5 Tips for Developing Your Brand as a (Early Career) Clinician Educator

(This is the second in a series on developing your reputation (i.e. brand) as a Clinician Educator. For Part 1, click here. –Jonathan (@sherbino))

By Teresa Chan (@TChanMD), Brent Thoma (@Brent_Thoma), Salim Rezaie

Start thinking about your program of scholarship

Take a second and make sure you’ve established your own clear vision of the projects that you are planning or working on.  Do they fit together?  If not, take a step back and think about what you love to do. Think about what makes you “tick” and whether your plans are consistent with your interests.

If you don’t have a clear vision right now that is okay.

You are still early in your career as an educator. Your aim, however, should be to develop one… eventually. One of the best tips that Teresa Chan received regarding career planning was from Rachel Ellaway, a prominent researcher in medical education and leading thinker from the University of Calgary. She said that junior educators need a bit of time to “play” to determine their interests. In your first few years, it’s ok for learning purposes to help out with projects you don’t know much about. After allowing yourself these opportunities, take a look back to find the common themes.

Once you start defining these themes, you need to harness their power.  Don’t be a one-hit wonder – think about a program of scholarship, don’t think in one-off studies or projects. Consider the opportunity, find collaborators, and make linkages to develop more than one project. Then repeat. As you focus your efforts in one area and complete a project in another area, hopefully you find linkages that help you focus, yet grow!

Create a “Home Base” then develop your embassies and outposts

If you want to develop your brand it’s important for people to be able to find you online. Check out your online footprint by Googling your name to see what is out there. If you have a relatively common name it might help to add your city or university. You might be surprised by what you find. Seemingly inconsequential things like that one time you ran a 10k race may be your top result.

If you do not feel like what you found is a good representation of who you are it is time to get to work.
In the book “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World” Michael Hyatt describes three ways to represent yourself:

  1. Create a home base: This is your property on the internet. It outlines who you are and you control it completely. It can simply provide your biography or host links to your blogs, podcasts, videos, educational resources, and papers. All of this content should link people back to your home base so they can find out more about you and what you do. Websites such as about.me or branded.me allow the creation of basic websites that serve this purpose.
  2. Create embassies: These are your profiles on other’s property. You can be there frequently to interact with others but you do not have complete control of the look or feel of the site. Examples include profiles on Facebook, Twitter, ResearchGate, and LinkedIn.
  3. Develop outposts: Outposts are ways for you to hear what is being said about you without actually participating in the conversation. Google Alerts can monitor mentions of you on Google and citations of your work on Google Scholar.

Develop your social networks – both off-line and online!

One of the essentials in the world of technology and social media is building personal networks online as well as offline.  There are some very simple things you can do to help with both aspects. Online platforms generally help to accelerate a career faster, but off-line platforms are also necessary to help develop your brand.

There are so many platforms to use in building your online brand that it is often hard to know where to start.  There is currently a fast growing movement of medical educators on Twitter using the hashtag #meded. You can quickly get your name on the map by not just consuming, but also contributing to medical education topics, disseminating information, as well as participating in conversations.  You may think this is silly, but if you look at the number of unique participants using this platform, you will see there are already greater than 45,000 just for 2015 alone (Symplur Analytics), and the year is still not over.

Building your off-line brand can be a bit tougher than just creating a Twitter account.  It involves going to conferences.  Although technology is a nice way to get started, at some point people will have to meet you in person.  There is something to be said about shaking someone’s hand that tells you about them! Unfortunately, it is not as simple as showing up to the conference, you also have to have a plan.

Here are just a few ideas:

a) Stay at the hotel where the conference is being held. Some may say that this costs too much money, but this is where everyone else is going to be.  Typically there are social events at the enf of the day and a restaurant/bar where people will get together.  This is a simple way to get your foot in the door.

b) Keep it simple and talk to a few key people.  You don’t have to talk to everyone at the conference.  It’s about quality, not quantity.  Figure out who you want to meet, why you want to meet them, what they can offer you and what you can offer them.   Another option would be to email someone before a conference to see if they would be willing to meet for just a few minutes.  You would be surprised how willing people are to help. Consider going up to a speaker and asking a question before or after one of their talks.

c) Always follow up on the connections you made.  A simple email after the fact will go a long way.

Get involved

There are lots of ways to get involved with education groups.  Many universities have centres that support either faculty development or education scholarship. Join them. For instance, at McMaster we have the Program for Education Research and Design contributing what you can will get you into meetings and places where you can gain experience and new opportunities to expand your portfolio.

Most specialty organizations and international groups also have ways to get involved.  Maybe you want to contribute to the ICE blog. Similarly, the Canadian Associate of Medical Educators (CAME) has a blog and a newsletter (CAME VOICE). Within some of these groups there are also early career clubs. For example, CAME has the Early Career Medical Educators group which runs sessions annually at the International Conference on Residency Education (ICRE) and Canadian Conference on Medical Education.

Get your message out there

Once you have a message that is important to you, get it out there! Traditionally this involved presenting it at conferences and publishing it in journals. These activities allow you to reach a relatively small audience in a very personal way. They are still important, but they are not the only way to demonstrate your expertise in an area and build your brand. Consider using social media platforms as a ‘megaphone’ to make your message louder.

You can do this by sharing your work on your embassies and writing blog posts or recording podcasts on your topic of interest. When you publish in journals make sure to share it from your embassies. When you present at a conference write a blog post containing the key points to your talk and share it with the participants using a blog.

For more tips, check out this article by Sayra Cristacho and Lara Varpio in Medical Teacher.  Their advice is slightly different but also very good