Advice: A cover letter should center your expertise *relevant to the position/RFP*, not your career stage (bonus: cover letter template)

When you’re looking for job or funding opportunities, your cover letter does some heavy lifting. (Photo of me (#throwback) doing field research on bison in Canada)

Last week, Virginia Schutte and I released another episode in our podcast, Meteor: The honest podcast about scicomm with impact. Last week’s episode was about using your resume and/or CV to understand, define, and validate yourself, not to ask for permission.

I’ve been thinking more about this, since it’s “application season” for fellowships, jobs, grants, and more. In particular, I field a lot of queries about fine-tuning cover letters and application materials. I’ve shared various resources for them online (like a workshop series on applying for the NSF GRFP that’s applicable to most application types) and on social media. But today, I want to share something more specific and detailed about what is arguably the most important part of your application: the cover letter.

To my mind, the cover letter is most important because it may be the only part of your application that a hiring manager, grants program officer, editor, or whomever reads.* Your cover letter is your shot at (a) getting them to want to read your CV, references, etc. With the cover letter, your goal is to get on the short list for reading your full packet or even offering a phone/video-call interview.

To do that, you have to be what Virginia talks about in the podcast episode: you have to be convincing — as who you are — as the person they might want to hire. Your application, especially your cover letter, should not be trying to convince the reader that you can become who you say you want to be relative to the position or opportunity.

Continue reading Advice: A cover letter should center your expertise *relevant to the position/RFP*, not your career stage (bonus: cover letter template)

Sketching Tip: Sketching Techniques Toolkit

Student practicing simplifying a complex image into essential line work (at a Sketching for Scientists workshop I taught at Harvard Forest)

Context

I teach numerous Sketching for Scientists workshops each semester, for faculty, students, and science/science-allied professionals beyond academia. Each time, we do a lively, evidence-based crash course in habits of mind and foundational drawing techniques. I keep the focus tightly on integrating drawing with doing and sharing science, and for faculty, there is an additional coaching element where I help them think through curricular planning that can make grading feasible and productive and convincingly convey the value and utility of drawing for learning science.

Toolkit

Each time I run these workshops, I share a list of the techniques we’ve discussed, as a memory aid.

Here’s that list, in case it’s also helpful for you!

Click image to download PDF file with one-page toolkit.

SciComm Advice: Start at the End (what are you trying to do?)

Girl drawing in a sketchbook with art supplies on table around her

I frequently get asked by students and faculty what kind of advice I have for a student interested in sharing science. Some of these students want careers as scicomm professionals. Others want to do scicomm as a scientist. And others still just know someone who is looking for advice. This post is written as direct-to-the-seeker advice.

Feel free to share it and chime in about the advice you share or have found most helpful — share in the comments or on Twitter!


As a starting point, I typically I recommend folks read “Unveiling Impact Identities: A Path for Connecting Science and Society” (link to paper). Julie Risien and Martin Storksdieck’s paper is about about how to meld what they call research and impact identities. Reading this paper can help you orient you to…yourself.

Continue reading SciComm Advice: Start at the End (what are you trying to do?)

Sketching Tip: Being ready to sketch (or, handy portable sketching materials)

Sketching any time, any where, gets easier with practice. But planning for sketching helps, too.

Having materials ready means I can grab the appropriate (and/or most convenient) set-up and be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

And, having sketching materials along means I’m way more likely to sketch!

Along with some sort of sketchbook, I always have one of these kits in my pocket, purse, or backpack when I leave the house. Continue reading Sketching Tip: Being ready to sketch (or, handy portable sketching materials)

Sketching Tip: Using words for all they are worth

Hares sketched in East Africa – this was the best I ever could do, because they didn’t stick around long enough! (© B.G.Merkle, 2016)

Not all sketching plans go according to plan, and then words can play a critical role. 

In May 2016, I took a trip to East Africa, working on the first international phase of my ecology storybook project: “The Ecologically True Story of the Tortoise and the Hare.” I did a lot of prep for my trip to East Africa. But of course, all kinds of situations arise which planning can’t anticipate. Continue reading Sketching Tip: Using words for all they are worth