Networking Tips for Scientists who want to accelerate their career!

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Networking Tips for Scientists who want to accelerate their career!

Postby Mac F. » Mon May 22, 2017 4:24 am

I know this isnt really a forum question topic but thought I would add it on the basis that networking isnt hugely discussed in Science, however, the value it can provide for your career is immense. Below are some tips I created around my personal experience as a scientist that has left academia and gained other skills that would have been a great asset to my career as a PhD student.

If you are a scientist you know the power of a network, whether it's a neuronal, signaling or environmental network, life does not function without people working together.

During my PhD I realized the value in creating a good network. Knowing people in neighboring labs helped me source reagents, which was a huge help when your lab doesn't have the resources.

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. This is where I knew my networking skills would have to come into play and help me get that advantage over the other applicants.

Don’t just email your CV and hope!

I could have emailed the Professor 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.

Just a side note: One day looking over my PI’s shoulder she had ~300 emails in her job folder alone and no job advertised!

Flying in for a meeting people can make a huge difference when applying for key positions that are having first round interviews through skype. Try to jump this step and fly over to meet your perspective lab to make a huge lasting impression. Flights can be expensive but the happiness of securing your dream job will be worth it!

Pick up the phone, a voice means that you are human!

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 which could be open ended to make sure I got a meeting with them.

We need to Network, not just let our publications talk!

We need to network in order to step up the career ladder, create collaborations and make that dream move to a new job or lab.

We all know the power of networking. So let’s Master it!
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 up that career ladder.

Please 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 will help remove tension in the build up to introducing yourself.

Smile, it breaks barriers and opens doors!
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, Im Sean”, then I pause, give them time to remember my name and let them tell me who they are.

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.

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.

Using conferences to expand and expand 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.
Over the past 3 years I have attended about 30 conferences.

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

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.

This can be stressful, but after a few trial runs the nerves can go!
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.

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

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 ?? your 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.

Don’t linger, make the connection and move on

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

Perceived value in first interactions

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.

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 kits.

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.

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!
Mac F.
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Re: Networking Tips for Scientists who want to accelerate their career!

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon May 22, 2017 11:36 am

Thanks Mac. Good stuff -- doesn't hurt to beat on this particular drum now and again, which is probably the #topic on this site over the last 20 years!

It's easy to forget that there's always a stream of new, younger people coming into their degrees and they may not have seen our in-depth networking discussions and articles of the past.


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Re: Networking Tips for Scientists who want to accelerate their career!

Postby Mac F. » Tue May 23, 2017 2:46 am

Cheers Dave,

Can be a mixed bag, collating old information and providing your personal slant to an old topic.

Some of the tips helped me at key points so thought I would share.


Mac F.
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Re: Networking Tips for Scientists who want to accelerate their career!

Postby D.X. » Tue May 23, 2017 4:03 am

Recently, I had the benefit of attending lecture given by one of my former CEOs (he retired) at a non-Company funded/academic Training event where I happened to be a student - he gave a few lectures on the subject matter (industry related) and for one lecture he deviated from the Topic and just gave a presentation on his career and advice he wanted to give us for our career development (cool!). This is rare to really get to here how a CEO got where the got and even rarer to get advice.

What do you think his key message was for us? Network! Facinating Story, where he included his failures (rare to hear that) and his success and one Point he made was when he did fail and or found him in an awkward Situations, he regressed to his Network.

Also another Point i picked up on and hasn't been addressed on the Forum, his Network, the one that has continued to work for him was the one he established very early in his career. He noted ist that early Network is the one that he would run back to - his so called comfort Network.

That resonated with me, because anecdotally I do feel there is a time when Networking yeilds the most fruit and those early fruits tend to be ones that are with you for the Long run vs newer Networks. Provide you Keep them Close. Now this is to never ever say one should not continue Networking in career in fact that's suicide.

I still have alot of Close Networks that I established early in my career where I'm comfortable to this day to go back to them vs. my new ones, from a pure comfort perspective.

So just a tiny comment N of 1 on something i've observed - I nearly have envy for you guys on the Forum starting out. If not already, you're buidling a Network, be it at your very first Job or during your Job search, and some of those jewels...will be with you along the way and will be your strongest contacts/advocates. You may already know who they may be...nurture them, stay Close to them!!

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Re: Networking Tips for Scientists who want to accelerate their career!

Postby Mac F. » Tue May 23, 2017 5:32 am

Cheers DX,

Definitely through, some ideas that have worked on in the past with the Pint of Science event we ran was a social wave, using your network for leverage across social media.

Same can be said for career prospects, emailing perspective labs with a PI's name in the title that is a connection and really help!
Mac F.
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Feb 02, 2015 4:10 pm
Location: London

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