Networking tips for scientists

Networking tips for scientists

During my PhD I knew how networking was important, it helped me source reagents off other labs, get the best advice and helped me land a post doc at Cambridge University. Its not what you know, its who you know!

Following my PhD I targeted a lab that I knew I wanted to research in. I didn’t have the publications to get me in the door, so I knew I had to meet the professor and make a great impression to make sure I landed the job.

Don’t just email your CV and hope!

I could have emailed them with my CV, like the 300+ other applications they get a week, or I could fly over to Cambridge, call in, introduce myself and make sure they knew how good I was before the interview.

Pick up the phone

But before I flew over, I took one simple step. I picked up the phone and called the professor and introduced myself. While I was on the phone I emailed them my CV, to make sure they knew it was me, then followed up with a date I would be over to visit.

We need to Network

We need to network in order to step up that career ladder, create collaborations and make that dream move to a new job or lab. Once you get close to the end of your PhD, looking for a new job should be directly on the horizon.

We all know the power of networking.

In some ways networking can make the impossible seem possible by knowing the right people. So why not start? Here are things you can do to break down the barriers with confidence and create that network that will help you rocket that career ladder.

1. Perfect your "Pleased to meet you!"

I’m sure it’s natural enough to think that, we are all humans and if someone reaches out, you would accept their hand and become a connection, however, its not as simple as that.

You have to be interesting, engaging, be able to provide value and be happy. Every time I meet someone new I make sure to smile.

Its simple but I know it works, it sets both people at ease and helps me make a joke or comment.

If you are nervous, practice your introduction. Having a predetermined script in your head with help remove tension in the build up to introducing yourself.

2. Smile, it breaks barriers

No one can resist a friendly smile, a strong handshake and a good opening introduction.

When I first say hello I start with projecting a confident voice and introducing myself “Hi, I'm Sean”, then I pause, give them time to remember my name and let them tell me who they are.

3. Stop talking, you don’t need to do all the talking

Without a well-honed introduction people start to mumble, but introducing yourself with a simple practiced line can give you a lot of confidence, set yourself at ease and stop you being a nervous blabber mouth that you don’t need to be.

Once you have your opening line mastered you are golden.

4. Professional Networking, move your ass

After you’ve killed your opening line in the mirror, looking at different types of networking circles/connections should be your next step for networking success.

Every type of network has a value and networking in the right circles can make a huge difference.

Some interesting types of circles can include (a) people who are trying to create connections to find a new job (b) people who are looking for someone to help with their personal cause/business/funding (c) people who are looking to connect in order to source some relevant academic/market information (d) people who maintain connection with their close piers.

The first two are the important ones, especially if you are looking to move up the career ladder or source funding for your company or project.

Once you know who these people are and which ones you want to interact with you can start to build your network. To keep it simple, if you are a PhD student looking for a job you need to find a lab with money, good publications you will be looking at type B. So how to you meet these people?

5. Using conferences to expand and command your network

One place to view some if not all of the above are conferences.

Conferences provide the perfect mix of people that are looking to build these types of relationships, also LinkedIn is another great forum. Especially the big ones such as AACR, SFN, AAI, and ISSCR.

35% of employers wont employ a candidate they cant find online. You need to set up a LinkedIn Profile

Over the past 3 years I have attended about 30 conferences, I know this isn’t a huge number, but compared to the average person it can be a lot.

Attending just a few conferences and practicing your networking skills can work wonders.

Only 2% of sales come from the first meeting, networking is no different.

What I try to do if I really want to talk to some I would like to network with is purposefully stand behind them in the coffee queue at break/meet them at a poster and introduce myself.

We have probably attended the same session so opening a line about the last talk, keeping it simple at all times, then extending your hand and telling them your name works a treat. Once you have their attention, try and provide a personal touch.

41% of new jobs results from networking

If you have read their work, tell them about it. This instantly engages people.

6. Get their details

Once you have worked through your idea and made a good connection, hand them your card or ask them for their email address to follow up.

Recruiters spend 6 secs looking at resumes. You're worth more than that!

I know most scientists don’t carry cards but these can be a great tool and make you memorable, especially if you have your picture on the card.

7. Don’t linger, make the connection and move on

Don’t stick around too long, you can cover you goals of meeting these people in 5 mins, be respectful of their time, just make sure to get provide them with your details or vice versa.

8. What value connections look for

However, attending these events does not necessarily mean that everyone who is networking have all the same value or that these people will create a meaningful network. Rules of limitations come as network value points, whereby each side of the network has a different value to each other.

There are lots of factors that contribute to the value of a network value which include, wealth, education, alma mater, online following, academic achievements, sports success, dress sense and attitude, social presence and possibly one or two others.

However, if you approach the person in the right way with an interesting opening line, comment or story about yourself none of the above will matter, you just need to find the killer line.

9. Creating a meaningful network of legends

In order to create a meaningful network or connection you must have a least two of the above, especially if you are going to create a solid connection or you are looking to find a job/funding with this person.

Therefore, you must have some perceived value to the other party, in order words “why would they want your services?”. Maybe you are great at applying for grants, next gen sequencing or ELISA assays.

10. Providing value to the connection

Creating a perceived value is importing in order to create a good connection and introducing yourself to people.

What implies perceived value can be a number of things. For example, by becoming a published author with Black Hole Focus, a book about empowering intelligent people to fulfil their successes, Isaiah provides companies or researcher students an opportunity to meets their goals by presenting at their events or consulting.

Other examples of this can be what added value can you bring to their work.

This is possibly more important than perceived value, added value are the blocks they need for their personal success and you are an instrument to help them get there.

11. Think lateral with your network

But not all networking needs to be vertical, horizontal also has a lot of benefits. Horizontal networking creates equivalent piers for which you can connect with to join groups, work as a team or create a broader network that will be valuable in years to come. There is power in numbers!

This TED talk by Tai Lopez provides some great advice on what types of people to connect with. Ideally 33 % should be starting out in their careers, 33 % of people should be on your level. Finally, 33 % should have years of experience that should be able to provide you direction and mentorship.

12. The value of a network

Having a great network can be one of the most valuable resources that you have, even more powerful than the academic background you have or the value of your research/products.

It is extremely important to create a valued network that you can pull upon in tough times or when things are going well and you want to expand. Like all good networkers you need to stick your head out and try and meet people that make decisions, run companies and can support your careers and goals.

6th Oct 2021 Sean Mac Fhearraigh

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