Your Online Presence as a Professional
Original publication date: September 17, 2019
Networking has long been considered one of the most effective ways to search for a job, in part because of the old adage that it’s not what you know but who you know. But increasingly, success can spring not just from who you know — but from who knows you. Life sciences professionals have unprecedented opportunities today to become known, and the biggest opportunity comes from building an online presence.
Even if you’ve never Googled yourself, it’s likely that an employer or recruiter has. It’s part of a now virtually standard practice — especially at senior and executive levels — to find out how visible a prospective employee is. The number of results on Google is considered a reasonable gauge of a candidate’s visibility. You can be rejected if you have minimal online visibility, as well as if you have too much of the wrong kind of presence – political, controversial, unprofessional, for example. The concern about the wrong kind of presence is especially tricky for life sciences professionals, who need to protect their scientific credentials and present a highly professional image; they may even risk running afoul of regulatory compliance.
“The scientific discourse is moving online,” observes Chris Tachibana on ScienceMag.org. In addition to offering visibility, a life sciences professional’s online presence can provide…
- A way to connect and collaborate with other life-scientists and share scientific ideas.
- A route to keeping current in the field.
- An entrée into conferences he or she cannot attend.
Consider your own website, perhaps including a blog. Having your own presence on the Web shows employers that you are technically savvy, open to new trends, and poised on the cutting edge.
Think about the message you’d like to convey with your site. Take some time to identify what your “brand” is. Think of three major trends that have spanned your career — ongoing patterns — for example, you’ve always been a people person. Convey these consistent branding messages throughout your site. Pinpoint your “story” and tell it on your site. Importantly, consider your expertise and want to be most known for.
You can then deploy your preferred expertise in a number of ways on your site and beyond in the social-media realm:
- Blog, and/or write articles for other blogs and sites. Start your own blog to communicate your expertise. Platforms like Wordpress work well as both general websites and blogs. If you’d rather not produce a blog, consider guest-blogging or writing articles for others; online publications often seek writers and columnists. The pay may be minimal or nonexistent, but having your name in print and your expertise disseminated can be priceless. LinkedIn now makes publishing articles on its site extremely simple, and it’s a great way to reach a large audience. Don’t forget about professional, trade, and industry publications in your field.
- Be known for your expertise. Offer yourself as an expert to the media. Contact local, regional — and if you’re really hot stuff — national newspaper, magazine, and online editors to let them know you’d be willing to be quoted on the topic(s) of your expertise. As writer Lindsey Bray says in her article, Social Media for Life Sciences 101, “bottom line: becoming a trusted resource on social media just makes sense.”
- Comment on blogs and contribute to online forums and groups — but watch what you say. Speaking your mind in online groups, especially those connected with your professional field, certainly adds to your online presence, but don’t forget the very public nature of the Internet and the possibility that a prospective employer could read what you have to say.
Beyond having your own site, you’ll want to be active on at least one of the Big 4 – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The social-media venue with the greatest traction for life sciences professionals seems to be Twitter. Tachibana recommends following conference hashtags and using your Twitter handle on posters and slides when presenting.
To distinguished your professional life from your personal life in the social-media world, many careerists maintain separate personal and professional profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (LinkedIn is primarily professional). Even so, you need to avoid the controversial on your personal profile. Avoid portraying yourself chugging a beer, for example, or in any other compromising situation. On the professional side, C. Lee Ventola notes pitfalls that include “distribution of poor-quality information, damage to professional image, breaches of patient privacy, violation of personal–professional boundaries, and licensing or legal issues.”
Within and beyond the Big Four social-media venues, specialized groups offer the opportunity to converse virtually with others in the field. Niche social-media venue for life sciences professionals include:
- Life Science Only on Facebook
- Life sciences LinkedIn groups (Below are some of the largest groups; many others, some of them geography-specific or discipline-specific, also exist. Search LinkedIn Groups for the full list:
- The Life Science Executive Exchange, sponsored by BioInformatics Inc.
- Life Science Talk
- Life Science Professionals
- Life Science & Medical Device Sales Representatives
- Resourcing Life Science - Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology, Clinical Research & Medical Devices
- Pharma IQ - Pharmaceuticals Biotech & Life Science Network