Becoming more visible and findable
Networking isn’t just about reaching out to others; it’s about making it easy for others to notice and contact you. How will they know that you are the person to go to if they are searching for a particular skill or area of expertise? This section focuses on steps you can take to make it easier for people to find you, and to find you credible.
Top tips for raising your visibility
An obvious starting point is your use of social media. This is a huge topic that do not go into details with here. For ideas on making the most of social media, look at:
- Social media for academics and networking PFDC Pop Ups
- Imperial web and social media guidance
- Engagement toolkit
Many of the worries or barriers to using social media are actually similar to the ones we find for face-to-face networking (see our advice on time and confidence to network and communication). Remember that as an early career researcher, you have the power to make social media a kinder space, and opportunity to connect with others – it’s not just about self-publicising. Just as for real life situations, there’s no reason to pretend to be anything you’re not on social media.
Here is a series of small steps you could take, that add together to make a big impact. Which of these could you start doing?
Consistency across different ways of communicating, whether online or face to face will help people to understand who you are and where your interests might overlap and helps to build trust. Are you using the same phrases and words in your descriptions of yourself?
Write short lay articles or blogs
Writing for an industry magazine or an article for The Conversation can hugely (and rapidly) widen your audience and potential networks. The joy of this kind of writing is that it is much shorter than an academic article, and doesn’t involve the peer review process, so is much quicker as well.
Engage with your knowledge exchange (KE) team
- It’s the Enterprise team job to develop links between researchers and industry - they may know of funding that will enable this or may have contacts to introduce to if you have a compelling offer or request.
Review your online profile
- Make sure your profile is up to date and ask someone else to review it and give you feedback. It’s the first place someone will look to learn about you – make sure it reflects you and where you are going. Engage in the activity below to review your online presence.
If you were searching for a journal article, it’s likely you’d use keywords. What keywords or phrases would represent you as a researcher? Research themes? Challenges? Techniques or soft skills? Sectors? Make sure these keywords are used consistently whenever you communicate about yourself.
Attend an event
Look back at the ‘mapping your network section’ and find a gap which you wanted to address. Is there a particular type of event, training course, workshop, consultation, or conference, which you could participate in, which might allow you to become more visible and develop more connections (or deepen existing ones) in this area? Look for groups or events on LinkedIn or Eventbrite using keyword searches.
Organise an event
- If there isn’t an event or a network in your area- why not organise one? Contributing to conference organisation is a great way to make sure that everyone attending knows your name, as well as being a potentially really rewarding way of contributing to the direction of your discipline. This links back to the idea that many networking activities are actually about investing in a community. So, if you don’t want to organise a conference, maybe it’s something smaller like a journal club, seminar series, podcast or twitter conversation.
- Invite a small number of industry contacts to a short workshop (online or face to face) where you can each share current interests and expertise and future plans and challenges – time spent just listening to each other’s perspectives can help to quickly build trust and rapport and find ways that you could start working together. You may even be able to get funding to have sessions like this professionally facilitated.
‘Stratify’ your introductions
How do you describe your work when you meet people? Can you write down three or four different levels of description, depending on someone’s own area of expertise or interest? Starting with a simple non-technical explanation, becoming more detailed.
Practice them and have them ready to use when you are ‘on the spot’ meeting someone for the first time. In the links section for this resource, you will see a useful structure for drafting and practicing a short ‘elevator pitch’ about your research.
Use your email signature:
Your email signature is also a place to indicate what you’re interested in. “I’m interested in talking about xxxx”, “Contact me if you want to know more about xxxx”. “Here’s my latest article:”
Boost the audience of your research outputs
Think about all the ways you can boost the readership and impact of your articles so that more people get to see what you are doing. There are some great suggestions in the University of Edinburgh’s guide to boosting the impact of publication
Engage in open research
- ORCID provides a persistent digital identifier (an ORCID iD) that you own and control, and that distinguishes you from every other researcher. Make use of tools like preprints, figshare and institutional repositories to share your work and engage with a wider audience. Use hashtags and share posters or a summary of your publications on twitter.
Share future plans
- The new people you meet are interested in ‘future you’ – how they might engage with things you will work on next – be sure to talk about these in presentations and in your online profile. “I’m interested in working on XXX next – please get in touch if you’re interested in discussing or working with me on this” or “I hope to start working in the following places/ with the following people in future, let me know if you have experience or contacts I could use” or “I’d like to set up a special interest group on XXX …contact me if you would like to join”.
Review your online presence
When was the last time you put your name in to a search engine? What did you find? Was it a true representation of who you are, what you offer and is it clear why someone would want to engage with you in the future?
How to audit your digital footprint
- If a potential collaborator or employer were to research you online, what would they find
- Ask two or three colleagues (who don’t know you very well) to audit your digital footprint. Offer to do the same for them.
- Ask them to take just five minutes (people won’t look for long!) to ‘google’ you and look at a variety of websites or social media to find out, and form an opinion, about you and your research.
- Ask them feed back to you (perhaps via a short chat, coffee or zoom call) on:
- What do they believe, purely from your online presence, are your key research themes
- What skills do they believe you have?
- What do they think you might offer a potential stakeholder or collaborator who might want to work with you in the future?
- What one piece of advice they would give you to improve your online presence?
- Look at their feedback within the context of what you are trying to achieve with your social media profile. Is this what you expected? Does it reflect the key words, themes or values you want it to? Set some small goals and prioritise the ones you need to change now, then things to do later to improve your online presence.
- In the interest of reciprocity and investing in others, offer to do the same for your colleagues – but ask them first!
- There are some great suggestions in the University of Edinburgh’s guide to boosting the impact of publication
- Tips on how to use Twitter, Linkedin and open research tools to maximise your findability as an academic: Upping Your Online Presence - Overview
- What does your digital footprint say about you? 15 questions from Fast Track Impact that will tell you if your professional online identity is an asset or a risk