You have worked hard for many years, going to university and getting your degree, and working in your chosen field of science. But now, like lots of people when they hit a certain point in their career, you feel a bit stuck in a rut. You know you need to and want to advance and take the next step on the ladder, but you are not quite sure how to go about it.
The key to this is to look at yourself and your career as a business. This can be difficult to get your head around, but think of it this way: sure, you are a scientist, but what you can offer is similar to what a business offers it’s clients: your knowledge, degree from the University of Nevada-Reno, skills, and expertise in return for a monetary reward.
As you move up your career ladder, you need to be offering new things to people to get them to ‘buy’ you. You need to be on top of the latest developments and advancements in science and technology and show a willingness to educate yourself and grow – just as a business would. Businesses that spend a little time marketing and promoting themselves attract new, higher-profile clients. Spend some time marketing yourself – working on your resume and applications – and you too can land yourself a job with a new, higher-profile employer.
If you are still finding it hard to get your head around – as many do – here are some tips to help you to look at yourself as a business to advance your science career.
1) Focus on the One Skill that Sets You Apart
All of the scientists in your chosen field will have vaguely the same skills and knowledge, so to really stand out in the crowd, you need to have something a little bit special, a skill that sets you apart from the rest of the potential candidates. This is your USP – unique selling point. All businesses have one, and so should you.
Once you have identified this, spend some time really honing it and making sure it is the sharpest tool in your toolkit and something that really makes your application shine.
2) Think Big
Employers appreciate big, bold thinkers. They want to be ahead of the game, and to do that, they need people working for them who are ahead of the game and not afraid to be bold and confident.
You need to be realistic about what you can achieve in a particular period of time, of course, but do not be afraid to think big when it comes to what you can offer. If it is something that you maybe can’t do right at this time, but will be able to in the future, tell them. Tell them and show them the steps that you are taking to be able to do this.
3) Consider Diversifying
It is, as we said above, important to have that one skill that sets you apart from the rest of the applicants but be prepared to show some flexibility and consider diversifying. The skill that you have now may become obsolete in the future, so being able to pull something else out of the bag is always a good idea. This is what businesses do all of the time to ensure they stay relevant to the current market. The problem sometimes is knowing where to start with doing this, and the best way is to surround yourself with various sources of information.
Read, read, and read a bit more about things going on both within your chosen field and outside of your discipline and attending seminars and conferences. You never know – you might find that you want to move into a different area of science at some point!
4) Do Your Research
No, we don’t mean research within your field, but research and find out more about what potential employers are looking for in their candidates, and what it will take for you to be the one that they choose over others. You have to understand what your ‘customers’ – in other words, employers need. Businesses undertake market research, and so should you.
Pour over job descriptions and specifications, and don’t be afraid to make some calls and send some emails. You may not hear back from most if you are just asking questions, but some may give you some great information, leads, and even job openings!
5) Build Your Brand
In Western societies, we are encouraged to stay humble and not to brag about our skills and our achievements, but when it comes to both business and advancing your career, this can be quite harmful. You have done well to get where you are and achieved great things – be proud of them and shout about them. You are your brand – you need to publicize and market yourself, and modesty is not your friend here. Cast an eye over your resume – have you downplayed yourself?
If you have, rewrite it! Clearly articulate what value you can bring to the table. If a business didn’t shout about what they can do, they wouldn’t get very far, so take a leaf out of their book! Have some business cards printed out with your credentials and hand them out when you meet new professional contacts.
Successful businesses spend time networking with others within the industry, even if they are seen as direct competitors. It gives them the opportunity to find out what others are doing so they can stay one step ahead of the game, and a group of like-minded people to turn to for support and advice. This can be going out to events such as conferences, seminars and exhibitions, and finding support online in Facebook groups and forums.
The sooner that you start looking at yourself and your career as a business – something that needs to be invested in – the quicker you will advance your career and climb up that ladder to dizzying heights!