Resume, cover letter, job interview, science communication, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Science communication 101

My professional role is Communications Specialist at CCRM, which is a Toronto-based leader in the commercialization of regenerative medicine technologies, and cell and gene therapies. Part of my role involves learning about the science and innovations that happen in the lab and translating them to the public. This practice is known as science communication.

The craft of science communication is becoming more common as researchers, engineers and others working in science increasingly want to make the public aware of their research and results through social media, media interviews (which lead to articles in print or online media, or segments on TV or radio news broadcasts), in videos, at exhibitions and in presentations. Although science communication falls within the larger domain of communication, there are specific nuances and approaches that science communicators must be aware of to be successful. Canadian universities even offer courses on science communication so that people can start to master the practice early on in their careers.

By examining the transferrable skills I’ve gained as a public relations (PR) strategist working in an agency setting in past roles, I understand how these skills can be applied to supporting folks in the science community as they delve into science communication. Although experts know the facts and figures behind their projects and results, a communications specialist like myself can successfully translate this information to public audiences who are interested in science, but may not share the same technical prowess.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, science communication, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

If you’re a communications professional who is providing counsel to a science communicator, I have a few tips for you to pass along. The advice noted below comes from posts that I’ve composed as a guest blogger on Signals Blog, which provides an insider’s perspective on the world of stem cells and regenerative medicine, and is managed and edited by CCRM.

Tip 1: Hone your message for media – Sharing messages with media has the potential to increase their reach and credibility. However, scientists must adapt their messages to ensure that media can easily understand and effectively incorporate them into an article or broadcast. How? Cut the jargon, get to the news early in the pitch, and tailor messages to resonate with the audience. Learn more about these techniques here.

Tip 2: Incorporate storytelling principles – Good communication is essentially storytelling. When crafting messages to report on scientific research or a new discovery, using the six elements of a great story can lead to more compelling messages. The six elements to add are a hook to pique the audience’s interest, characters to captivate the audience, the right setting, small details that convey implicit messages, inside information in layman’s terms (see cutting the jargon, above!), and surprise to drive engagement.

Tip 3: Pick the right channel – The communications channel you use can depend on what’s being communicated or who the target audience is. It might take a bit of creativity to think of how a non-expert would best absorb the material. For example, exhibitions, like the ones at the Ontario Science Centre, are good ways to engage children and youth. A Facebook Live broadcast, like this one that I helped produce at CCRM that shares an engineer’s work and career path, can engage social media-savvy adults.

What if you encounter someone who’s skeptical that science communication even matters? Let them know that in some cases, effectively sharing research results and their implications can be a life-or-death scenario. If you think I’m just being dramatic, watch the below video that explains some science communication fails from history, and their ramifications for the public’s health and well-being.

What other science communication tips do you have? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey
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New year, new goals, new you

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, for many of us, the start of a new year is the time to take on resolutions to change ourselves for the better.

At the start of a new year, I like to reflect on my goals and check-in on where I’m at with them. A rule of thumb for me is:

“Write down two personal, two business and two health goals for the next 1, 5 and 10 years. Do this four times a year. Goal setting triggers your subconscious computer.” – Lululemon mantra

This mantra works well for me because it reiterates the importance of having different goals across the different facets of life, and over different time ranges. Writing your goals down is also very effective at helping you stick to them – even billionaire Richard Branson agrees! I also love that it acknowledges that goals can change based on the different circumstances that you face when you check-in on them, even if you haven’t achieved them yet – and that’s okay!

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Although it’s January 3 and I should probably have fleshed out more of my 2018 resolutions, I’ve so far only focused on setting professional goals for the year. To keep me accountable, I’ll share them (in writing!) here. This year, I’m going to step outside of my comfort zone as a communications professional and expand my skill set in other related areas that aren’t categorically “PR”. I’ll be honing my graphic design skills and further advancing my project management knowledge.

What are your 2018 goals? Do you jot your goals down and check on them often to keep yourself on track? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com, Laine Jaremey.

 

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Getting an “A” in study habits 101

It’s been years since I’ve needed to crack open a textbook, make notes, study and write a test. Not since completing my undergraduate degree and post-graduate certificate years ago have I needed to review, digest and apply a course-load of information and then demonstrate mastery of it during one written exam.

This is unfortunate, because right now, I’m preparing to study for and take an exam. Gulp.

Which exam? The Project Management Professional, or PMP certification exam. As a communications professional, this certification will complement and enhance the work I do. To make sure communications and PR campaigns are successful, managing the moving pieces and making sure everything is being done on-time, on-budget and high-quality is critical – this is where effective project management comes in. Plus, I’m a huge fan of professional development!

So, I’m first brushing up on my study skills. Here are some tips that I’m going to keep in mind as I embark on this exam preparation journey:

  • How I study matters as much as what I study. Science proves it! Edudemic.com reports that some study habits are proven by science, such as regularly exercising, not rushing through course material, switching up studying locations and topics, getting good rest, and taking a tech break.

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  • Setting a studying schedule will help me to map out key milestones in my exam preparation. This is particularly important because I’m doing self-directed learning and there’s no one to make sure I’m on track. Using a critical path (there’s more about creating a critical path and other planning tools in an older post here), I’ll keep myself accountable and organized, ensuring that all important content is covered.
  • In my university days, mnemonic devices were helpful for remembering detailed information, like lists or theories, when cramming for a test. They’re great for everyday things too! But, sometimes I find that creating the mnemonic device seems like as much work as actually remembering the thing it stands for! A digital mnemonic generator will make life easier (I wish these were around when I was in school!). Since there are many lists of processes and components to remember, this tool will be helpful in my exam PMP prep.
  • Quiz yo’ self! Testing my knowledge before the exam can help me assess just how much I’ve retained from studying. I’ll try making flash cards, doing practice exams, or explaining key concepts to someone else to assess my understanding.

What are your favourite study tactics? Share your tips in the comments!

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Nine tips for successful informational interviews

Have you ever been on an informational interview?

If you haven’t heard of them before, an informational interview is a meeting with someone who’s already in an organization, field or industry that you’d like to get into, which doesn’t relate directly to a job opening. It’s an opportunity for you to learn, grow your network and get your foot in the door.

Informational interviews can help improve your career prospects. They’re especially helpful when you graduate or if you’re starting out in a new field. In fact, the effectiveness of informational interviews has been described as “engineered nepotism”. Essentially, if you don’t have an existing strong personal connection, an informational interview can have the potential to result in one.

Informational interviews have benefited my career. My first job at a PR agency was the eventual result of an informational interview with a VP there. We were put in touch through connections in our networks, so I didn’t know her personally before the meeting. That said, I diligently prepared for the meeting and it was a success.

That’s why, when a role became available at my level at the agency a month after the informational interview, the person I met with contacted me. She thought I could be a good fit based on what she learned about me in the informational interview. As I had already dipped my toe by meeting with her and learning about the agency, I was immediately engaged. So, we met again to discuss the role and I was interviewed by other senior members of the organization. As a result, the role was a great fit for me, and I was a great fit for the team.

This experience has made me believe in the power of informational interviews. Since, I’ve continued to participate in them, both as interviewer and interviewee. Based on what I’ve learned, I have some tips for acing informational interviews as your start off in your career:

Tip 1: Prepare as you would for a job interview – Would you ever go to a job interview without Googling the company and person you’re meeting with? Informational interviews should be treated the same way. In addition to reviewing the company’s website, check out the social channels of and recent news articles about the company, its leaders, its brands and the person you’re meeting with. Review your contact’s LinkedIn profile and consider connecting with them before or after the meeting. Show you’re really on-the-ball by weaving-in what you learned in your research during your conversation, or even print out and bring an article or two.

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Tip 2: Determine an objective – Understand what you hope to get out of your informational interview. Keep your objective(s) top-of-mind, and even mention them to the interviewee either before or early in the interview. For example, if you’re emailing the contact in advance, you could say, “I look forward to meeting with you to learn about your career path and the trends and opportunities you see in the industry,” if that’s what your objectives are. This will help the interview subject prepare, and as a result, you’ll get more from the meeting.

Tip 3: Prepare a list of questions – Make a list of questions to address anything you’re curious about – the person’s career path, something you learned when researching their organization, industry trends, their organization’s culture or their organization’s open positions (if they’re not posted online). Write the questions down in your notebook (see point 5, below) or print the list. Refer to them during the interview to demonstrate your preparedness and engagement.

Tip 4: Get ready to share a bit about yourself – Ideally, the interview should focus on the person you’re meeting with. However, it would be helpful for the interviewee to know a bit about you so that they have context when sharing information or advice. Rehearse a summary, also called an “elevator pitch”, about yourself in advance. Make sure it’s short, concise and clear. Learn how to craft an elevator pitch here.

Tip 5: Make notes – Bring a notebook and pen and jot down important things that your interview subject says. Write down questions that arise when they’re speaking and ask them later to avoid interrupting them. Even if you’re a digital record-keeper, writing down notes demonstrates to the speaker that you’re fully engaged. Making notes on a smartphone, tablet or laptop can have the opposite effect. (Still not convinced to write in a notebook? Richard Branson has a compelling pitch for using them!)

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Tip 6: Dress to impress – First impressions count. But, before you put on a tailored suit for an informational interview, keep in mind that in recent years, attire for job interviews and other professional meetings has changed, just as how people dress in the workplace has evolved. A suit is great, but not always necessary (hello, suit separates!). As part of your research, learn about the culture and dress code of the organization and industry of the interview subject to ensure your attire is appropriate. However, even if the organization’s dress code is very causal on a day-to-day basis, you should dress more formally to convey your seriousness and professionalism. Learn more about dressing for a job interview here.

Tip 7: Find an appropriate venue and time – Allow the interview subject to share their preferences for when and where they’d like to meet. Encourage a venue that’s close to their workplace to minimize their time away from work. Your interview subject might suggest a meeting room at their office. Or, coffee shops or casual cafés are usually good bets, but make sure you can get a table at the meeting time; you might even want to arrive early to secure seats. Don’t order drinks or food in advance, and offer to pay if you’re the one who called the meeting (although if you’re a student or if it’s early in your career, the interview subject may politely decline your offer!).

Tip 8: Be mindful of time – Arrive early and ensure the meeting ends on time. This shows that you respect the interview subject’s time, that you’re able to manage time effectively, and that you understand they have other priorities in their schedule.

Tip 9: Send a thank-you note – Express your appreciation after the interview in an email or, better yet, a card sent in the mail. I mean, who sends cards these days? It’s a unique way to stand out. Also, if someone introduced you, take the time to send them a short email to share that the interview occurred and to thank them for the connection.

I’ll finish up with a disclaimer. The result of my informational interview scenario, described above, was ideal for me at that time because I was starting out in my career and looking for a job at the same time a position became available. However, not every informational interview will result in a job offer. And, sometimes, that’s not your objective!

You might not be able to anticipate how participating in an informational interview now can benefit you down the road. Outcomes can include being approached regarding a job opportunity, increasing your technical knowledge, absorbing perspective based on the interview subject’s experience and gaining connections to the interviewee’s network.

What other tips do you have for making the most of an informational interview? Share in the comments below!

Image credits: Pixabay.com.