I often hear people in different jobs and career levels comment that in this economy there are no jobs or funding to apply for. With all the advice from the various Bio Careers bloggers, and from receiving career opportunity updates, I know that is wrong. Therefore, how do you make yourself stand out so you are called for the first stage of the interview process? If you aren’t looking for a new job or funding opportunity how do you make yourself more noticeable in your current position? The answer was nicely demonstrated in a presentation I went to recently. It was called “Marketing for Scientists” and was given by the NASA astrophysicist Dr. Marc Kuchner.
The answer is to market yourself appropriately for your audience. You and your research are your “marketable product.” It is pertinent to remember that marketing is not altruistic. It is the craft of understanding and meeting people’s desires. Once you appreciate what your audience truly wants, it is possible to describe the product in ways to demonstrate this. You need to be positive and enthusiastic during the delivery, which may not come naturally, but will certainly leave a lasting impression with the viewer.
Using sales terms may exemplify why you and your product are better than anyone else. Steve Jobs used such descriptive words as Stunning, Revolutionary, Incredible and Remarkable while discussing Apple products. Using these terms certainly encouraged millions of people to purchase i-gadgets, and it also created a very effective, positive brand. The brand is based on the company or individual reputation and can affect people’s feelings greatly. Therefore when you are communicating to your audience (PI, grant review board, manager, interviewer), it is advisable to utilise some of these tools for a beneficial response (just enough to make an impression. Remember – don’t use to the excess that a used car salesperson would!). It is also wise to use the correct terminology for the individual. Your PI would understand the minutiae and jargon while a lay person grant reviewer or business manager won’t. You need to help them understand just how wonderful you and your ideas are so they can help you!
Another key point Marc made is that young scientists are told to network, but aren’t generally told how to do it effectively. Most new networkers run around meeting as many people as possible and then promptly forget them. What you should aim to do is build lasting relationships with people. This takes a lot more effort, but will be more rewarding in the long run. When you meet people, use their names a few times during the conversation. This will ensure that you remember them later! It also lets the other person know you are paying attention and are interested in the details. Maintain consistent contact every few months. Ask them how life is, congratulate them on papers or news, and let them know your developments. If it is someone who has differing opinions than yourself, remember that as long as discussions are handled correctly, arguments can actually deepen relationships.
He finished with a very poignant reminder. Products (ideas or gadgets) will always die as nothing is forever. What will be left are the mutually-beneficial long term relationships you have cared for and nurtured. It is the only way to succeed in business or in science.
Marc has begun a collaborative effort through various mediums where scientists can openly discuss issues and provide advice to each other. The website with more information is http://marketingforscientists.com/ . He has written a book which goes into far more detail than I have touched on, and he is available to give seminars. I would strongly urge anyone who wants to continue their personal development and become a more effective communicator to become involved with Marketing for Scientists in some form. With goals of improving the culture of science and shaping public debate, he certainly has my support.