truthful data about our abilities to solve problems in such a way that the other party will want to learn more, because they see the value in engaging you in some way.
So don’t hesitate to develop your own “trailer” for the movie that is you and prepare different outputs in which you can share that trailer. One especially effective way to engage in marketing yourself is to deliver your brand statement, a.k.a. your 30 second commercial or elevator pitch. The brand statement simply and succinctly introduces the other party to you and your brand. It does not have to be delivered in one shot- in fact, it is often revealed over time in the course of a conversation. As we chat and I learn more about you and vice versa, you have the chance to share new information about yourself that is relevant to me.
It is important to note that your ability to market yourself is so vital because close to 90% of jobs are hidden; that is, they are not advertised, or if they are, they are already promised to someone confidentially. Other opportunities may not even exist until you appropriately and strategically market your abilities to another person. For example, if you and I are talking and you share that you have expertise in a special programming language, that could potentially offer me a light bulb moment where I realize that we could use someone with your capabilities in my research group. And as such, I ask you if you would be interested in working with me. Another scenario might involve you creating the job yourself. As we chat and I share what my needs are, you reveal that you know this language and can assist me on the technical side of my research and inquire whether I would be interested in perhaps collaborating.
This type of career development, in which jobs and other professional opportunities that are hidden are revealed or created on the spot, happens all the time. But it takes practice to hone the skills needed to know not only what information to share but also the right questions to ask to see if there is an opportunity to collaborate. So as you start developing your marketing plan, there are a few things you need to contemplate. You will need the following:
- An understanding of your true brand, which includes your skills, expertise, knowledge, abilities, experience, and even credentials and certain pedigree (like where you got your degree or who you studied under)
- The ability to communicate the full extent of your brand. This comes from developing your brand statement
- An appreciation that being a champion of your own brand and work does not mean you are a braggart or that you are engaging in inappropriate self-promotion. Rather if you don’t value your value no one else will
Finally, you need to also start thinking about what ecosystems exist in which you can effectively market yourself. Examples include:
- Writing articles, blogs, letters to editor, op-eds
- Speaking, at conferences, at your institution, at organizations and clubs
- Volunteering for professional societies, chapters, and organizations within your institution
- Attending conferences/events strategically
- Volunteering for committees
- Applying for awards (and volunteering for that committee!)
- Leveraging and using social media, such as LinkedIn and Twitter
- Being an advocate or a mentor
At the AGU Fall Meeting, there are numerous opportunities to market yourself. Consider the following options:
- Prepare and bring business cards
- Promote your talk, poster in advance and at the conference
- Invite people to attend ahead of time
- Put a sticker on your business card with the date, time, title and location of your talk or poster
- Prepare a flyer for the bulletin boards
- Tweet out an announcement and link concerning your talk or poster, with @theAGU @AGUCareerCenter and #AGU15
- Go to special events, such as the Icebreaker
- Volunteer at the conference
- Introduce yourself at exhibit hall, poster farm, talks, Town Halls, networking events
The bottom line is that marketing yourself should be a priority for you as you advance in your career. But you’re already on your way, given all of the marketing you have already been doing, in the form of the outputs associated with your job and field. The next step is to develop a marketing plan so that you can share with others these outputs and why your experience will help them succeed. Remember- promote yourself as a colleague and collaborator who is interested in a win-win partnership. This is honorable and classy, and will lead both you and your compatriots to professional victory!
Alaina G. Levine is Author of Networking for Nerds (Wiley, 2015) and President of Quantum Success Solutions, a career consulting and professional speaking enterprise dedicated to the career advancement of scientists, engineers, and non-nerds too. Contact her at www.alainalevine.com and follow her @AlainaGLevine.