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Academic Coaching & Writing

VII. Branding Yourself Online to Stand Out on the Academic Job Market

Aug 27, 2017 by Dr Sally

In this blog, you will learn how to showcase your academic brand-your consistent, clear message about who you are and who you will be as a researcher and a teacher-on your personal and academic web sites.

Expect that members of job search committees will Google you. This is especially true if you are a finalist for a position and are being considered for an interview. You want your best self to show up in the online search results.

Assume members of the job search committee will read anything available on the web, whether you intend it to be private or not. Everything about you on the Internet tells them something about you as a future professional and colleague. They may like what they see (wow, this applicant plays the accordion and has videos on YouTube), or they may be turned off (hmm, this applicant complains a lot about her graduate institution on Facebook). As a job seeker you must maintain a professional profile on the Internet and control your privacy settings on sites such as Facebook so that they do not appear in the search results.

Taking Charge of Your Brand Online

Maintaining control of your own website is one of the best ways to take charge of your academic brand and your narrative. While your current institution may offer you web space-they might even require that you keep a profile updated on their site-your own website offers you greater control over your brand, independent of your current institution. A website using your name as the URL acts as a home base on the Internet that is likely to appear in the top 10 search results of any search engine.

Your online profiles should tell the same story and convey the same brand as your job materials. Your website should highlight your research and accomplishments, help people better understand you and your work, emphasize why what you do is important, and make it easy for people to contact you.

Creating a Branded Biography for Your Website and Online Profiles

A branded personal biography brings together elements of a traditional academic bio with your academic brand. A branded personal biography is a summary of your experience, your current position, your research interests, and your brand. The content of an academic biography is professional, yet the tone is personal and direct. While most of the documents that you brand are in first person, using the pronoun “I,” your online bio is often written in the third person, using the pronouns “she” or “he.” Use a consistent bio on your website and other online platforms.

Lead With A Brand Statement. Begin your personal bio with your brand statement. For example, the researcher who used the metaphor “bridge builder,” to explain how she brings the latest research to managers in the field extended the metaphor to her teaching as she articulated her pedagogy as bridging the science that has been done and the work of the future that will be done by her students. Embracing the unique strength of being a bridge builder helped her articulate her value to her field and its real-world application.

Communicate Your Academic Essentials. In one or two sentences, summarize your academic credentials, beginning with your current title and university affiliation (e.g., “I am a visiting professor of Spanish at Penn State University” or “I am completing my PhD dissertation on seventeenth-century Spanish poetry at Penn State University”), followed by important accomplishments (e.g., fellowships or publications that matter in your field) and an explanation of what your research does.

Flesh Out Your Biography With Specifics of Your Brand. Give your readers specific details of your scholarship, roles, areas of specialization, use of theory, and intellectual interests. Explain the significance of your scholarship-why this all matters to you and to your intended audience.

Conveying Your Brand Visually

Creating a website is more complex than simply choosing a domain name, creating a biography, and posting your job materials online. Consider the important visual impact of your website as well as the intended audience. The audience for your website is broader and more diverse than job search committee members. The writing you do for your job documents cannot and should not be translated word-for-word to a website audience.

When you choose to deliberately cultivate your online brand as an academic, choose a visual aesthetic that will be consistent across sites and platforms. Do not overwhelm your online guests with too many colors, visuals, and conflicting styles. SquareSpace, Wordpress, and similar sites offer users templates that have clean designs and look professional.

Although academics do not tend to create logos like corporate brands such as Apple or Nike, you are creating a visual brand in a way that is not dissimilar. For example, your professional photo should be similar, if not the same, on Twitter as it is on your website and Academia.edu. Keep a simple, crisp layout that is easy to navigate.

Consider readability seriously and often. Is there enough white space? Are components lined up? Avoid creating a website that appears clunky, cheap, and unprofessional. Test your site for readability using all of the devices, operating systems, and browsers you can think of.

Maintaining Your Brand Over Time

Your academic brand is not meant to be static. Just as your academic identity and abilities will change and grow, your academic brand will also change and grow. Discovering and developing your academic brand, weaving your academic brand throughout your job documents, revising job materials, and doing this all while you teach, finish your dissertation, conduct your research, and build a reputation as a scholar is time consuming. Devote a little time each month to update your materials.

Additional Suggestions for Branding Online

  • Because it is expected that your identity will always be evolving, do not put “Under Construction” on your website. Rather, wait until your site has everything it needs at the moment before making it “live.”
  • Search online for your name to know what comes up when you use the major search engines such as Google and Bing.
  • Include links to the other academic organizations you belong to, university affiliations, colleagues with whom you collaborate (with their permission), and links to your professional social media accounts.
  • Although many corporate brands use them, black backgrounds on websites are rarely a good idea for academics. What does your site look like when printed? A white background is always a safe bet.
  • If you use a template on a site such as WordPress, make sure you do not wear out your reader with call to action bids. Websites that sell a product ask visitors for actions like “Click here” or “Sign up for this!” You are not selling a product. You are promoting an academic brand, being part of an academic community, and engaging in conversation.
  • Make sure every page links back to your homepage. Also, broken links make you look sloppy and disorganized, and neither of those attributes bodes well for receiving an interview for an academic job.
  • Use your keyword options strategically. Academic.edu allows you to list 13 keywords. The right words will bring the people you are trying to attract to your page.

Platforms for Academic Discourse

Resources to Build Your Own Website

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