Author: Tara Smylie
Communication skills? The short answer: yes!
You might think of a “science job” as a lab-coat-wearing, number-crunching, sitting-and-calculating kind of affair. But science jobs can call for a full gamut of abilities – including “softer”, more “human-based” communications skills! If you’re used to seeing yourself as a “pure scientist”, this might seem intimidating – but basic communications skills are very useful in the modern life sci/biotech industry. Never fear: if you are able to understand a concept, chances are, you can learn how to communicate it.
Here we’ve outlined some useful communications skills for the life scientist of 2023, and how to go about cultivating them.
Life Sciences 2023: Communication Skills are Key
Nowadays, the general public is more interested than ever before in being scientifically literate. As such, there is no shortage of non-traditional, communications-based life science jobs to consider. From Social Media Specialist to Marketing Manager to Scientific Editor, jobs in the science communications space abound. Even if you don’t have one of these jobs, you’ll be a huge asset to your employer if you’re able to take on communications tasks in a pinch.
Also consider that the employers of today want their employees to be as well-rounded as possible. As a life scientist, developing your communications abilities is an excellent way to round out your skillset.
Specific Skills Required
On its own, information isn’t actually all that useful. For it to bring actual value to actual people, someone or something needs to come along to communicate it. If you’re employed in the life sciences, at some point, you’ll probably have to be that person! That’s why basic communications skills are actually indispensable for the life scientist of today. Even something as simple as writing a clear and well-laid-out email is an extremely important business communication skill, and can help you stand out in the corporate world.
Another important skill, oft-overlooked: knowing your audience. If you’re writing for a presentation, think of it like a performance – for a bit of dramatic flair, you can add some extra variety in sentence structure and punctuation. If you’re writing an article for a scientific journal, on the other hand, feel free to indulge in some jargon – but maybe hold back on the poetic license. If you’re writing for a popular magazine for non-scientists, you’ll want to take a more conversational tone, and go easy on the obscure terminology. Whatever the case, knowing how to reach your unique readership can make or break the engagement factor of your work.
And let’s not underestimate the importance of visuals as communication techniques. At some point in your career, you may be asked to prepare a slide deck for a presentation at a pharma conference, or create an Instagram carousel about your company’s latest product line. If and when this happens, you’ll find that an eye for design, layout and color is crucial.
Practicing Your Communication Skills
As we’ve discussed already, “good scientific writing” means different things in different contexts. That said, there are some general rules to keep in mind. For scientific writing that is at once concise and compelling, remember these tips:
- Ask yourself, “Would I want to read this?” If you wouldn’t – why not?
- Also keep in mind some common writing mistakes. Is your writing:
- Using more words than it needs to convey a simple idea?
- Full of dull, uninformative “filler” phrases?
- So repetitive in sentence structure and word choice that it’s… boring?
These are very common mistakes, so don’t feel bad if you make them too. Just keep an eye out – they can creep in pretty easily if you’re not careful! As for design, keep these general ideas in mind:
- Don’t use too many different shapes, fonts, etc. – unless you have a clear reason to
- Use different shades of the same color on the same page for a simple, visually pleasing aesthetic
- Position your most important elements slightly upwards and leftwards of center for maximum visual impact
Communication Skills – the Life Raft of Information
It’s always a good idea to have extra skills in your arsenal – you never know when they might come in handy! If you practice your writing skills, design skills, and overall ability to concisely convey concepts to different audiences, you’ll be well on your way to being a pro scientific communicator.
If you’re curious about science jobs with a strong basis in communications, Sci.bio’s recruitment services can help you explore your options.