November 29, 2016, by Carla
How to Start Your Career in Science Communications
What happened when six representatives from industries ranging from space exploration and experiments to ship investigations in Antarctica came together to share their personal experiences and top tips?
Having been warned the enticing cupcakes were for after the talks – I tried to sneak one to no avail – I took a seat just in time for the talks to begin. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the event and how useful it would be, as it can be hard to imagine how a degree can relate to the real world, and where mine would fit within each industry. Luckily for me, that was one area all the speakers touched on and my favourite piece of advice came from the Wollaton Hall Natural History Museum curator who reminded me:
“Most jobs have multiple routes of entry; don’t focus on the degree you do not have, but the skills you do.”
I could sit here and tell you how wonderful all the speakers were, which they were, but I think I might be of more use summarising the top tips I took away from the event – along with the excellent cupcake I scoffed on the way home.
1. Get involved
One piece of advice given by every professional was to “get stuck in”. The incredible presenter from the National Space Centre in Leicester – her electrical field display was amazing – emphasised the importance of getting experience in your chosen area. Employers are now looking for evidence of your passion for their industry.
Interested in conservation? Look up a charity and volunteer with them; try the Wildlife Trust for local volunteer opportunities. Want to curate natural artefacts? Volunteer with a museum. The list goes on. You need to show your interest in a real way, a way that you can tell an interviewer about to impress them with your work experience in their field.
2. Blog, blog, blog
Write about your life, your interests, and your student life. Constantly working on your language and style will make it easier for you to show your range of communication skills. It also gives you a visible online presence, so if a company decides to ‘Google’ you, they immediately see the type of person you are and the work you want to do.
Charis Gresser of the Brunswick Group also suggested critically thinking about articles you see in the news. Has that journalist portrayed that quote fairly? Was that how you would have written the piece? Engage with the media and learn from the professionals – and from their errors!
In regards to the second point, make sure your online content is suitable. Rob Lambert, media presenter and Nottingham lecturer, informed the group that more industries are looking at your social media profiles to assess how you fit in with their core messages and brand. Maybe make those pictures of last night’s Carnage private?
4. It’s not what you know…
Networking is a huge part of employment culture now, and it is important that people know who you are. Introduce yourself to people at Careers events for a start. Otherwise look to the internet. Dr Lisa Coneyworth from the School of Nutrition told us about her experience with Science GRRL, a network of people aiming to inspire the next generation of scientists. Becoming part of a network can provide you with opportunities to improve your skills, share your talent and improve your employability.
Not ready for face-to-face? Get on Twitter. The Natural History Museum at Wollaton Hall has a Twitter account for George the infamous gorilla, @George_gorilla. If you’re a budding curator, why not tweet the great monkey and see what opportunities he can help you with?
5. Finally, remember these magic words
Repeat after me: your degree does not decide your career.
Sure some companies might ask for science degrees, but a large proportion of them won’t. Companies want to see what skills and mind set you can bring to the table, not just the marks you got in second year biochemistry. So if you aren’t sure what you can do with your degree, or you don’t think it’s the most suitable for the path you want to take, do not panic! Look at job specifications and see how you fit in, and unless a specialised degree is requested, send in an application. You never know…
So, full of motivation, career ideas and cake, I wandered home to ponder the possibilities. I definitely have more information than ever before about the requirements for certain jobs, and hearing from the professionals helped me work out if I would be a good fit for their industry.
Interested in finding more about careers outside the lab now? Take a look here.
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