Build a science blog to progress your career

By Seán Mac Fhearraigh PhD

What do scientists consider their skill set when looking for jobs outside of academia? Mine where hard to sum. I was a PhD in cell biology. I could Western Blot, I had used thousands of antibodies. I could present data. But outside the traditional ABCs of cell biology I had no further experience. Laser focused, academic, scientific, but show me where I can provide value to a business?

Being mindful of your CV skill set

It was 2012 when I realized this. I had just submitted my PhD in 2011 at University College Dublin and was now working as a Post-Doc in Cambridge University on kinetochore-microtubule interactions. However, what I did realize at the time was the importance of the internet, yes it was 2012, but as a scientist with no coding skills, I knew that pursuing a successful career would require a knowledge of how the internet and how computers work. I was thinking long term. I knew that, like a post-doc, if I thought 3-5 years ahead I could master skills that would develop my CV beyond that of a cell biologist and into a scientific developer/marketer/analyst. A skill set that would hopefully allow me to move into roles of scientific marketing, website development and sales.

Personal Development using a science blog

To begin I knew I would have to start at the bottom and decided to open my first blog. Straight away the name Post-Post-Doc jumped into my head. My vision would be to learn what I could about building a successful website and leverage my experience as a scientist to blog about it. Like all scientific blogs, it was quiet at the start. No page hits, little comments and no likes. I realized that if I was to grow this blog Id need to develop a sales and marketing skill set to build website traffic and engage readers.

Incredibly the internet is full of free tools, forums, platforms, E-books and guides to give you the basic education you need in website marketing. One site that helped me was the Moz blog which provided a weekly whiteboard on how to market content online.

No longer did I begin my CV with a list of techniques and conferences that I had attended, but I included sections about how I had developed coding and marketing skills and could detail my success in building a website that had gained thousands of hits.

Applying for scientific marketing roles

My next leap came when interviewing for scientific marketing roles. I matched the list of scientific requirements such as 6 years Cancer Research Experience, but also my side project of a scientific blog allowed me to write cover letters detailing my experiences in websites, SEO, html & email marketing. A skill set I had developed myself had now allowed me to present myself as a scientific marketer. I was no longer a risk a company would have to take, but someone that may provide potential for growth and development within their online marketing departments. I had the niche set of skills.

As I began to interview for marketing roles I realized my new skill set allowed me entry into rounds of interviews, however, I still needed an icing on the cake. So turned back to what I scientific training thought me the best, read the literature to find out what you need. It came in the form of “Marketing for Dummies!” the quick guide to all of kinds of problems, courses and training provided the background to the seven Ps of marketing. With 386 pages I could now speak the third language of online marketing. I had evolved.

I was a scientist, web developer and marketer. I spoke two new languages, web development & online marketing. I now moved in two worlds and realized that scientists are the classical marketers, rating products, analyzing their peers & presenting data. I had the skill set all along.

Without major expense and a lot of patience, personal development in a new area allowed me to transition outside of academia. I had created a niche background skill set I needed to secure a position and further my career.

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