Build Your Brand and Your Network as a PhD

Jennifer Polk, PhD and L. Maren Wood, PhD welcome Jared Wesley, PhD in this webinar on how to “Build Your Brand & Your Network.” Jared is a practicing political scientist with a background in government and academia. He is currently an associate professor at the University of Alberta. In this webinar, Jared provides strategies and considerations for PhDs developing their professional brands.

How to Build Your Brand in Academia

During the webinar Jared shares 8 takeaways that helped him build his brand. Let’s take a look at two of these tips.

1. Making Your Own Luck

Jared begins by sharing some pointers from his own personal journey in academia. Although Jared considers himself lucky for stumbling upon a 10-year teaching track, he stresses that luck is not “just a matter of stars aligning; there’s a lot of preparation that needs to go into it.” Opportunities don’t just come to you. “If you’re waiting for that,” Jared says, you’ll be waiting a really long time.” He suggests that we “aim our telescope.” In order to build a successful brand, you must create serendipity, those spontaneous ‘accidental’ happenstances where luck meets preparation.

2. Think Beyond the PhD

Jared emphasizes, especially for PhDs, that you are not your degree. Although many PhDs enter academia with the very specific goal of becoming tenured professors, this is usually not the norm. Even Jared acknowledges luck played a significant role in shaping his academic career. However, he also acknowledges a pivotal moment when he realized that tenure wasn’t enough. He wanted to be a resource for people, not just an academic. It is this outlook that Jared shares with us: “you are not your PhD; you are wanted to serve the public.”

When considering your own personal brand, then, think about who you are and what you bring to the table. As Jared says, your brand “is who the world thinks you are . . .and how others would seek to use you.” While this definition may seem more functional than personal, Jared clarifies that this sort or relationship is one of reciprocity. In the career world, you want people to recognize your value so they will offer the same caliber of value to you in return.

You may find that narrowing down your “purpose” and value are difficult, especially because in many ways we do already have a brand–we all have a reputation based on how other people perceive us. Jared suggests we take control of this narrative, but to do so carefully by defining purpose and value for ourselves rather than how other’s view us. “The key takeaway,” Jared says, “should be [that] what other people expect of you should play very little if any role in determining what your purpose is.”

Join Jennifer Polk, PhD, and L. Maren Wood, PhD, at Beyond the Professoriate to hear more from Jared about branding. Also, feel free to check out more of our videos on professional development for PhDs.

Beyond the Professoriate Community Members attend events like this for free each month and access replays free for two weeks. Ready to launch your next great career? Join the Online Career Hub for PhDs.

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