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Are Industry Mentorship Associations worth paying for?

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 4:05 pm
by ATF
I was curious on the board's opinions about groups that you have to pay to get job help from. Groups that claim they have industry members who you can network with, but are not focused on any one area as in a trade association. Are these worth joining? Are there additional connections to be made through such a group? Or is it mainly just paying for advice that can be found here?

I'm asking as I'm currently trying to expand my network in an industry job search, but am having a hard time doing so. I was thinking something like this might lead to additional connections.

Re: Are Industry Mentorship Associations worth paying for?

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 5:11 pm
by Dave Jensen

I've edited your post to remove the name of a specific organization you were asking about, one that is infamous in industry for their sales pitch that makes all kinds of promises about what they can do, but which is basically just a website of articles like those on, and in fact not much more than that. Then, you can become one of the sellers of that information if you move up to the next level. Sounds like a great idea (sarcasm intended). Get some kind of job, any kind of job, and then monetize it by offering "advice" on how others can do the same. Then, when your customer wants to pony up a bit more, you can give them the title of "Consultant" and let them bring others into the fold . . .

I'm afraid that's someone's get-rich-quick idea, ATF. It's funny, but one of the first threads we had here nearly 20 years ago when the forum started was about "Never pay for career advice." I'm sure this is still true. Anyone who posts a spam-looking website and marketing pitches about how great they are is probably not something you want to spend your hard earned money on. In fact, I'd run the other direction.

There ARE associations that are worth putting a few $$ into for an industry networking membership. They are all related to some specific area of expertise. So, if you are a formulation chemist, you might join the Controlled Release Society, and they have good networking functions. Or, the American Chemical Society and they have retired chemists that donate their time legitimately to help younger chemists. There's no end to good networking that can be done with a bit of investment, and I'd join early rather than later for some of those, as the price for a postdoc or graduate student is often greatly reduced.

Perhaps you can post here and tell us more about your difficulty, and what drives you to even consider joining one of those "irreverent" networking organizations?


Re: Are Industry Mentorship Associations worth paying for?

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 9:32 pm
by ATF
I apologize for posting the name of the organization, I didn't mean to cause additional moderation work.

My interest derives from trying to expand my network. I'm currently applying for industry jobs out of a post-doc. Every application that was submitted via the internet has been rejected. I have had two interviews for positions, both in companies where previous post-docs were now working, who could put in a good word for me to get me in the front door. Unfortunately, neither interview resulted in an offer as the companies deemed me not a good fit for what I viewed as exceedingly picky reasons.

In any case, most of my professional network is made up of previous colleagues I have worked with out of my group. Unfortunately I've sort of exhausted that route as its hard to have a ton of industry contacts out of my post-doc in a new city (although its Boston).

Long story short, I'm struggling to make meaningful connections with new contacts that might lead to possible employment in areas I'm interested in. I have attended events such as biotech Tuesday, various post-doc organizations, as well as industry centered conferences in town. While I've met people and added contacts on linkedin from these events, none have been even close to helpful, at least not in the way that people who you have previously worked with are in terms of being able to vouch for your work ethic, skill set etc. I've found most of these events to either be networking with 1. Other post-docs, 2. Industry people who try to run when they see you're a post-doc and 3. Various scam artists, people selling something, extremely desperate people looking for work. And I'm not going around asking about jobs, I'm just trying to get to know people and what they do, where they work etc.

So my hope was that these organizations might have some sort of built in industry netowrking mechanism allowing me to make a more meaningful, and potentially repeatable, connection, so that people already in industry will get to know me at least in someway. I'm not really sure how to move forward without additional contacts in companies as a post-doc resume is going straight in the garbage for jobs where I'm qualified in every bullet point HR posts.

Re: Are Industry Mentorship Associations worth paying for?

PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2016 3:34 am
by Parker
I won't say much about your first question. Dave summarized it well. But I will comment on your second post. I totally sympathize and know exactly what you mean. Networking is hard work, it is slow and unpredictable. I would suggest reaching out to your past colleagues as a starting point. For me it paid off more than trying to reach out to people I had never worked with or reaching out to hiring managers. You should do that also but don't limit yourself to just reaching out to hiring managers. Also don't shy away from networking with new people who are at your own level (i.e. postdocs). I have made tons of friends at my own level at various networking events and over time these people got jobs in companies I was interested in and they recommended me and passed on my resume. I have done the same for them. Or sometimes they found a posting that they knew I would be interested in and they passed it along. But you gotta put the word out. I found that reaching out to people at my own level was a lot more helpful to finding new leads and making new connections that reaching out to hiring managers ever was. People at your own level are your direct competitors but they also understand your struggles and most want to help you if they can (and also want to be helped in return). The best scenario is if you can find friends who are in the same industry/level as you but you are not directing competing for the same types of jobs. I even once had an ex undergrad student from years ago talk me up to her manager and I got a phone call out of the blue about an opportunity. I only worked with this undergrad briefly maybe 8 years prior when I first started in graduate school. Honestly I had forgotten about her but she had gone on to get a job in industry with a good company and referred me when someone on her team quit. I was not interested in moving back to the bench but it was still nice to know there are people who remember me and think highly of me. If a hiring manager has hired a superstar into their team and that superstar employee is now recommending you for the team, it goes a long way in increasing your credibility to that hiring manager. Just my two cents. But I understand the struggle it is not easy, especially if you are in a non-hub location with fewer job options.

Re: Are Industry Mentorship Associations worth paying for?

PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2016 12:04 pm
by Dave Jensen
ATF, it sounds to me like you'll need to start going deeper with the networking contacts you already have. Even in companies where you interviewed but didn't get the offer, there might be a potential for you to call one of the people you met there, and ask him/her if you can take them for a cup of coffee and have what would be known as an "informational interview." If it's been awhile since your interview, they may be able to level with you about your style and what these nit-picky things are and why they were important to the hiring decision. If they aren't receptive to talk about that, perhaps you can just talk about their career track, and what their recommendations might be.

Anyone who you've got in your networking roster can be converted to an informational interview, and my next Tooling Up article addresses this (to be published this Thursday evening). Seriously, take a few of these contacts into the next stage, and you may find that you hear good ideas about the things you might be doing wrong, or the way that someone else's career developed -- ideas that you can learn from.

With regards to your first question about that "association" you mentioned, your second post debunks them with the mention of people hanging around the edges to "scam" job seekers with things that cost money. Hard earned money, I might add. This isn't the time to invest $$, it's the time to invest labor.