The Art of Networking

art of networking

Image credit: Lab Manager Magazine

Networking is critical to keep you connected to the people and resources you need to excel in your career and find new opportunities. Read my latest article “The Art of Networking” in Lab Manager Magazine for advice on how to proactively build your network, featuring innovative networking tips from science professionals. Here is an excerpt from the article that discusses ways to set aside time for networking activities:

Between work and personal life, it may seem impossible to add in networking activities, but you can make time by creating a networking plan that includes manageable goals. For example, you could set personal goals to spend ten minutes a week on LinkedIn group discussion boards, meet one new contact a week, and attend one national conference a year. Also, conserve time by crossing people off your list who won’t respond to your emails (e.g., three strikes and they are out) or negative people who constantly criticize you. By being proactive in your networking approaches and setting achievable goals, you can build a professional network with mutually beneficial relationships for future career success.

Read the full article in the September 2015 issue of Lab Manager Magazine.

What’s your best networking tip?

networkWhat’s your best networking tip? I will feature tips in an upcoming Lab Manager Magazine article on networking as a critical career tool. I would love to share your advice with other scientists and lab managers who are looking to advance their careers. Please post tips as a short comment below by Friday, July 10, along with your name, professional title and organization*. Selected tips will then be published in the article. I look forward to learning some great tips from all of you!

Networking refresher: tips for proactively building a professional network

networkI recently attended an alumni networking event that was open to everyone in the local community, including non-alumni like myself. Even though I have been to dozens of such events, I still get a little nervous walking into a crowd of strange faces and interjecting myself into a circle of chatting people who stare back at me with as much awkwardness as I feel on the inside. Plus, I had forgotten to listen to the news that morning, so I was not armed with any trivial tidbit to deploy as a conversation starter. Thank goodness the organizers were well prepared for the event and encouraged mixing by designating two blocks of time where people could only talk to other attendees 1) who were in the same profession as themselves; or 2) who had a different color sticker on their name tag (the sticker indicated your association as alumni or belonging to another professional support group in the area.) Plus, a glass of red wine from the cash bar definitely helped to dull the nervous edge!

In general, it can be difficult meeting new people for a wide range of reasons (e.g., when you are stuck at work all the time or if you suffer from extreme shyness.) The event reminded me of the need to review some tips that I had presented in a webinar last year to the Association for Women in Science. I have uploaded the “Proactive Approaches for Building a Professional Network” slides to SlideShare for a quick refresher on networking techniques. You can view the slides displayed below or online here. The presentation describes various places to meet people, how to approach them and ways to follow-up with contacts. I also provide a few considerations to think about when designing a networking event.

Do you have any other tips on networking or designing effective networking events that are not covered on the slides? Please leave a comment below to share with other readers.

 

Prepping for a virtual career fair

bioconference_live_exhibitsIn the digital age, many organizations are now opting for virtual career fairs. This format benefits both employers and job seekers – no travel expenses and no long lines – but the online nature requires special prep ahead of time.

Online conferences and career fairs use various software platforms (e.g., on24 and 6connex) with similar layouts. These software programs still need further development to promote a collaborative environment for effective online networking (and personally, I find the fake people to be a little awkward), but online events provide an extra opportunity to network and job hunt on a geographically limitless basis.

To save time and to ensure a good experience, here is a list of suggestions on how to prepare for a virtual career fair (many of these tips also apply to online conferences):

  1. Design a generic resume for uploading to your career fair profile or post the resume on a personal website and list the web address in your profile. Alternatively, consider making a detailed LinkedIn profile and posting that URL as the website in your profile, so an employer can easily link to your info.
  2. Prepare a three-sentence statement (i.e., elevator pitch) about yourself that includes one sentence on each component: background, skills and interests. You can cut and paste this statement into a chat box or recite during a video chat as an introduction. Also, remember to use complete sentences, proper grammar and be professional!
  3. Take time off work to participate in the career fair and find an area clear of distractions (it’s tempting to sit at your work desk but consider making up the hours in the evening or use vacation time.)
  4. Sit at a desk or table with a blank wall as a backdrop, turn on adequate lighting, use a headset and test your audio/visual equipment with the help desk technician at the online fair.
  5. As soon as you can log into the career fair, fill out your profile completely. Also, navigate through the virtual environment to orient yourself with each room (e.g., exhibit hall, auditorium and lounge), and check out the schedule of events. Be sure to view any introductory videos designed to help you find your way around the fair, and ask the help desk technician questions (if needed).
  6. Do your research – look through the list of available employers, research their open positions/company profiles and narrow down the list of employers. As early as possible, sign up for an appointment with each targeted employer. If you don’t hear from the recruiter at your scheduled time (allow 15-30 minutes for appointment overlap), send a message to the recruiter at the exhibit booth to verify your time.
  7. Network during the career fair by searching profiles of fellow participants and identify people with related career interests or attributes (e.g., company affiliation). You can reach out through a private chat to introduce yourself.
  8. Take advantage of any other career development services offered during the fair (e.g., seminars and one-on-one career counseling), and use the “my briefcase” option to save links and files that can be downloaded to your computer.
  9. Follow-up with each recruiter after the career fair by sending a short email to say thank you, reiterate why you are interested in the company and remind them of your skills and qualifications. Plus, send emails or LinkedIn connect requests to the other people with whom you networked.

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Additional resources:

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List of organizations that host virtual career fairs:

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Discussion Point: Do you have any personal experiences with virtual career fairs and any tips to share?

How to Build a Professional Network, Part IVb: Funding Sources for Attending Scientific Meetings

I’m not going to lie, attending conferences and meetings can be quite pricy…. not to mention the membership fees for the professional societies to which you belong! That’s why it may be best to focus on one large conference or a few smaller meetings to attend a year that are most in line with your professional interests. Keep in mind that registration for large conferences may be required months in advance, so start the funding process early. Here are some ideas for securing funding to attend those meetings:

1.  Sponsor – Talk to your primary supervisor, PI, department head and/or division director about travel funds that may be available. In addition, many universities offer travel grants through their undergraduate research offices and graduate colleges. Such travel funds are normally structured into research grant proposals, so that researchers will disseminate their work to the science community. Not to mention, you deserve the opportunity to see daylight for a change and get away from the lab!

2.  Travel Grants – Most professional organizations offer competitive travel grants to attend their major conferences, and these resources will be listed on the respective conference websites. Here are some links to additional resources on travel awards:

For women:

For underrepresented groups in science – Many national conferences offer a competitive travel grant for underrepresented groups and this information will be on the conference website. Also, many research training programs will also include funds for travel to conferences:

Resources on other travel grants and funding:

3.  Judging – Some conference organizers will cover meeting expenses for researchers to judge poster and oral presentation sessions:

4.  Pay for it yourself – Don’t forget that you (specifically US citizens) may be eligible for tax credits related to the cost of professional development activities in excess of 2% of your annual adjusted gross income. (Note: As the daughter of a CPA who is now an IRS agent, I must do my duty and advise you to seek proper tax counsel related to these tax credits. 🙂 )

5.  Donations – Instead of the Rudolph sweater with the blinking red nose that your mother buys you for the winter holiday this year, consider asking friends and family to donate money towards your attendance at a professional conference, which is a much better use of their money! Also, you can even set up a private website to collect donations and send out the web address to your personal network.

*Note: Some of these resources may be discipline-specific to my background and limited to the US, but think about your area of expertise and translate the ideas to fit your needs. Does anyone have any resources to add to this list? Please use the comments section to share these resources with other science professionals!*