5 Ways to Build Your Personal Brand and Grow Your Lab

In scientific fields, there are often limited resources and researchers have to compete for a finite amount of funding and opportunities. In order to get grant awards for your projects and advance your career, it’s not enough to rest on the achievements listed on your CV. You need to set yourself apart from others in your field. One way to do this is by developing your personal brand.

Your personal brand is a combination of your image and reputation — the things that come to mind when someone hears your name. You want reviewers and hiring managers to recognize your attributes and get a positive impression of your past associations and professional relationships when they are making a decision about whether or not to work with you. 

John Hutchings, Career Center Associate Director at NC State University, told GradJobs, “A good brand makes you likeable. It makes you true and authentic, and people will trust you.”

By establishing a personal brand that shows you have earned the trust of your peer network, you’ll inspire confidence in your proposed projects and abilities. And you’ll have a better chance of growing your lab and gaining the success you desire.

These five steps can help you create a unique personal brand that represents your best qualities and abilities.

  1. Write down your brand statement. It could be one sentence or a bulleted list that describes your accomplishments, strengths, goals, and communication style. The process of creating this statement should help you determine how you talk about yourself, so others will see you the way you want to be seen. Even if your goals evolve over time, you should use your brand statement as the foundation for your long-term strategy for developing and maintaining your brand.
  2. Know your audience. If you are seeking a position within a certain institution, network with other researchers in that institution. Reach out to them via email or social media and find out what conferences or meetings they attend and try to meet them there. Learn all you can about the culture of the organization and the qualities they look for in a colleague
  3. Assess your brand. Search for your name on Google and see what comes up. Prospective funders and employers will do the same. Does your name appear within journal articles or in association with conferences or blogs? Do you have a social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or YouTube? Establish an appropriate presence on these platforms if you are trying to assert yourself as a leader in your area of expertise. But make sure they present the image you want to convey about yourself.
  4. Develop a social media presence. At a minimum, update and refine your LinkedIn profile. Craft headlines and summary paragraphs that tell the right story about what you do well and reflect your personality. Rather than copying and pasting lines from your CV to describe your experience, talk about it using concise, natural language. Use a high-quality profile picture that represents you in a positive light. As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Also, get in the habit of sharing enlightening content and posting about breaking research or industry events. Network with other scientists and institutions digitally by following them, liking their posts, and sending them messages.
  5. Clean up your emails. When you correspond with a potential employer, funder, or colleague, write in a courteous, positive tone and in a succinct manner. Be respectful of people’s time by letting them know why you are writing in the first paragraph. To hold their attention, limit your message to a few short paragraphs. Include a recommendation of a follow-up action at the end of your message. Your email signature should also be professional and include your name, title, address, and phone numbers. Most importantly, proofread your messages before you send them to ensure they are error free.

When considering your personal brand, keep in mind that you contribute to your brand perception with every face-to-face, print, or digital touchpoint. If you manage it successfully, you’ll build a scientific reputation that makes others aware of your unique strengths, and you’ll be called upon when opportunities arise.