Who should network?

You should only network if you’re interested in a new job. Oh, and if you’re interested in finding out about exciting new science. And, if you want to share your science. Also if you want to talk to people with a wealth of knowledge about fields you’re interested in. If you’re in college, you should network. If you’re in graduate school or a postdoc, you should network. If you’re a faculty member at any level – you should network. If you’re working in or out of academia, you should network.

Oh. I guess that’s everyone. So, read on…

Why do I need to network?

Most users of this website are in the “active mobility” segment of their careers — that is, they’re either looking ahead to a job change or not yet sure they’re in their “rest-of-the-career” position (when can you be sure?). These people should be networking in part because a large percentage of job offers come from networking. Don’t believe me? Let me share some anecdotes. My current position is a result of networking via LinkedIn (it wasn’t a posted job there, it was a discussion in the group). My first faculty position was the ultimate outcome of a chance discussion on a nature hike while evacuated from a hurricane, hours away from home. My husband, who is very uncomfortable talking to anyone (let alone people he doesn’t know), connected with his dream job at a major research university through a job posting on a field-related section of the social network Reddit. My family’s experience is not at all unusual.

But, even if you’re not expecting to be changing jobs again, networking will help you identify potential collaborators, presenters at your next meeting, new ideas in your field, and people who have already done that experiment and couldn’t get the results published. It is through networking that you find out that the NIH is not likely to run that parent program anymore (so you know to look for alternate funding mechanisms), or that they’ll be announcing a program that perfect for your research (so you start preparing to write). Networking is how you find out that mysterious gene that popped out of your GWAS is also associated with a weird cellular function that wasn’t ever published, and is now going to be the focus of your next grant.

Many of the resources listed in the table below discuss the importance of networking — check them out. But if you want me to pick one, this one has a nice introduction.

Networking ≠ using people

(ok, I shamelessly stole this from here)

A lot of the hesitation scientists have when they’re asked to “network” is that it seems exploitative. It seems like someone’s telling you to go make friends with that person specifically for some personal gain, and then move on. But, that’s not actually a good way to do networking — it’s not recommended. The idea is that it’s more like an information network. You get to know people who know or can do stuff that’s interesting to you, and you share interesting stuff or favors with them. Not that you should be trying to keep score or anything — just be aware that you may have some way to assist them, either now or in the future, and be ready to offer when appropriate. You can read more about this idea in several of the references below – start here and here.

OK, fine, I’m convinced. Now – how do I network?

Look at the resources below! And, don’t forget to network at your professional meetings (like the ASCB annual meeting…)

If you know of resources or content you think should be represented here, please feel free to email me at svolk@ascb.org.

Resources for Networking Web Links
“Networking: Real connections” Amy Maxmen, Nature 499, 243-245 (2013) doi:10.1038/nj7457-243a Link
 “Career toolkit: Networking” – the toolkits from NatureJobs are very helpful Link
 “Networking tips for graduate students” 20 Jun 2013, NatureJobs – Top tips to help you break in on the conversations at academic conferences. Link
 “Network for success” Nature 497, 527 (2013) doi:10.1038/nj7450-527c Link
“Science Networking Made Easy” (Feb 2013) From Bright Futures: Career Tools and Resources for Optics Professionals Link
“Networking in Science, or How to Talk to Strangers Even Though Your Mother Told You Not To…” (July 2012) from Verena Starke’s blog Link for Part 1Link for Part 2
“Networking: Getting connected is not such a scary thing” (June 2011) from Just another Electron Pusher blog Link
“Networking” excerpt from Guide to Life Science Careers from Scitable Link
“Tooling Up: More than Just a Job-Seeking Skill” (Feb 2005) from Science Careers Link
“Network Your Way Into Work: Index of Articles” (2003-2005) from Science Careers, series of articles on networking on building and leveraging personal networks by a networking expert Link
“Grad Student Advice Series: How To Network and Add Value To Yourself and Others” (Oct 2012) from The Grad Student Way blog Link
“What Is Networking, and Is It Any Different for College Students Than Anyone Else?” (Oct 2013) chapter excerpt Link


Version History: 

  • Initially published June 28, 2015
  • Added some networking resources from Nature and others 

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