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no network=notwork?

PostPosted: Wed Oct 06, 2004 3:07 pm
by Dawn
It's demoralizing to hear that relentless networking is the only way to get anywhere. Why should every scientist have to be a politician too? Are there any alternatives to schmoozing for friendly yet reserved PhDs looking for a job post-postdoc?

no network=notwork?

PostPosted: Wed Oct 06, 2004 4:40 pm
by Bill L.
Hi Dawn,

You didn't say if you were considering academe or industry, but here are some thoughts anyway.

Networking is one of those reasonable ideas that transformed into one ugly buzzword. These days, the activity of engaging another person in your professional field is associated with words like 'smarmy','fake' and something one does to 'use someone to get ahead?. It ends with you standing at the buffet bar asking about the welfare of some PI?s kids when you don?t really care to know and they don?t care to tell you.

We'd argue that the experience of networking depends on a person's internal motivation and approach. Networking is about connecting with present and future colleagues. Everyday. Not just when you are desperate for a job. If you only talk to people, and are interested in their science, their career paths and their interests when you need a job, you are being smarmy. Also the whiff of your desperation and falsity will alert people to you like a dog whistle.

So it might help to think about networking as less 'schmoozing' and more 'building a professional community'. That's because people do this every day. You talk to your lab mate next to you. You attend conferences to inform yourself and end up discussing science with a person sitting next to you while waiting for the session to begin. You collaborate on a grant or paper. You ask people what they like and dislike about their lab. Every time you engage in these activities, you are networking.

In this vein, it isn't really different to contact someone through a colleague or friend and talk to them about their science, ask if they like their lab, and what type of career path they see for themselves. And it isn't unreasonable to decide you really should investigate whether or not your dream of working at X university is a good idea or a path to hell. So you talk to people who work there. You ask them what types of people do well there. And when a position opens up and you still want it, you contact them and ask them to forward your CV. Whether you get the job or not, you thank them for their help.

Your direct network might only have 7-10 people in it, and they?re in your circle because you have the same science, you like them, you respect them professionally, you have common interests, etc. Hopefully you will collaborate with these people though out your career. And they will serve as conduits and allow you access to their networks because they know and respect you. But whether you call it networking or building your professional community, this approach usually keeps you out of the buffet line scrambling for something to say.

Good luck,

Bill L. & Naledi S.

no network=notwork?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 07, 2004 1:52 am
by Dave Jensen
Bill and Naledi's response was great, and I don't have much more to add. I can tell, however, that Dawn has a totally wrong impression of what is meant by the term networking.

And yes, Dawn. You need to network or you will only reach a very small percentage of the jobs that are available to you. The best networking is the type that may be considered "peer+2" where you are speaking to others about how THEY made the transition to their job, and NOT asking about open positions, etc.

More about that on NextWave.

Dave Jensen, Moderator
CareerTrax Inc.

no network=notwork?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 07, 2004 8:41 am
by Anna
I have to empathize with you, Dawn. As someone who has experienced the networking using the "peer+2" approach, I find it extremely hard to do this and to continue networking when absolutely zilch comes from previous networking. It is exhausting, frustrating, and to say the least, feels like a real waist of time. In my experience it seems like those jobs that our contacts "could" and do "forward your CV to" are the same ones that
are posted. So it seems like there is no advantage as far as large pharma goes. When there is a job opening at say Pfizer, do they really inform all the hundreds of scientists asking them for recommendations before they list the position?
Unless you are lucky and there happens to be an opening in the exact department your contact works in, there seems to be little chance at big pharma un-posted positions.
I personally have exhausted my networking contacts to no avail and have very little energy to initiate new contacts when I am, at the same time, trying to get science done at my bench. Any advice on which direction I should take now?

no network=notwork?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 07, 2004 10:26 am
by Dave Jensen
Yes, Anna, here's some advice, but it won't be received well unless you open your mind a bit.

Should you carry your attitude through into the interviewing process, your interviewers will pick up on it just as if you were broadcasting via radio signals. Your job search will be difficult, your interviewing process will be zero to non-existant, and the offers will be very hard to get. It's evident in the attitude. You HAVE to realize that networking is not calling people and annoying them, or "pushing yourself" on others.

You are obviously fed up with the whole process, and just like an experiment at the bench, if you don't find a way to get around this problem, you'll be stuck in this rut for a long, long time.

Your contacts within the large pharma companies, when you make them correctly (asking them how they made their search successful, and not asking them for openings) will lead those individuals to recommend you to HR for openings that they are aware of, and for which they've put their stamp of approval on your CV. Why would they want to do this? For one, to help you if you are indeed a nice, friendly person who is good at networking. For another reason, also . . . To make a very significant bonus by referring your CV, sometimes as much as $2,000 - $3000 or more. That's called an employee referral bonus, and it is a legitimate process that companies employ IN ORDER TO FOSTER THE NETWORKING PROCESS.

If networking didn't work, or companies didn't want you to call and ask their people for guidance, than programs like this wouldn't exist. I truly hope that you are able to approach things with a fresh outlook, because right now the direction you are headed is to make a job change only when the perfect ad is posted by a company that doesn't care about your networking skills. (Your ability to network is an expected life skill, something in demand by companies, not shunned).

Dave Jensen, Moderator

no network=notwork?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 07, 2004 10:27 am
by J.J.
Anna and Dawn,
I so know what you both are going through. I was in your situation a few years ago: advisor who couldn't/wouldn't help, a lab with no alums in industry, and a personal network that was thousands of miles from the city to which I hoped to relocate. I was frustrated with my job search, and I realized that I had to overcome my fear of contacting total strangers. Look for a connection, ANY connection, to people you need to contact.
For example, have you contacted the alumni/career office of your grad and undergrad institutions? The career office of mine gave me the names of all the people in my field who were working in my geographic region of interest. I contacted several of those people. It's actually how I got my current job, which was not advertised. Yes, it was really uncomfortable contacting all those strangers, but people are generally very nice. Chances are, they've been through it, too.
Good luck-it takes time.

no network=notwork?

PostPosted: Fri Oct 08, 2004 8:18 am
by Anna
Thanks for the advice. It strikes me that patience is an important part of it as well as lowering my expecatations. Having been on many interviews that I landed "without" the help of my networked contacts, and recieving job offers for most, I've turned the offers down because they aren't exactly the career I had envisioned. Since it appears that I've had success with on-line job postings in the recent past, is it so unusual to have more success with postings than networking? What percentage of posted jobs actually hire someone not "recommended" by a contact? Also, is it worthwhile to use a headhunter for Ph.D. positions?

no network=notwork?

PostPosted: Sat Oct 09, 2004 2:10 pm
by Dave Jensen
Hi Anna,

If I were you, the only thing that would bother me is that I am getting offers from about one-third of the market --- I would wonder what the other two-thirds has to offer!

I'd suggest that headhunters are of no value to a person without a significant amount of industry experience. They can be good contacts for the future however, or to help you with contact names,

Dave Jensen

no network=notwork?

PostPosted: Wed Nov 10, 2004 5:08 pm
by John Fetzer
The first part is always harder. Your network might only consist of people you went to undergrad and grad school with (I hope you include them in building your network, they'll be of possible value later - one of them may be a dean or hiring manager in fifteen or twenty years).

Go to your local professional society meeting and any conferences. It is not politics and schmoozing to show interest in other peoples' work nor in explaining yours. Talk to anyone, you never know who might know something useful. Each person has their own network, that Kevin Bacon thing.

This is no different than your non-science life of how you make friends and get to know peple. It just involves a different topic. If you only think of networking as gold-mining - only getting what you want when you want it - you'll fail. It is give-and-take, even if it is only showing interest. It is just as fundamental to a successful science career as reading the journals.


no network=notwork?

PostPosted: Thu Nov 11, 2004 11:11 pm
by Val
> It's demoralizing to hear that relentless networking is the only way to get anywhere. Why
> should every scientist have to be a politician too? Are there any alternatives to schmoozing
> for friendly yet reserved PhDs looking for a job post-postdoc?

Some people told me that "networking is an euphemism for corruption".

It is a fact of biology: when the population of some species grows bigger, so does the competition for living resources. No more comments.

(From the same biology, if the number of youngsters in the population grows to such a number that many of them cannot get resources for living, their motivation to leave the herd for new territories becomes greater than their fear of future inconveniences. I know because I've done it).