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Showcasing yourself as a scientist

Market analysis can help researchers create a strong academic résumé, increasing research opportunities

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Market analysis strategies can be highly valuable to researchers interested in advancing their careers, increasing the visibility of their research, and helping to foster research partnerships and relationships. This is one of the findings of geologist Peter Fiske, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the USA.

In an article recently published in the journal Nature, Fiske explains how scientists can use market strategies to develop a more focused résumé and more easily find work in the academic sector.

The first step, he says, is to list your skills, experience, and interests, and then identify your strongest areas. According to Fiske, the reflective nature of this exercise can help scientists develop a broader perspective of the challenges of their field of ​​knowledge.

He also points out that many funding agencies often publish reports on priority research areas before issuing requests for proposals (RFPs). Scientists should examine these documents to see whether their ideas are aligned with the interests of the institution and whether their proposals meet the demands of the RFPs. “Scientists tend to wait for a job advertisement to appear and then submit a résumé or research proposal in the hope that their background and research experience will merit further review,” he notes.

Carlos Eduardo Vergani, a professor at the School of Dentistry at São Paulo State University (UNESP), Araraquara campus, agrees. Vergani, who is a member of the committee that selects postdoctoral candidates at the Functional Materials Development Center, one of FAPESP’s Research, Innovation, and Dissemination Centers (RIDCs), recently advertised a job opportunity on the ResearchGate website. “We received 45 résumés, 21 of them from foreign researchers,” he says.

The position was part of a research project that aims to assess the physiological response of the Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus sanguis bacteria to silver tungstate, a chemical compound with antimicrobial properties. “We needed someone with experience with the flow cytometry technique and microbiology,” explains Vergani. Only 11 of the applicants had experience in these areas. “All of the applicants were qualified, but many ignored the prerequisites,” he says. “Given the complexity of the research and the specific nature of the position, those without the requisite knowledge were excluded from the selection process.”

Like Fiske, Vergani recommends that before submitting an application, researchers evaluate recent research and publications by the group they wish to join and identify whether their skills and experience are compatible with the needs of the project. This analysis can also give scientists an idea of which techniques they should be familiar with before applying to work with a group, notes Emma Baker, a careers advisor at King’s College London, UK.

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Baker has also had an article published in Nature about how scientists can write a strong résumé. According to her, academic résumés differ from those traditionally used in other sectors for various reasons, including the fact that researchers need to present and detail their research, experience, previous funding, and most important publications.

Regardless of the size of the résumé, Baker emphasizes, it is important that this data is organized in accordance with the requirements of the position to which the researcher is applying. The best way to write a résumé is to customize the content to the specifications of each opportunity, she explains. “Thoroughly assess all the specifics and tailor your résumé to the position in question, highlighting your experience, skills, and publications most in line with the needs of the employer,” she suggests.

Baker also advises researchers to use their contacts to obtain information about a particular department or research group. Eduardo Bessa, a biologist from the University of Brasilia (UNB), believes this can help scientists to identify research opportunities and partnerships. “Talk to researchers from companies or educational and research institutions and exchange information; let them know about your interests, skills, and publications,” he suggests.

It is equally important for researchers to create and maintain up-to-date professional online profiles and invest in strategies for disseminating their work via social media, blogs, and open-access websites such as ResearchGate and Academia.edu.

This is what Brazilian biologist Alysson Muotri, from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, USA, has done. Muotri’s research focuses on genetics and neuroscience and he has always strived to disseminate his work widely, mainly through articles and books. He recommends that scientists create profiles on LinkedIn and use them to “write texts on subjects related to their areas of research.”

He also sends his own scientific articles to his peers, to make them aware of what he is working on. “This can help you maintain greater visibility among other scientists and private partners potentially interested in collaborating,” he highlights. Marcos Facó, communications and marketing director at the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) in Rio de Janeiro, agrees with the importance of building an image before your peers. “The effects of this image can result in invitations to give lectures, provide consulting, or even participate in research at other institutions,” he says.

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