Modest Success Story

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Modest Success Story

Postby Robert2 » Fri May 05, 2006 2:47 pm

Hi all,
I wanted to thank everyone on this forum for advice they have given me directly and that I have gathered from other threads. This forum and its contingent of thoughtful contributors is a wonderful resource for all us bewildered developing scientists.

Here is a modest success story. I am a PhD graduate student about to finish up. I decided I did not want to stay in research, and starting with articles I read on this website, I started to become interested in persuing a career in patent law. As stated time and time again on this forum, networking is a very powerful tool. I consider myself far from the "networking type"...I hate schmoozers and I'm not real big on small talk. After a few informational interviews and simply putting my name out there though, I was able to secure a position as a scientific advisor for a law firm. I have tremendous opportunity for growth within the firm, including attending part-time law school for free. Bottom line is, I would have never had this opportunity if I hadn't set up a few informational interviews. Remember that networking does not need to be just for the socialites of the world. It can really be as simple as demonstrating interest and letting people know that you are looking.

And for all those struggling grad students and those considering attending grad school, remember that getting a PhD does not necessarily mean a continuous struggle up the academic ladder. Simply talk to a lot of people (the sooner the better), figure out what you want to do, figure out the best way to get there (mostly by talking to people that have walked the line before you), and take the most direct line possible. If this includes doing a postdoc, then so be it, but it is not always necessary if that is not something you want to do.
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Modest Success Story

Postby MPB » Fri May 05, 2006 2:50 pm

Great post.

How did you identify the people that you did your informational interviews with? Did you already know people in patent law?

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Modest Success Story

Postby Robert2 » Fri May 05, 2006 3:04 pm

I was lucky in that there are some alums of my institution in the local area that are in this field. I started with them, but also I simply made some cold calls and sent some e-mails to people I was interested in talking with. There are always some people who will ignore you, but for the most part these people were once struggling to find their way like you, and are eager to talk with you and "give back". There is a lot of good will out there to find if you are willing to brush off the few people who look at you like a gnat.
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Networking != "schmoozing"

Postby Rich Lemert » Fri May 05, 2006 3:19 pm

I dont' mean to hi-jack your thread (and do want to offer my congratulations), but one of your statements gets directly to a job-hunting "pet peeve" of mine.

"I consider myself far from the "networking type"...I hate schmoozers
and I'm not real big on small talk"

The idea that networking is all about "schmoozing" is a common one, and I have no idea where people are getting it. As you've now seen for yourself, though, the two terms are NOT synonymous. In fact, I'd almost be willing to wager that 'natural schmoozers' don't make any better 'networkers' than anyone else.

Unless you're living as a hermit you're networking all the time. Every time you go through the checkout at the grocery store - you're networking. Every time you visit the dentist or the doctor - you're networking. Every time you talk to a co-worker or a fellow student - you're networking. You are conducting a conversation with someone who may be known to you, or may be a stranger, for the purpose of exchanging information. That, to me, is the essence of networking. The only difference is the nature of the information being exchanged in the job-hunting networking process.
Rich Lemert
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Networking != "schmoozing"

Postby Monica Horvath » Fri May 05, 2006 4:25 pm

My $0.02-- I think the networking = schmoozing idea comes from the fact that many graduate/postdoctoral introverts do not focus on professional friend-making over a normal time course.

In order to compensate for that reality, there is an impression that one must develop a very slick used-car salesman personality. So slick that your words will hypnotize the 'mark' into giving you a job. Flawed? Of course. (and my apologies to any nice used car salespersons out there...)

I just finished up running a local postdoctoral career fair and an evaluation form comment was "If I hear the word 'networking' again, I am going to shoot myself."

I cannot decide whether that is darkly funny, or deluded and sad.
But I suppose that they can go ahead and shoot (metaphorically...), whereas I will keep working on my next and future opportunity.

Congrats, Robert2.
It's very inspirational.

That is why I return to this board so frequently.
Monica Horvath
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Networking != "schmoozing"

Postby Sarah » Fri May 05, 2006 4:47 pm

First -- congratulations Robert2! Thank you for sharing - there's hope yet.

Second -- another $0.02. I think networking crosses the line into slimy schmoozing when it becomes obvious that you're interacting with someone solely to get something from them. A lot of people, myself included, find it hard to network because they (I) feel uncomfortable with the idea of establishing a friendship because it might be useful someday in the future. It feels false and awkward. I think this is a fairly common mental block against networking.
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Cheers, Robert2

Postby Andy Spencer » Fri May 05, 2006 5:44 pm


Nothin' modest about that success! Congratulations. As you're probably figuring out . . . it feels great when you break into a whole new world of possibilities.

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Networking != "schmoozing"

Postby Dave Jensen » Fri May 05, 2006 5:46 pm

Good job, Robert, and congrats!

Thank you Rich and Monica for your excellent analysis of this topic. Yes, I agree that there is a great disservice being done somewhere in the PhD training pipeline. That disservice is that no one teaches anything about how the world works in the area of interpersonal relations . . . scientists are left to their own resources, which means "nose to the bench," and everyone else looks like a schmoozer. I hate those kind of comments, and hear them regularly in my talks about the topic.

I am serious when I say that the ability to communicate well with others in this way, to "network", is one of the single biggest career success factors.

Dave Jensen, Moderator

“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”- Alain de Botton
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Networking != "schmoozing"

Postby Val » Sat May 06, 2006 12:08 am

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Postby Liz I. » Sat May 06, 2006 3:35 am


Congratulations. I am also exploring this new area. Your experince of success is very encouranging. Could you please tell what type people in the firm do you contact?
Their position title? Thanks.
Liz I.
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