Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Selling yourself and your work!

It's one thing to know you're awesome, it's another to convince others of it! "Selling yourself" is one of the most important skills you will develop in graduate school. Successfully selling yourself and your work will get you scholarships, fellowships, offers to collaborate, and offers to work in new labs (among many other things). So how do you do it???? I am FAR from an expert and I learn more about selling myself every day, so leave your suggestions/corrections in the comments.

1) Get your name out there

This follows from my previous post on networking (http://evolbiology.blogspot.ca/2012/11/professional-development-and-networking.html). Talk to people, present your work, and take every chance to tell your colleagues about new and exciting things you're working on.

2) Know why your research is exciting

Selling yourself and your work goes beyond presenting at conferences. You need to convince your colleagues that your work is worthwhile and exciting (you might like doing it for the sake of knowledge or because you're "in love" with a particular organism or system but not everyone will agree with you!). Answering the following questions is a good start:

Why should the general public care about your work? In other words, what would you tell your grandma to get her interested?

What are the broader impacts of your work? How will the results affect science and/or society?

How would you pitch your work to a granting committee? Why should they fund your work?

You'll become more comfortable with the answers to these questions the more conferences you attend and grants you apply for (the better you get, the more grants you'll get too!). Keep a 2-3 sentence summary in the back of your mind for impromptu conversations with colleagues.

3) Write a lot of grant/scholarship applications

There's nothing like practice! You might get some money too! Also, see my previous post (http://evolbiology.blogspot.ca/2013/01/graduate-school-part-iii-money.html).

3) Publish

Publishing seems obvious and it is! But it's not as simple as publishing 1000 papers per year in low impact journals. In modern academia you're expected to publish in high(er) impact journals. This doesn't mean you have to publish only in Science and Nature (although I would certainly give anything to do that!). It means finding and telling a compelling story. Papers in Science and Nature tend to have simple but exciting punch lines.

What is the punch line for your work?

You're part way to a high impact paper! Of course, there is a lot more that goes into a Nature paper than a catchy punch line (well-collected data, compelling data analyses etc.) but without one, you're unlikely to be published there. Sometimes it is tempting to get caught up in details and methods. These are important things to consider when designing and performing research. But, unless you're specifically intending to publish a methods paper, they probably shouldn't over shadow your punch line.

4) Have a well organized CV

The following blog is a great guide (http://theprofessorisin.com/2012/01/12/dr-karens-rules-of-the-academic-cv/). If it's difficult to find pertinent information on your CV, you'll be overlooked for grants and jobs!

5) Share your work online

When you publish a new paper or present at a new conference, tell the world wide web about it! You can use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Academia.edu etc. It's also good practice to email your papers to close colleagues. So much new literature is published every day that your paper might be overlooked by relevant researchers. Don't be afraid to be a little self serving. Some day you'll be judged on the number of times your papers have been cited and you won't ever regret having distributed your work!

1 comment:

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