It’s been five years since I received my PhD and I think I might be starting to enter a new phase in my career. For those of us without the imposed timelines of “K” and “R” awards career staging can be a little fuzzy. Unlike academia, where there are often guidelines about job titles, in industry I think we just make it all up. What it means to be a Scientist or a Research Fellow at one company does NOT translate to the next. So, without those benchmarks, I realized that I’m no longer just starting out in my career from my interactions on networking sites like linkedin and research gate.
StrongerThanFiction just posted a great piece on the evolution of her relationship with networking. I totally agree with how she used to feel about networking. It stressed me out! I used to spend hours trying to write an email to ask someone for a meeting, and I remember sitting in front of my computer agonizing about whether or not to ask someone to add me to their linkedin network. I still worry about adding my boss and coworkers on linkedin because I don’t want them to think that I might be looking for a new job, but overall I’m much more comfortable reaching out.
I’ve been participating in a few career panels and I recently got back from the Society for Neuroscience conference where I got to talk with a bazillion (ok maybe not a bazillion, but it was a lot) of people. I think because of these events I’ve been getting a fair number of people adding me on linkedin. Being on the receiving side of these requests has given me few insights into online networking.
- Rather than asking a stranger out of the blue if they know of any jobs you might be a good fit for, try asking for an informational interview (either in person or over email). The hiring process and the company hierarchy is often opaque from the outside and it can be hard to know who to reach out to for information about a company, which is where asking for an informational interview can be invaluable!
Here are a couple of links to good tips on asking for and conducting informational interviews
Remember, do your homework and check out the person and company you are interviewing, prepare questions and keep it brief.
- Unless you are adding a friend or someone you know well, include a message. I’ve noticed that when I meet people briefly in a large group, I may not remember everyone. If I just get a linkedin add from a name I do not recognize I may not to add them. However, if I get an add from someone who lets me know how/where they met me I happily do.
- Follow up! If you ask someone for help and they take the time to respond, even if it doesn’t work out, thank them for their time. Not only does doing so make you stand out positively, you never know what will happen in the future.