Frame Yourself

Create your brand (marketing terminology for how you tell your story as a job candidate)

Frame how a potential employer sees you by branding yourself as an expert. A brand is the marketing practice of creating a name or logo that uniquely identifies a product. When we hear “brand” we generally think of things like Lays Potato Chips or Volkswagen cars. However, it is also a common job market strategy – a way to differentiate yourself and give you a major edge as a job candidate. Your brand, or frame, identifies your skillset, intrinsic characteristics, and the promise you give your employer as an employee. Your brand is a great tool to position yourself in the workplace and tell your story. It demonstrates you are current in your field, develops opportunities, and gives you control over how others may perceive you. It also allows you to build your personal characteristics, values and interests into the professional you, which makes you unique.

Steps to Build Your Brand

As a Ph.D. student and postdoc you develop fantastic skills. That is part of your brand!

  • Think about self-identification
    • Characteristics that people would use to describe you – honest, loyal, hard-working, caring, compassionate, persistent, flexible, resourceful, diplomatic, diligent, pays attention to detail, etc.
    • Aspects that identify what you want to do. What is the job function that interests you most? Focus on the characteristics and align your skills and attributes.
  • Determine your technical, communication, and business skills
    • Research skills, writing skills, presentation skills – these are all part of your Ph.D. journey
    • Subject matter expertise, your classes, thesis, and research all make you unique
    • Many of the skills you learned in labs, as a teaching assistant, at conferences, and with your advisor all transfer into skills that employers are looking for
    • Don’t forget to include ‘soft skills’ like communication, advocacy, and teamwork across disciplines, as well as business skills like project management. Compare the tasks you completed as a Ph.D. student or postdoc with the job description.
  • Build credibility and establish yourself as an expert
    • Do what you say and say what you do.
    • Be honest in your listing of your attributes and skills.
    • Build your reputation by listing past jobs, volunteering, and club involvement. Make sure that you identify characteristics past collaborators would agree you possess.
    • Write opinion pieces, comment on articles you read, refer to research in your field
  • Know your why
    • What interests you about a certain field? Can you describe your research in a way that will interest others outside of your narrow field of research and align with their values?
    • Why do you want to research or advocate for a topic? Why does it matter to you and why should others care? What motivated you to go into that area?
    • The why is a unique way to translate how your expertise, passion, and interests make an impact in the workplace.
  • Understand how others perceive you
    • How do you stand out in a team project?
    • What words would they use to describe you?
    • What are your strengths and weaknesses? A SWOT Analysis is a strategy that is often used in industry to analyze strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to make business decisions. It is a great framework for you to position yourself, identify areas to develop, and be competitive in the job market.
  • Create a communication strategy
    • Don’t jump on trends; rather, pick platforms that resonate with you and that you can manage to keep timely and up to date.
    • Make sure that your resume/CV, online presence, and in-person presence all align with the same skills and characteristics.
    • Pick a job pathway you are interested in. Research how trends, new research, and topics are shared. Follow that pathway. Pick interesting articles to share, look for what platforms are read by many in that industry – like and follow them.
    • Avoid listing skills that do not align with your goals and vision. Don’t confuse your audience.
  • Control your online presence
    • Identify what platforms you are currently on by googling yourself.
    • Assess the professional value.
    • Ensure that all public communications are professional.
    • Delete accounts that are not professional or may compromise the professional you.
  • Develop a brand promise
    • What is the outcome of hiring you? Identify what you will bring to the job and write it!
  • Be consistent
    • Your online images should match the in-person you. Your style, interests, and attire are all part of your image.
    • When posting online think about the position you hope to attain. Don’t post negative comments, swear words or gossip when you are marketing yourself as a professional.

Create a Stellar Online Profile

An online profile provides the opportunity for you to market yourself on an international level and network with people around the world. It is a useful tool for researching job opportunities, making connections, and sharing research.

There are many platforms that support an online professional presence to showcase your skills and experience. Online connections are a great way to increase your network and introduce your expertise in a variety of fields. Read this article that lists many platforms with their advantages and disadvantages.

Online Platforms

  • LinkedIn – a professional networking platform that can connect job seekers and employers as well as industry contacts. Remember it is your weak ties (who your connections’ connections know) that are perhaps of most value.
  • Personal website or blog – you can create your own webpage to focus on your interests, research accomplishments, and professional skills.
  • ResearchGate – share your research, connect with colleagues, and track statistics on who reads your research and cites your work in publications.
  • Publons – brings together your Researcher ID, publications, Web of Science citation metrics, and Endnote.
  • Twitter – you can follow trending hashtags, topics, and job openings within your industry. In this platform, it is important to engage and post relevant tweets on a regular basis.
  • Facebook – an online platform that has features that allow you to connect with other professionals in your field. Usually for disciplinary groups, often more common in academic areas.
  • Quora – knowledge sharing website that allows anyone to ask and answer questions. Great way to see challenges faced in the industry.

Create a LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is a professional networking platform that can connect job seekers and employers. It is an easy way to maintain connections from your alma mater or industry speakers you have met, and also to research companies to find employees based on location or skills. You can create an online version of your resume, apply to jobs, get recruited for jobs, network around the world, and have the opportunity to stand out with a well-crafted profile and interesting posts.

  • Put in the time – reflect and craft a message that describes your brand, focusing on what skills you bring to an employer.
  • Get a professional photo – we have a professional photographer annually. Check our calendar for the next opportunity.
  • Strong headline – it doesn’t have to be your job title, and certainly shouldn’t label you as a student. Use the space to showcase your expertise! Write your value proposition here. Make sure it differentiates you from all others.
  • Find several dream jobs, then examine the job descriptions to identify keywords. That is what a job recruiter is looking for in their dream recruit. These keywords can inspire your profile and application materials.
  • Use numbers, outcomes, and accomplishments to give context and quantify your impact. Key statistics are impressive!
  • If possible, add multimedia to your summary. A picture is worth a thousand words and increases ‘dwell time’ of the viewers. Add a link to an article, video or slide show. You can add multimedia under “edit profile.”
  • Add projects, volunteer experience, or languages. These help personalize your page and showcase your unique experiences.
  • Take advantage of the space to complement your resume. For instance, you can write a sentence describing the impact of your publication(s).

Use Your Account(s)

  • Ask a project member, advisor, or mentor to write a recommendation for you. Ask them to be specific about your accomplishment – not vague that you did a good job. For example, “Lakeesha did a great job on writing and editing our grant for the National Endowment for the Arts. She analyzed how many elementary students we work with to introduce art history to their curriculum and it helped us to receive the grant award.”
  • When asking for recommendations, choose projects you have worked on that align with what you want your career path to be.
  • Keep your profile fresh and update your status. If you have new accomplishments or publications be sure to add them. Recruiters will want to know you are ready to be hired within three months, so be sure to check the “ready for work” box on your LinkedIn profile.
  • Be sure to add connections. Accept requests from people you know and would recommend to others, and reach out to people that you have a common interest with.
  • When asking someone to connect be detailed in your request but don’t ask for a job. For example:
    • “Hi, I am a historian at Cornell University in my 3rd year of a Ph.D. degree studying links between mental health and medicine in indigenous populations in Asia and the Americas. I read that your group is adding [new service initiative] and I am interested in your goals for the library. Would you have time for a 30 minute conversation? I can be reached at”
    • “Dear [add alumnus’ name]: I am a microbial ecologist in the field of evolutionary biology. I see during your time at Cornell you served in [xyz] research lab. I’d love to connect with you for recommendations based on your experiences at [company name] that will help me while I finish up my Ph.D. degree. I can be reached at if you have a moment for a few questions.”
  • Make an effort to connect others with a resource that might be of interest, and help them-it is a two way street!