If I ask you what is the single most important thing you can do to find a job or advance your career, what would be your answer?
Some people might say get a college degree, others could say stay current within your field or maybe get trained in something that can complement your formal education. While all those things are definitely important and they are known to increase our chances of finding a job or advancing professionally, if you ask me none of them are as powerful as networking.
If you are interested in reading an article that presents evidence on the power of networking in finding job, please visit the following link.
Although most people recognize the power of networking, in my opinion, it is an underutilized tool, and I think it is mostly because people don’t really know how to do it. First of all, no one really gets a course on networking in college or graduate school, especially if you are studying science.
Second, networking depends a lot on our social skills, and let’s be honest, scientists as a group, we aren’t the most social creatures you’ll find. What can we do then to become better at networking and enjoy the benefits of it in our professional life (and maybe our personal life too)? Here are some ideas:
1. Participate frequently on social/professional gatherings, professional or academic seminars, national meetings, etc. All these events are great opportunities to meet people and learn about what they are doing. In addition to that, this is a great opportunity for you to showcase what an awesome professional you are.
Many recruiters, hiring managers and executives go to these meetings looking for new recruits and if you play your cards well, you could help them find you. It is also very important that people remember you after your interaction with them is over. Don’t forget to smile, be polite, give them a firm handshake, and give them a business card with all your current information. Do not be afraid to ask them for their business cards too, and when you get home, send them an email letting them know what a pleasant opportunity was to meet them.
2. Make sure that you have a professional online presence. Many websites offer free accounts where you can meet other professionals in your area, follow companies and look for jobs. It is important that the way you market yourself on these sites is the same way you market yourself in person. Present yourself in a professional yet not boring way. Highlight what makes you unique and always be “digitally” polite and courteous to others.
3. Another way of networking is by having multiple mentors. Again, I believe mentoring is also an underutilized tool. A good mentor can be the difference between achieving your professional goals and not. Also, when you have a professional mentor, their network of colleagues could become your network so when they are networking, so are you.
Ever since I finished graduate school I have had two main jobs and both of them I got through networking. In a similar way, all the volunteer work I have participated in, and most of the personal and professional projects, I’ve had also initiated because of friends, colleagues or random people I have met (in other words, through networking). If you are currently working on any professional goals it is time for you to brush up your networking skills and get the job done.