30 November 2012

You need an online presence, scientists

Two examples of people giving advice about why you need to get online.

Earlier this week, we hosted a presentation by Sheri Graner Ray, game designer. She is a South Texas native, who attended our university for a couple of years, and now lives in Austin.

Sheri’s advice on getting into the gaming industry? Get on Facebook. Clean it up to a point where you wouldn’t be embarrassed if a potential employer saw it. Then friend people in the business, and update your status once a day. Get on Twitter and tweet twice a day, and retweet and reply to people already in the business.

She asked students in the audience how many were of Facebook. A good chunk of the hands went up. She asked how many were on Twitter. Very few hands went up. Students, you are missing out.

Given her digital emphasis, I was a little surprised that she also stressed the importance of having a business card, calling it another “golden ticket” to networking and employment.

She said so far, four students took her advice. The number she was able to help land jobs in the gaming industry? All four.

Sheri has a series of “Networking 101” posts on her blog that, while geared towards the game industry, have a lot of good tips for students, too.

(The picture at right is my very primitive attempt to sketchnote her presentation. I was also playing with the newest update of Adobe Ideas on my iPad. The update included different pens, brushes, and a fill tool, all of which make it much more useful and fun than before.)

The Action Potential blog at Nature also talks about this. Much of the article is about how the editors are trying to be more inclusive, especially of women scientists. But there’s also this (my emphasis):

The greater challenges are deciding when to follow up on a suggestion to try out someone we don’t know, and identifying potential new reviewers on our own – particularly young scientists. The first stop in the process is usually a Google and/or Pubmed search to check infer expertise. Recommendations from trusted reviewers play a part. An informative lab or personal website helps. We also invest a fair amount of energy in “scouting” personally. We take note when we have had constructive and productive exchanges with authors. When we go to conferences, we make mental notes when presentations impress us, or we have interesting scientific conversations while in line for coffee. Our ears perk up when a veteran referee touts the critical faculties of a senior postdoc. The occasional find has even come through blogs – I have contacted people on the basis of the careful, rigorous thinking evident in their posts.

And here are the top two suggestions:

  1. Have some form of web presence. If someone can’t find you, they can’t follow up on you. This is less of an issue in the US, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve looked for someone in Asia and had trouble.
  2. Keep the information on your website current, or if your department is maintaining your web entry, make sure someone’s keeping on top of it. Ensure that your publications, key research interests, and technical expertise are easily accessible.

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