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maintaining a network even when not job-searching

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maintaining a network even when not job-searching

Postby Catherine » Mon May 22, 2006 5:36 am

I was wondering about the etiquette on maintaining professional networks when not actively on the job hunt. I am just gearing up for a search and am feeling a little funny contacting people I haven't been in touch with for a while. I used to be able to catch up with these people at various meetings. I don't travel much in my current job and was wondering how to prevent the network from trickling dry.

Any suggestions?
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maintaining a network even when not job-searching

Postby Val » Mon May 22, 2006 7:28 am



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maintaining a network even when not job-searching

Postby Rich Lemert » Mon May 22, 2006 9:38 am

Make a phone call once every month or two, just to "shoot the breeze." Talk about what people are doing in the field, ask for advice on problems you're having, see if everything is working for them, ....

Drop them an email when something interesting comes up. "Saw this the other day, and thought you'd find it interesting."

Whatever you do, make it personal. It can be informal, but don't make it look like you've just run off 100 form letters to pass out to "your closest friends".
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maintaining a network even when not job-searching

Postby Kevin Foley » Mon May 22, 2006 4:51 pm

Also, keep looking for new networking contacts. As you progress in your career, some of your old contacts will lapse, but new ones will be acquired at the same time. If you used to be in academia and have moved to industry, the value of your old contacts may decrease, so you should keep working on finding new ones.

Obviously you've caught on to something that the overwhelming majority seems to miss: the time to be networking is when you are NOT looking for a job!

Cheers,
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maintaining a network even when not job-searching

Postby John Fetzer » Tue May 23, 2006 6:55 pm

I call this keeping your network robust. The driving force is not just the job searching time, but throughout your career your network helps. I think the number one fallacy young scientists make is that the network is only a job searching tool.

If you put that into an analogy in your daily life, how do you feel about a "friend: who only drops by or calls when he or she needs a favor or to borrow something? You think that is awful behavior, right?

Your network is nothing more or less than the people you meet and get to know in that part of your life you call "professional'. You treat them just as you do those in your personal life.

Contact them once in a while, every month or two or three, as suits you to do it. Tell them what you are doing, offer reprints, ask for theirs, ask them what they are doing, etc. If you see a paper by someone you know, even as fourteenth author, drop her or him a line of congratulations and acknowledgement. If you have any thoughts on it, share them. Give freely of yourself and the others do not feel put upon when you contact them for a favor.

The favor may be job news, but it can also be info on an instrument you might be considering the purchase of, the source of scarce reagents pr other samples, a third-party introduction, and so on.

Having a great network sets you up for many more opportunities than someone who only uses it passively and then tries to turn it on for the job search.

(Anyone wanting more can contact me for the couple of articles I have written)

John
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maintaining a network even when not job-searching

Postby Catherine » Thu May 25, 2006 7:57 pm

Hey thanks, so basically simple people skills. I can handle that!
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maintaining a network even when not job-searching

Postby Cory » Thu May 25, 2006 11:18 pm

Hi,

Just an addition to the thread which is a real gem in my mind. Over the years, I've tried to email or write friends and ex-colleagues twice per year. A few things I tell everyone and I try to include at least one or two pieces of personal information for each person I write. It's alot of work actually but I find that my contact list hovers around 20-30 people.

One thing that I'd say is that the "return rate" or the number of people that reciprocate is probably less than 1 in 20. Sometimes I get a letter back the first time I write but then never again. However, over the years I've developed a core group (5 or 6)of people that make an effort to do the same. About once a year, I try to find an old colleague or classmate and start the process anew.

In the past, I've considered giving up since so few have reciprocated. It's always a bit depressing actually. However, for myself, I feel that since I've made an effort to stay in touch everyone that I've ever written would probably happily accept a letter with a job inquiry if it were to come and would be willing to do what they could. For me this helps convert "networking" from a distasteful exercise in asking for something for nothing into something that springs from shared experience - even if it is a bit lopsided in terms of communication.

Regards,

Cory
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maintaining a network even when not job-searching

Postby Derek McPhee » Thu May 25, 2006 11:33 pm

This looks like Christmas Card Syndrome. Your seem to have taken a "mail survey" approach, and any social scientist will tell you that response rates to these suck. This networking thing has to be on a professional level. Find people in your area of work (known or otherwise), ask for a reprint, ask for an explanation of some point in a paper, ask if they will be going to X conference and say you want to meet them, if you can't go, tell them so and ask for a copy of their presentation after the conference... these are all ego boosters/contact openers that may elicit a response. Follow up on e-mails, send them a paper of you own, send them a draft manuscript for comment. Go up to people at conferences and talk to them. The major obstacle to networking seems to be the well ingrained "don't talk to strangers" ingrained by mothers (can't claim credit for this catchphrase, unfortunately - was the title of a networking article in Nature a few months ago). Get over this - talk to people and write to them.
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