02 Nov 2016

Networking and Marketing Yourself: Easy Steps for Success

Networking and Marketing Yourself: Easy Steps for Success

Promoting your strengths and marketing yourself effectively are ways to stand out from the competition.

Many psychologists and graduate students don't feel comfortable promoting themselves. We'd rather allow our research, teaching and clinical experiences to speak for themselves. We just want to do our science or help people. Unfortunately, the real world, requires us to speak up. Open faculty positions often receive hundreds of applications and many of you are already aware of the significant competition in the APPIC Match as a result of the internship crisis. How can you stand out in a crowded field?

Promoting your strengths and marketing yourself effectively are ways to stand out from the competition. Self-promotion does not have to be sleazy; you can promote your skills and expertise in ways that are honest and genuine, but not boastful.

Here's how:

  • Reflect. First, think critically about your strengths, skill sets and what makes you unique as a future psychologist. Also think about the areas of growth you would like to work on while still in training that can help you identify your training goals and help you develop future strengths. If it is hard for you to identify your strengths, ask a trusted colleague to help you.
  • Develop a niche. You stand out by having a unique strength, especially one that is desirable in your area of interest. For a researcher, this could mean having an expertise in statistics/methodology (always desirable in a faculty candidate) or knowledge of a unique assessment technique, like fMRI. For clinicians, this could mean developing an expertise in trauma in veterans, or group interventions for severe mental illness. As a clinician, I have two niches: I am bilingual in Spanish and English and work with children with autism. Both niches have helped me get interviews and land jobs.
  • Update your vita regularly. To effectively market yourself, you have to have your materials ready to send quickly. Keep your vita accurate and up to date at all times. At a minimum, I recommend updating your vita every semester since it is easier to update your vita with each new activity as it occurs. I also recommend storing your vita on a cloud-based network such as Dropbox or Google Drive, since they allow you to forward your vita after meeting someone at a conference, even from your phone.
  • Create a strong elevator pitch. Be able to explain your research or clinical interests in one or two short sentences. I know this is hard because we love what we do and we can talk forever about it, but a short, clear description of your work demonstrates thoughtful communication skills. Practice your elevator pitch with a classmate, who can give you feedback on how you come off when speaking. Also translate your pitch for social media by developing a description of your interests for one or two tweets (140 characters each).
  • Set reasonable goals for networking. Thinking about networking can be overwhelming for you, especially at large conferences such as APA's Annual Convention that has 10,000 attendees. Make it easier for yourself by having small goals, such as talking to three new people and reconnecting with two others for every conference. At APA's convention — this year in Toronto, Aug. 6-10 — connect with others by attending sessions related to your work and at APAGS and APA division social hours (the APAGS Social is always held the Thursday evening of APA's convention; stop by the APAGS booth for more details).
  • Develop and nurture relationships. Many people find jobs through connections. Going to conferences and colloquia are ways of developing those connections. Nurture relationships by communicating regularly, and use social media to allow networking to develop. For example, connecting via LinkedIn is a great way to follow up after meeting someone at a conference.

Networking and marketing aren't dirty words. These steps are manageable ways to identify your strengths and promote yourself in a genuine way.

By Nabil Hassan El-Ghoroury, PhD, associate executive director, APAGS

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