Learn to Self-Advocate
The ability to articulate the importance and value of one's work, both formally and informally, is essential throughout one's career. While there is a common undercurrent in the scientific community that self-promotion is garish (i.e., "my work should speak for itself"), one should rarely if ever assume that the value of one's work is self-evident.
Effective self-advocacy is critical in numerous formal career-enhancing venues including tenure reviews, annual funding agency research reviews, and written grant proposals.
Humble confidence, rather than bragging, is the secret to effective self-advocacy.
Self-advocacy is also key to less formal interactions such as attracting collaborators or junior scientists to join one's research efforts, pitching ideas to one's supervisor, or trying to convince a journal editor to ignore a bad article review and publish one's paper.
How to Self-Advocate
Self-advocacy skills are rooted in more than effective oral and written communication skills—you must be able to critically evaluate yourself.
- Practice taking the perspective of a skeptic to anticipate weaknesses in your position and toughen your own arguments.
- Gather a group of peers to practice your presentations. In each case, give a 30 second description of what your key accomplishment is.
- Practice "off-the-cuff" discussion--ask questions at seminars to build confidence in public speaking, or engage in discussion at official departmental gatherings (departmental lunches, seminars, etc.)
- Get together with peers to talk about research in informal settings (such as over lunch or coffee)