Everyone tells me to get networking, but no one tells me how to do it?  


Colleague 45004
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January 8, 2019 5:34 pm  

Everyone tells me to get networking, but no one tells me how to do it?

Dave Jensen
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January 8, 2019 5:35 pm  

Yes, that’s something that everyone will tell you – especially your advisor and committee members. But remember, networking is not schmoozing, nor is it something that should be done only during a job search. Networking is simply the process of cultivating a group of people who know your name and have a positive impression of you. Your network is the group of people you meet and get to know in your professional life.

Actively maintaining a professional network can help you to identify more professional opportunities than someone who maintains a passive network and who only turns it on for a job search. In fact, the best time to network is when you are not looking for a job, so consider starting this when you are still a year or two from availability. Your network can help you to find out about employment opportunities, but is also useful in other ways (for example, finding information about an instrument you might be considering purchasing, finding a source for scarce reagents or other materials, to gain an introduction to a third party, and so on.).

One way to establish contacts is to find the names of people who are just two to three years ahead of you, and call them to ask about how they made it into their current positions. I’ve always called this "Peer+2 Networking.” Don't expect that everyone will have the time or the inclination to speak with you. The hard part is often finding names, because companies generally do not share this information. You might also be able to find contacts through the alumni organization of your college or university. Send a brief e-mail message or letter to a researcher in your area with some questions about a recently published paper. Talk to people at conferences, and ask them how they found their positions, or use LinkedIn to generate first contact with prospective acquaintances. However, do not begin the conversation by saying "I'm looking for a job." This only leads to an immediate referral to the HR department.

Once you have made a professional contact, stay in touch. While you don't want to over-do it with constant telephone calls, you also don't want to make this a one-time event. Communicate with your contacts periodically (perhaps once every other month or so) to let them know what you are doing, send an interesting reprints or link, and so on. If you see a paper by someone you know, send a brief note of congratulations and acknowledgement.

Just as job seekers use professional networks to find employment opportunities, employers often fill jobs by a process of reverse networking, in which the hiring manager uses a professional network to identify potential job candidates. Maintaining your professional contacts will therefore increase your odds of finding out about potential new positions before they are advertised, and may help you to put you in touch with the hiring manager directly. Many books refer to the huge number of jobs that get filled this way as the ‘hidden job market.’

- Dave Jensen, Moderator and Founder

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator
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Colleague 45015
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January 8, 2019 5:36 pm  

“The book How to Work a Room, by Susan Roane, really helped me. It is a guide to meeting and interacting with people in professional settings, especially in groups, and it is widely recommended by networking consultants for those shy and retiring types who have trouble reaching out to strangers.”

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January 10, 2019 4:59 pm  

As I mentioned in another post I have received all my positions both in Science and outside from networking. I thought I would mention what type of contacts that has given me opportunities as some examples of what can work. Networking requires someactive work but doesnt require a huge effort and usually most people including company managers are interested in maintaining a network also with more junior people.

My first example is one that I think that actually a majority of readers have in some form for their first job (this wasnt in science). I was a teenager with IT interests and a friend of the family offered a position in an IT service department that I worked for during school holidays etc. This is actually an example of my network helping me to find a position even the actual networking effort was limited.

My second example is from Science and was regarding finding my PhD position. Apparently I made good impressions during my studies and discussions with University professors etc and I got asked by two different departments if I was interested in potentially pursuing a PhD. I talked with both and ended up chosing a relatively junior scientist connected to one of them. Maybe a year into my PhD my main project imploded and the junior scientist moved to industry. I was then transferred to a more senior professor with a big group and continued my PhD with that person.

During my PhD a start-up Company was formed based on an invention made in the research group in which i was pursuing my PhD. Based on recommendations from my supervisor and the inventor I was offered to join the company as the first employee except for the founders already before I had completed my PhD. I made the jump and went back to finish my PhD on Company funding.

After a few years that company run out of cash and did some patent work for a professor that I had collaborated with earlier when I got a phone call asking if I was interested in joining a new startup. For this company I was the first full time employee and the founders were still around continuing to work their Clinical/academic careers while supporting the Company. I later found out that the recommendation to hire me had come from a professor in the department in which I did my PhD that also had a collaboration with the venture capital Company that funded the startup. 

This Company grew larger and launched products into Europe and US. I served as head of R&D with responsibility for various activities which is often the case in small companies. After some time I received a phone call from a recruiter working for the company that I am still working for offering a position as senior director of R&D. I am assuming that this recuiter was working from a tip from someone in my network since my linkedin profile wasnt (and still isnt) in great shape and I am not sure how they would have found me otherwise.






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January 11, 2019 8:41 am  

I'll be more pragmatic here.  Basically, it takes talking to people.

Striking up a conversation, sending an email. Asking questions...and asking for help too.  There is a information relavant piece of networking probably more important that the job aspect.  You want information - i.e. what is the job like, what skills you need, how to position yourself, where are opportunities, identify other contacts...and later one..you can be a source of contacts to! (that's where you want to get to, connecting others if you can).

IN terms of job, the best you can get out of networking is a contact is getting your CV in front of a hiring manager (i.e. a referral kinda sorts).  After that its the decision of the hiring manager and......well its on you.

For me, networking got me one job (the got my CV in front of a hiring manager), and quite a few interviews.  That's the best one can hope!  However most of my jobs was from recruiters, they play a role in networking too. 

Figure out what information gaps you have and form there identify folks you want to talk to, then call!  Also talk to many people, any environment. Having a gift of gab, if you have it, can help.  If not, it's ok, get your self out there and don't hesitate to talk to people.  You never know what help you can find, it could be someone who offers to review your CV, or some who discusses a job trend or someone who..referres you to another person they know.   

Just talk to people and not in your lab. or the lab down the hall.  Talk to people on the outside (jeez, sounds like jail). 



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