Marketing yourself as a researcher

What's it all about? Effective marketing is essential for entering and engaging in a competitive market - this is true whether your aim is to stay in academia or move outside it. Marketing is all about convincing employers that you have the right skills, experience and motivation to fit their needs. To do this, you need to know what you have to offer, understand what the employer wants, and prepare effective marketing materials. Here's how:

  • Knowing you - Know your skills, strengths, values and motivations. See the Find out what you want section of the Careers Service website and carry out an analysis of your skills.
  • Knowing them - research your chosen occupation carefully. See the occupational research section of the Careers Service website, the occupational profiles on the Graduate Prospects website and the information relating to career options for researchers in specific disciplines. Research your target employers - see the employer section of the Careers Service website, and make effective use of networking.
  • Prepare your marketing materials - CVs, cover letters, or application forms, depending on the job you are applying for.

Identifying your research skills

As researchers you develop a very broad skill set, ranging from technical research skills to ‘softer’ skills such as communication and people management. If you need convincing, map out everything you do as part of your research day-to-day, and then ask yourself what skills am I using and how. Also, take a look at this list of researchers’ transferable skills and also the nationally-recognised Researcher Development Framework.

According to a survey, employers value the skills of researchers but do not feel that researchers always effectively articulate the skills they have. Clearly articulating your skills involves:

  • providing concrete examples that demonstrate you have the required skills
  • not assuming that employers understand what is involved in a PhD / research project
  • talking about your research skills in language that will resonate with your target employer.

Marketing your research skills

An important aspect of marketing for researchers is to think about how to present your research effectively to employers. How you talk about your research will depend on the type of role and employer you are targeting. If you are applying for research jobs (and potentially other jobs closely related to your field), you will need to provide details of the content and achievements of your research as well as details of your technical research skills. For academic research jobs you should also include publications and awards and prizes. For jobs outside of your field or where research is not the primary activity, emphasis the transferable skills gained from the research rather than the content. Use terminology that helps employers understand how your skills are relevant to them; for example, talking about presentation skills rather than lectures, people management rather than teaching, and mentioning publications as part of writing skills. As far as possible, use the phrases given in job description; this will make it as easy as possible for recruiters to see you have the skills they are looking for.

Skills development

Assessing and developing your skills is an important part of both developing as a researcher and preparing for whatever will follow your PhD or research contract. Review your skills regularly and identify areas for development and action plans. All researchers should review their skills development with their supervisor/research manager on a yearly basis - see the Researcher Development Unit website for more information on this.