Promoting yourself as an academic

Promoting yourself as an academic means ‘selling yourself’ or ‘marketing yourself’ as an academic as much as you would do as a professional when looking for a job. However, the academic job market is limited and often it is best to think in terms of employment opportunities outside academia as well, i.e., in the commercial sector. This gives you an expanded range of options. There are several things to consider when marketing one’s academic skills and qualifications:

  • Generic versus discipline-specific technical skills
  • The curriculum vitae, the job letter, and the ‘response to selection criteria’ document
  • Citation data and other measures of research capacity.
  • Profiling: Forums for advertising one’s skills (commercial networking, academic and social media sites)

This page looks at each of these.

**NB: This document is sourced directly from Davies (2022) and is reproduced with permission. A PDF version from Bloomsbury the publisher is available here. **

Generic versus discipline-specific skills

There are many skills acquired during the course of completing a higher degree. Some are discipline-specific, e.g., technical/computational skills, the ability to use scientific equipment, etc. However, many skills are generic in nature and can be used in a variety of occupations outside academia. Examples include:

  • Writing skills and literacy
  • Oral presentation skills
  • Advanced research skills
  • Information literacy (the ability to use a number of information tools to find sources)
  • and many more …

These skills are vital for many occupations. They should be stressed when applying for jobs as much as one’s expertise in the narrow field of your thesis. Indeed, not many roles will require expertise in your narrow field. Make an appointment with a careers advisor to see ways to “sell” your generic skills.

Citation data and measures of research capacity

If you want to apply for academic jobs it is critical to publish, and even more important to be cited. There are a number of terms you might hear that relates to this, e.g., publication output, research active, citation metrics. These are explained below.

  • Publication output is the amount of scholarly work produced by an individual academic. This output is usually measured yearly. It is a condition of employment in some universities that academic output is above a certain figure, e.g., one or two scholarly peer-reviewed papers in an A-ranked (top-ranked) journal per year. This is, in fact, very difficult to accomplish for the average academic as some of the best A-ranked journals routinely reject 80-90% of submissions, and it takes many months—sometimes years—for your work to appear in print although online first access is increasingly common and accepted. Online first is a pre-publication digital copy the same in all respects as a printed copy but without a volume and issue number as it has not yet been assigned. It comes out reasonably quickly after acceptance of a submitted article and can be considered, from the point of view of research output, to be an official publication.
  • Research active: A person with a high publication output, or at least a steady stream of publications over a long period, is considered to be research active. Needless to say, for an academic career this is very important. It is not possible to be competitive for academic jobs if one does not publish. It is even more important to be cited (i.e., referred to in other peoples’ publications). An scholar who is average, good or exceptional in terms of being research active has a certain h-index number over 20 years (see below). The h-index is one important citation metric used in academia.
  • Citations: These are the number of times other academics reference (or ‘cite’) your work in their own work. This is a direct measure of scholarly influence. It demonstrates in a very concrete way that your work is being read by others. Citations are not necessarily a good thing (your work might be cited in order to be severely criticised) but in general it is better to be cited than not cited as it shows your work is relevant, and most citations are made as an endorsement of the findings or ideas articulated in the work being cited. If these ideas or findings were irrelevant, trivial, poorly expressed, or unimportant, you work would not be cited, and hence you would not be noticed. You don’t want your academic work to be unnoticed. To use Oscar Wilde’s dictum: ‘It’s better being talked about than not being talked about’. Citations are measured by indices or metrics such as the h-index, the g-index, and the i10-index. The technicalities of these will not concern us, but in general the differences are as follows:
    • h-index: The h-index was proposed by J. E. Hirsch in his paper ‘An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output’ (Hirsch, 2005). The h-index is defined as the number of papers (h) with a citation number ≥ h. For example, a scientist with an h-index of 37 has 37 papers cited at least 37 times. An advantage of the h-index as it allows for direct comparisons within disciplines, as it measures quantity and impact by a single value. Roughly speaking, a good h-index for a researcher is considered to be 20 after 20 years of work as a professional academic; 40 is considered outstanding, and 60 is exceptional.
    • g-index: The g-index was proposed by Leo Egghe in his paper ‘Theory and Practice of the G-Index’ to improve upon the h-index (Egghe, 2006).  The g-index looks at overall academic record. It is calculated this way: ‘[Given a set of articles] ranked in decreasing order of the number of citations that they received, the g-index is the (unique) largest number such that the top g articles received (together) at least g^2 citations’ (Harzing, 2016). The g-index gives prominence to highly cited articles, according for the performance of author’s top articles. It assists in evaluating the difference between authors’ respective impacts.  The inflated values of the g-index help to give credit to lowly-cited or non-cited papers while giving credit for highly-cited papers.  
    • i10-index: This is the number of publications with at least 10 citations.   This very simple measure is only used by Google Scholar, and is another way to help gauge the productivity of a scholar.  
    • One academic profiling forum, ResearchGate has its own metric called a RG index. This is to phased out shortly.


An online profile now is what the curriculum vitae, or CV, used to be years ago, namely, a record of your achievements and a way to market yourself to employers. With the advent of the internet, the paper-based CV is still valuable, however there are many more interesting and creative ways to market yourself now and it is important to be aware of them and use them. I divide these into academic profiling, corporate profiling and social profiling, however the distinctions are blurring amongst them and many are now used for quite different purposes than they were initially intended.

Academic Profiling

This kind of profiling is essential for those interested in a career in academia. There are a number of such profiling outlets and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Obviously, these profiles are most useful if you are research-active, i.e., productive in terms of publishing articles in your academic area, and if you plan to enter academia you must publish (For a useful guide on how to publish, see Wisker, 2015, see also Academic publishing)

However, even if you are early in your academic career, and have not yet published, you should still consider joining these sites as they offer free access to research papers by others and provide opportunities for academic networking. As you become research active yourself and start to add research papers and works in progress, membership of these online sites will show their value. In general, the longer you are represented in these various online fora the better your chance of being noticed on them. This might lead to work opportunities, but even if it doesn’t, the advantages they offer in terms of free online profiling are beneficial for a number of reasons as I outline below.

Some of these academic profiling tools described below might be dismissively thought of merely as “Facebook for academics”, but in truth they are more than a place for displaying your research and qualifications. They can notify you about work opportunities and provide profile and citation metrics. Sometimes called analytics, these are tools for determining your academic value as measured by research output, and—more importantly—citations, in terms of download percentiles and general influence within your field of scholarship.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is the world’s largest academic search engine. In 2018 it was estimated to have contained more than 389 million documents. It offers a way of indexing and recording the full text of a researcher’s publications and associated metadata and capturing citations for their publications.  It also functions as a virtual CV of a researcher’s output with the added advantage that internet bots, or data collection “spiders”, will automatically collect citations, and add them to their citation count over time, allowing researchers to display not only their publications, but also their citations as well.

Google Scholar is essentially a static page of publications, with no scope for interactivity. It does not permit the addition of personal details beyond name and academic position, key works and co-authors. Its benefit is as a comprehensive repository of publications and associated citations. You can join Google Scholar here.


ORCID is a not for profit online repository for researchers. According to its website they provide: ‘infrastructure needed for researchers to share information on a global scale. We enable transparent and trustworthy connections between researchers, their contributions, and affiliations by providing an identifier for individuals to use with their name as they engage in research, scholarship, and innovation activities’. In practice, ORCID is also little more than a static page listing your papers, book chapters, conference papers and book chapters along with institutional affiliations and educational qualifications. It functions, effectively, as a reasonably complete online CV and can be exported and printed as such. However, it has become the standard digital identifier for academics, and it is used by all libraries and research organisations world-wide. It is essential to have an ORCID profile, even as a fledgling academic. Get one here:

Like Google Scholar, ORCID acts as a comprehensive repository of a researcher’s publications with the added advantage of allowing them to display education qualifications, employment over time, distinctions, awards, and other personal information. It does not show citations (a big disadvantage); however it does link to Scopus IDs where citations can be displayed (‘Scopus’ is a citation database).

Other academic profiling websites require a warning. ResearchGate, and its competitor sites, and Kudos are commercial, or proto-commercial, sites that depend on uploaded documents from academics to provide access services. In addition, there are discipline-specific sites, such as PhilPeople for professional philosophers, and other dedicated profiling sites for academics in the sciences and social sciences. There are ethical and legal issues to be considered when using any of these services, so use them with caution.


ResearchGate (RG) has been described as a ‘mashup of Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin’ (Lin, 2012). It is mainly for scientists with approximately 60 percent of its members from science disciplines. However, scholars working in other disciples are welcome. At the time of writing it had 17 million members. ResearchGate is essentially a site for academics which provides a forum for uploading papers, works in progress, book chapters and conference papers, and selecting key words that describe the work uploaded. This allows your work to be fully searchable. It also provides a chat area where members can post on a variety of specialist and general topics, and members can “follow” other members, similar to the same function on Facebook. This is useful for getting an idea who might be interested in your work. A ResearchGate score (or “RG” score) is a composite index particular to the RG site comprising citations received for publications, the journal impact factor, the number of followers, ‘questions asked’ and ‘answers given’ in chat. Membership requires a university email address. You can join the site here: has no particular disciplinary emphasis and is open to membership to all scholars. As of October 2019 it claimed to have 99 million users making it the world’s largest academic profiling site. It is a competitor to ResearchGate (another is Kudos) and like its competitors, it purports to be an open access repository, but is really a for-profit social media site that also offers opportunity for file sharing, providing metrics for measuring citations and research downloads. Unlike RG it does not offer a discussion forum. It initiated a premium service for paid subscribers in 2016. Like RG it allows academics to follow each other’s work and requires a university email address for membership. You can join here.

Professional Profiling

Professional profiling is a way to market one’s skills to companies and employers chiefly in sectors other than the academic sector. The largest such professional profiling site by far is Linkedin with 575+ million subscribers as of April 2020 (, 2020). While intended as a professional site targeted for corporate, public service, and other non-academic areas, the use of Linkedin is also pervasive within academia.  Recent data indicates that 20 million companies are listed on Linkedin, there are 14 million open jobs, and 90 percent of recruiters use it for finding employees (, 2020).

Linkedin is a social media site as much as a professional profiling site, with a service that allows a member to profile their education, skills, honours, certificates and achievements and membership of organisations. It explicitly functions as an online CV and can be printed as a fairly impressive-looking pdf format that is more or less ready to go as a document to send to prospective employers (see sample below). Linkedin also allows members to choose their employment-ready status, from “currently employed”, to “open to job opportunities”, and the more explicit “looking for opportunities”, etc. Thus, prospective employers can review potential employees even before interviewing them. This is of great benefit for recruiters.

Linkedin also allows members to join groups formed in professional associations and discussions forums that are related to their interests. This contributes to members’ Linkedin newsfeed allowing them to keep abreast of events, job advertisements, and new publications in their field. Unlike RG and, Linkedin is not a repository for uploaded publications, although one can draw attention to new publications by means of posting an announcement. In this sense, Linkedin does not compete with publishers and functions more like a social media tool albeit with a professional emphasis.

Part of the strength of Linkedin is its ability to foster professional connections, rather like Facebook “friends”. Linkedin allows members to invite other people (whether they are members of Linkedin or not) to become a connection.  Once connected, members can communicate with each other via a chat function. A premium paid service allows members to see who has looked at their profile, e.g., recruiters, and how often their profile has appeared in searches, and the ability to mail people and organisations who are not connections. It is also possible to review other members’ public profiles anonymously. However, one can be a Linkedin member without using these functions.

It is arguable how helpful Linkedin is in career development, but there is no doubt that building connections is an increasingly important part of self-promotion in the contemporary job market.  As noted on Wikipedia, ‘LinkedIn has evolved from being a mere platform for job searchers into a social network which allows users a chance to create a personal brand. Career coach Pamela Green describes a personal brand as the “emotional experience you want people to have as a result of interacting with you,” and a LinkedIn profile is an aspect of that’. Membership for the non-premium service is free, so consider joining Linkedin and building your profile well prior to graduation:

Social Profiling

It scarcely seems necessary to describe Facebook and Twitter as they are already so well-known. As the world’s largest social media platform with around 2.6 billion users, Facebook is ubiquitous. However, it is not often recognised how useful it can be as a profiling tool. Increasingly more academic and professional organisations have a Facebook site, so it has become a de facto way of presenting yourself, following related professional groups, and in turn being seen by potential recruiters. As with any profiling tool you need to be an active user, and your profile needs to be kept up to date. The Economic and Social Research Council offers a number of other reasons for social media profiling:

  • promote your research and increase its visibility
  • communicate directly and quickly with others who have an interest in your research
  • develop new relationships and build networks
  • reach new audiences, both within and outside academia
  • seek and give advice and feedback
  • generate ideas
  • share information and links (e.g. journal articles and news items)
  • keep up-to-date with the latest news and developments, and forward it to others instantly
  • follow and contribute to discussions on events (e.g. conferences that you can’t get to in person)
  • express who you are as a person (Economic and Social Research Council, 2020).


Facebook is more a social media tool than a professional profiling tool, but it can also function to profile your personality. To make it useful for professional profiling it is important to use it for more than showing your extra-mural interests, i.e., travels, hobbies and photographs of your family. These things are not irrelevant to recruiters (they often like to know what kind of “person” you are as much as your professional skillset), but if Facebook is to function to build your professional employability, it should be accurate in terms of noting your educational accomplishments, work history, membership of professional and learned societies, and so on. There are thousands of professional Facebook organisations and newsfeeds you can join that are related to your disciple area. Like Linkedin, Facebook should also be used to advertise your work-related interests and academic output by means of announcement posts.  In other words, to be professionally useful it needs to offer more than a window into your social life.


Twitter, with 48 million active users, is more important as a professional profiling tool than Facebook owing to its inherent brevity. As a micro-blogging tool, it permits posts of no more than 280 characters. 280 characters is not much, so there is no opportunity for long-winded, discursive empty-talk. This forces you to be succinct. The best way to use Twitter is to post (or repost) and comment on articles you have read in your field of work that you find interesting. This is a way of demonstrating you are up-to-date with literature, have a focussed mind, and a willingness to be engaged in lifelong learning. This is naturally of interest to prospective employers.

Note, importantly, that a worthwhile employee is one that is engaged in their field, not merely looking for a job. What makes a good employee stand out is also their capacity to be relevant to their field and to see and take note of relevant trends. Twitter allows you to broadcast to the world that you are a person who is like that. This will be a reason for people to follow your posts. Again, your Twitter profile must be accurate in terms of your professional associations, educational attainment, and current position. But the best use of it is to display how engaged, relevant, and well-read you are in your field.

In all cases, social media sites can act as a “pointer”. Both Facebook and Twitter can effectively be a gateway to your other profiling sites: ResearchGate,, Linkedin, ORCID, Google Scholar or, indeed, your own website (whether that is within your educational or professional institution or a stand-alone site). These can all act as mutually reinforcing profiling tools: i.e., the social media sites advertising aspects of your personality and engagement with your profession; the professional and academic sites providing a very contemporary online curriculum vitae. It is on these latter, more extensive and purposeful sites, that your entire skill-set and achievements will be on permanent display, and regularly updated.

Anyone who notices and is interested in your contributions by way of comments or posts on Facebook or Twitter (particularly the latter) can be tempted to visit these sites and learn more about your skills, attainments, publications, and—in the case of Linkedin particularly—your professional connections. This can lead to recognition as a potential employee. The online world has made networking, more important than ever. There is no good reason to be reluctant or dismissive of the importance of displaying one’s personal connections. It is often these things that can have a big influence in gaining a suitable position or furthering one’s career. As often said: ‘it is who you know, not what you know’.

Needless to say, in this age of professional and academic profiling and social media, do not assume that your various online profiles will not be looked at by potential employers. Often, they will do just that. It is possible to review your Linkedin profile anonymously. It is also possible to search for photos of you on your Facebook site anonymously. Do not put on social media—i.e., posts, photos, comments—anything that that is inconsistent with the professional image you wish to project or that you would not want a prospective employer to see!

A Comparison of Profiling Tools

Anne-Wil Harzing has provided a useful summary table of the various profiling options from the perspective of an academic seeking to build networks and gain visibility for their publications. She does not consider Facebook to be useful for academics, so does not include it. However, it can be useful for professional employment if used appropriately as I have intimated. Indeed, prospective employers almost certainly will look at your publicly accessibly Facebook site to get an idea what kind of person you are.  For completeness I have therefore added it in the table below.

(adapted from Harzing, 2022)

Social and professional profiling may not, by itself, get you a job. But when it comes to applying for positions, and being short-listed for interviews, it is far better to be a name that is recognised in the field—i.e., “seen” to be engaged in the relevant profession—than someone entirely anonymous. At worst, it can display that you are completely comfortable with the online world.  This is essential in the twenty-first century. 

**NB: This document is sourced directly from Davies (2022) and is reproduced with permission. A PDF version from Bloomsbury the publisher is available here. **


  • Davies, M. (2022). ‘Developing a post-degree brand’. In Study skills for international postgraduates.
  • Economic and Social Research Council (2020).
  • Egghe, L. (2006).
  • Harzing, A-W. (2016)
  • Harzing, A-W. (2022). Social media in academia: Comparing the options.
  • Hirsch, J. E. (2005).
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  • Wisker, G. (2015).