These tips were written with early career academics in mind but may also be relevant to others.
I was sat in a Career workshop for researchers the other day listening to a Professor talk about lectureship interviews. One comment really stood out, he said one of the panel will always know someone who could apply for the job – maybe, for instance, someone who works for a colleague. The Prof’s key tip was “Make sure you’re that person”.
Harvey Coleman, a well-known management consultant, conducted research into how to get ahead and concluded that although performance is crucial, it only accounts for 10% of what is needed. Image (ie. how one dresses, how well one fits in) accounts for 30% and visibility accounts for a massive 60%. Although this research was based on corporate America, can you see how it might apply to academia? How many times have you heard about someone getting a job or an opportunity because of who they know?
So, how can you increase your visibility in academia? Here are some suggestions:
1) Talk to people about your work! This really is the number one tip and you should be able to find lots of opportunities to do this rather than waiting for a conference. For instance, go to your departmental regular coffee break or if you don’t have one, set one up. Lots of academics find this a really useful way to share what they are doing with colleagues.
2) Ask questions in departmental seminars and at conferences – this shows that you are keen and interested. If you are worried about asking a “stupid question”, swot up a bit before the talk on the speaker’s recent papers.
3) Book a meeting with the invited speaker – a really good opportunity to tell someone outside of your department about your work.
4) Volunteer to give a talk either in your department, or even better, at another university.
5) Volunteer to supervise a student or to help with someone’s lectures – in both cases this will help someone else out, shows that you are keen and you can ask them to give you some useful feedback at the same time.
6) When going to a conference, make sure you prepare a "pitch" for yourself so that you can get across the important elements of your work clearly and concisely when asked. People are much more likely to remember what you said and tell others about the work.
7) Create a website for yourself and put the address on your e-mail signature, poster presentations etc. so that people know where they can go to find out more about your work. Make sure you keep it up to date though!
8) If there is someone specific you want to talk to at a conference, contact them in advance asking to meet with them – that way you don’t have to try and find them or interrupt a conversation and introduce yourself from scratch.
So, why not try out some of these tips and think of others that will work for you? After all, you could be doing the best job in the world, but if you’re the only one who knows it, that’s not going to help you get the next one… plus you’re bound to develop some useful skills trying out some of these tips too! Good luck!