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CAREER ADVICE

Creating and managing your online presence

Communicating about your academic self.

By GAVAN WATSON | February 6, 2013

As you move from being a graduate student to the next stage on your career path, employers will be searching for people like you. Telling your own academic story – and curating the breadth and depth of that information – will be an important way to catch their eye. One strategy to let employers know who you are and what you are about is to create an online academic profile.

What you share in this academic profile is up to you. You need to decide whether to keep it strictly professional, with just your publication record and teaching philosophy statement, or whether to make it more personal. If the personal informs the professional, then sharing some personal content can enrich an employer’s understanding of who you are.

You may be concerned that there’s a risk of sharing too much (and hurting your chances of getting hired), but appropriate personal content certainly helps an employer measure your fit within the organization. Done well, the reward outweighs the risk.

You also need to decide how much time you are willing to commit to building an online academic profile. This commitment can be measured in time, effort or technological expertise. A full blog that reflects your personality as well as your academic accomplishments and opinions requires some creativity and lots of attention. If you don’t have the know-how or the time to feed a personal website like this, then you may want to choose one of the lower-stakes options.

There are a number of web services that can help you establish your presence. Here are some examples, as well as the level of risk and work they require.

Academica.edu profile: professional, lower stakes

Academia.edu is a social network pitched di-rectly at those working within academic institutions. You can connect to scholars who share similar research interests. You can also use the site to build your academic presence by sharing talks, papers and other forms of academic “currency.”

I consider this option “lower stakes” because you can add as little or as much detail as you like and it doesn’t really require maintenance beyond the odd visit to update your activities. An added bonus is analytics: you can get an email anytime that a Google search brings up your profile.

An academic blog: More professional, higher stakes

An academic blog is a website that focuses exclusively on your academic work. It shares little or no personal information, which is often the mainstay of a blog. This kind of blogging can give an external audience a more sophisticated understanding of your scholarly approach than a static CV. For graduate students, you might write about stages in your dissertation or a particular challenge in your field.

I consider it “higher stakes” because you need to create content on an ongoing basis and initially you need to create the structure. It also demands that you have an interest in maintaining the technical aspects of the site.

Examples: http://natashakenny.wordpress.com/; or LMS ePortfolio

An about.me profile: More personal, lower stakes

About.me acts as an online business card, which in its brevity can provide a quick outline of academic interests. It’s visual and points to other sites: Twitter, Flickr and LinkedIn. Creating a page takes no more than 15 minutes. It offers analytics so you can get an idea of visitor traffic.

I suggest that this profile is more personal because of the links to other online presences – one of which could be your lab website or graduate student page on your department website – and it lets those sites do the heavy lifting in answering the question of who you are.

A hybrid blog: More personal, higher stakes

A hybrid approach mixes the personal with the professional. While personal items are posted in a hybrid blog, these sites also engage with disciplinary questions relevant to your field. The hybrid blog can reveal what informs the author’s personal life and professional practice. It can be a rich resource for those who want to know more than what’s in your CV.

Like the professional blog, it requires more sophisticated knowledge of how to create and maintain a site. That sophistication, in turn, allows for more creativity in building something that matches your goals.

Examples: www.biodiversityinfocus.com/blog/; or the informal LMS ePortfolio

Gavan Watson holds a PhD in environmental education from York University and is an educational developer at the University of Guelph.

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  1. Nadia / February 12, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    Thank you for this post, Gavan. As a newly minted PhD thinking of starting my own blog, it is very useful to have different styles of blogs simply illustrated as a 2 by 2 table. 🙂

  2. SC / February 20, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    A simple LinkedIn profile is another option for a lower-stake professional presence. Plenty of employers check out their applicants on LinkedIn.

  3. Paul / June 20, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Nadia, can ANOVA be far behind?

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