Why Networking Is Important for Graduate Science Students
Remember the old saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know…”? This was often said to me growing up in conversations about career choice and how to establish myself in the workforce. In the world of science, the likelihood of you inheriting the family business is almost nonexistent, we need to reexamine this statement. “What you know” is just as, if not more important than “who”. The reality is the importance of “what” and “who” in regards to your career cannot be simply captured by a one liner. “Who” is the portion that gets your foot in the door, and the “what” is what actually dictates success. This piece is going to focus on reaching out to the “who”, who can provide opportunity. If you say the previous sentence really fast, you sound like an Owl, (chuckles)…let’s begin.
What is Networking…?
Networking is all about building relationships with people. As students, networking with professionals in our respected fields results in opportunities for research collaboration, professional development and possible internships. Networking with other students is also a great way to build long term relationships outside of a mentorship type role. Think of people you network with as a way to diversify your career asset portfolio. What I mean here is, if someone you know is in a particular industry that you are not in, having a relationship with someone who is in said industry can lead to an introduction, and possibly an interview. Everyone you meet has the ability to enhance your network, and it’s something you should be aware of.
This doesn’t mean as soon as you meet someone start spouting off CV/Resume bullets. It means be yourself, be engaging, and be aware of opportunities to bring up some of your goals and what you are currently doing in grad school. A graduate education gives you unique skills, but it doesn’t pigeon hole you into a certain job. Whether it be academia, industry, scientific writing, management consulting, biotech, or medical/scientific communication, networking is an integral skill set to master. As your peer-career advisor, the next thing for me to do is to give you a few tips on networking, you ready?? Cool.
Join a Scientific Society.
All this is easier said than done, so how do you begin to network? This is what I’ve found to be an effective approach. First, join a scientific society affiliated with your field of research and degree. This is integral for a multitude of reasons; societies such as ASBMB (American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) offer workshops, seminars, and conference meetings for you to present your research. It’s a great place to stand out, present data, meet new people, and start building professional relations that may help you during, but more importantly after graduate school. Memberships are pretty affordable for students, and it is definitely an invaluable investment in yourself to do so.
Go to Workshops, Conferences and Symposiums.
Joining a scientific society makes attending workshops, conferences and symposiums easier, since there is a level of exclusivity with some of these events. Make sure to keep an eye out for opportunities like these at your own universities as well. So, let’s be specific on the subject matter of workshops, conferences and symposiums to attend. Workshops should be used to gain new skills, or improve on skills that you feel are lacking or need improvement. Graduate school does a great job at preparing you for research and science, but depending on the school or program, professional development may not be a priority even though its integral in the real world regardless of our research focus. Workshops on science communication, scientific writing, grant writing, presentation skills, and interview skills are all great ways to enhance your development. Your school may even have a Career and Development center that could help you seek out these opportunities.
Conferences are HUGE opportunities for you to display your research, your knowledge, and a particular skill set to others in your field. The hosting science society and/or your university may have travel grants to send you off to such conferences. While this is a great time to display your science and intellect, don’t miss the chance to turn a conference into a networking event. People there will likely be approaching science problems similar to your own, and may have the same problem but from a different angle. Collaboration is an integral part in today’s scientific community in regards to attacking and defeating complex issues in biology. Before collaboration can began, a connection must be made, and this is a great way to facilitate that connection.
Symposiums are great for learning a great deal about particular topics. For example, The NIH held its annual Career Symposium, that is handled by its Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE) division. This event contained over 60 speakers from government, academia, industry and the private sector, to inform graduate students about various career trajectories in biomedical sciences. To reinforce how much of a resource scientific societies can be in regards to growth and networking, a slew of science societies have symposiums from leading experts in the field throughout the year that are available to members. If you attend these, make sure to follow up with new contacts via email and by using LinkedIn.
The Session Synopsis From The NIH 2016 Annual Meeting Is Below:
Use Social Media As a Tool To Expand Your Network
Yes! I said use social media as a tool. Use Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to expand your network and build a personal brand. In the digital age, the social media platform is no longer just for play! Industries and businesses know that social media is a real player in marketing their content. Twitter, Instgram and Facebook allow you to control the content that you are exposed to in what you like, follow, and discuss. With that said, follow and like content that can help you grow and extend your network such as companies, university pages, scientific societies, and journals. More importantly, use social media to be social: follow and connect with people that are in your industry or the industry you’d like to get into. To clarify, this doesn’t mean you need 10K followers to network successfully, you just need to engage in active relationships that can bare opportunities for development, entrepreneurship, and career advancement to master social media networking.
This is an overview of networking, something brief to get the extrovert juices flowing as an introduction to getting your feet wet in the networking pool. I’ll continue to update you guys with specific networking tips, strategies and links to some resources. Well Kids, go out in the world and network like you’ve never done before, cross roads, build bridges, Connect/Follow me on LinkedIn and Instagram via my Author Bio below.