Professional Development

Building your professional brand

You need a portfolio, to stay connected and to be authentically you
Martina G. Efeyini
May 15, 2020

Many of us are #workingathome and learning how to adapt to a new normal. This is a time for reflection. For some of us, it's also a time for making career pivots, exploring options and determining what we want out of our careers. For this week’s column, I am going to share how to use your uniqueness and skills to build your science professional brand. 

What is your brand? You are the brand. It's simple? Right.

You have been building your brand since you started your science career. Yes, jobs change, careers change, and you change. That’s normal. Your brand will evolve with you.

Many of you already know what your brands are but may not have really thought about using them as career tools. Your brand can open doors for you and help you find careers that suit you most.

If you are having trouble determining your brand, talk to someone who knows you well professionally (such as a mentor) and ask them these three questions:

1. What makes me stand out?

2. What is my career mission?

3. What are my key strengths?

Their responses will tell you if your brand is obvious. A great brand will shine through your work, speak for itself and be clear to others.  For example, my brand is: science, education and communication. All of the work I do supports my brand; your work should support yours.

How to build a science professional brand 

Build a portfolio: Your portfolio should represent you as a scientist. It is the visual representation of your brand and highlights your skills, includes samples of your work, shows your key interests and demonstrates what you bring to the table.

This doesn't have to be a decked-out fancy portfolio. It can be as simple as an aboutme page. Think of LinkedIn as the highlight reel of your portfolio.

Why build a portfolio? To showcase your talents.

​​Be authentically you: As scientists, we have many skills and identities. Some scientists feel like they have to hide their identities because they are not comfortable being themselves in a professional setting for fear of not being welcomed.

If you want to dance, be athletic or get red-carpet ready (i.e., #DontRushChallenge), you are still a scientist. Don't let other people diminish who you are or tell you are not a "real" scientist. Let's change the narrative by sharing our narratives.

Why be authentic? To humanize scientists and science.

 Stay connected: If your schedule permits, join a virtual event to learn about career options and expectations and to see what scientists who work beyond the bench are doing. From there, you can start building connections that will help you grow professionally and build your brand.

If you are looking for ways to connect with other scientists, participate in ASBMB's monthly Twitter chats. This month, it's about COVID-19. In June, it'll be about doing science in the home.

Why stay connected? To build and maintain your network. 

In addition, it is a good practice to spend time doing something that:

  • Sparks your creativity: Find ways to use your science to engage with others. Start a blog or Instagram account or give a flash talk. Last week, ASBMB hosted a virtual flash talk competition. Flash talks are a great way to get your science out to the public. It is true power in the art of science communication, and it can be used to grow your brand. You can host your own flash talk or even recruit peers to do flash talks, too. 
  • Sparks your intellect: Sometimes, as scientists, we can get caught up in our own specialties. Find time to connect with scientists who are doing research you know nothing about or scientists who have a similar background but who work in a different environment. Gaining a variety of perspectives could be just what you need to point your career in a different direction. 
  • Sparks your curiosity: Explore the world of wonder around you. Think back to when you were a child and how you first got excited about science. Spark that enthusiasm again or foster the curiosity of a budding scientist.  
Martina G. Efeyini

Martina G. Efeyini is a toxicologist, science communicator and advocate for the next generation of scientists. She works at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, CURE Scholars Program and is a careers columnist for ASBMB Today.

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