In this post Jatinder Mann (Hong Kong Baptist University) offers some tips on self-promotion in academia, outlining his experience of using four of the major online platforms. The opinions expressed here are not intended as an endorsement of any of the platforms mentioned, but provide a personal view of their benefits and limitations.
Following on from one of my previous blog posts on ‘How to … Survive in academia until you secure a position (some personal reflections)’, I thought it would be useful to write another one on how to promote yourself in academia. Through training courses and discussions with friends and colleagues, I have come to use several platforms to promote my work and activities. I primarily use Academia.edu, ORCID, LinkedIn, and Twitter towards this end. I will make some general points about them and then take each in turn, talking about their benefits and limitations.
The first general point I would make—without sounding too much like someone who works in marketing—is to be consistent about your brand, which is ‘you’. So, ensure that the information you have on different platforms is up to date and consistent. Inconsistencies in things like your publication record can look unprofessional. It can be a little time-consuming updating various platforms, but the benefits I have seen come from this—be it research collaborations, invitations to give talks, expressions of interest to publish in the book series or journal that I edit, etc.—more than justify it. Another common benefit of the platforms I use compared with my staff web page is that I have control over updating it and can do so as many times as I like. Another collective benefit of platforms such as Academia.edu, ORCID and LinkedIn is that the information you have on them can be a very useful reference point when you are working on job or funding applications. So, even if there might be some significant time investment upfront when setting up your profiles, you will hopefully find that it saves you time in the future.
I will now look at each of the four platforms that I use in turn, focusing on some of their benefits and limitations.
I was introduced to this platform by a friend and former colleague in the United Kingdom after I had been awarded my PhD in 2011. You can view my profile here to see what kind of information you can include on it. At that time the site was completely free. I found it particularly useful as it acted as a de facto webpage for me as I was no longer a PhD student at the University of Sydney and had not yet started working on my postdoc at King’s College London. Another thing I really like about it is that you can see when people search for you on search engines and come across your profile, and where they are searching from. This is particularly useful when you are applying for jobs, as you can see that people from a particular institution you have applied to are searching for you. You can also see when people read papers you have put up on the site. However, the site has since become monetised, which has resulted in certain features now only being available to those who pay for a ‘Premium’ membership. Out of principle I will not sign up to this. But because I spent so much time over the years building up my profile on the site I do not have the heart to close it. And I still appreciate being able to see when people look for me on search engines.
I found out about this not-for-profit platform from a friend and colleague of mine at the library at my current institution. You can view my profile here to get an idea of what information can appear on it. If you have an ORCID profile you can provide your ORCID ID (a unique 16-digit code) to publishers, and the outputs they publish will automatically be included in the list of publications on your profile. Many publishers will also include ORCID IDs in the print and PDF versions of articles and other outputs, providing readers with a direct link to your profile. I have to say that I have become quite a big fan of this site, not least because it has various sections which Academia.edu does not. These include ‘Employment’, ‘Education and qualifications’, ‘Invited positions and distinctions’, ‘Membership and service’, and ‘Funding’. However, Academia.edu has certain features that ORCID does not (non-refereed publications and media interviews), which for me at least necessitates having profiles on both. Another benefit of ORCID is that you can include your ORCID ID on funding applications, which means assessors can view more detailed information that you might not be able to include in your application due to formatting and space constraints. One thing though that ORCID does lack compared to Academia.edu is the ability to put up a profile photo of yourself. Some might think this is not a bad thing, but I personally think it is a good idea for people to put a face to a name.
I was introduced to the benefits of LinkedIn at a training course I attended in 2013 when I was at King’s College London as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Like many academics I thought at the time that LinkedIn was more for people in the private sector. But the instructor at the training session made quite a persuasive case to create a profile, if for no other reason than for networking. You can view my public profile here (the private profile is only available to my connections). LinkedIn is probably the most useful platform for showcasing your employment history. Although ORCID also allows you to do this, an added feature of LinkedIn is that it provides space to go into more detail about what you actually did in each position you have held. I have found this a very useful reference point when working on job applications. Another feature of LinkedIn that I discovered from attending a networking event was the ability to post written work. This is something that I have really gone with and I have reached a much broader audience than I would have normally. A regular post that I put up is the fortnightly newsletter of my Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand Studies Network (ACNZSN), which has led to interest in opportunities mentioned in the newsletters as well as contributions for future issues. Another benefit of LinkedIn is the ability to list your skills. It also helps facilitate networking, which does sometimes involve some unsolicited approaches, but you can ignore these.
I joined Twitter in 2013 after a friend I made at a conference persuaded me of the benefits of using it. You can view my Twitter profile here. I now manage five Twitter accounts, so have certainly gone with it! However, unlike some people I only use it for work purposes, not personal ones. My main reason for this is that Twitter is a public platform (unless you have very high privacy settings, but then that defeats the purpose of it in my opinion), so anyone can see what you post. Keep in mind that potential employers very often look at applicants’ Twitter feeds before hiring them. The main benefit I have found from Twitter is being able to promote publications and presentations you have given and also publicise forthcoming events. Whenever I give presentations I make sure to include my Twitter handle so people can tag me on Twitter and put up any photos or comments about what they thought of my presentation.
I hope the above might be of some use in thinking about the different ways you can promote yourself in academia. If you have any questions about anything I have said, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I would mention that there are of course other platforms out there which I am sure are really useful as well, but the ones discussed in this piece are the ones that I have used and am most familiar with, and therefore can talk about with confidence from my own experience.