10 Networking Tips for Scientists

by Claudia Willmes

Editor, Trends in Molecular Medicine (Cell Press)
PhD Alumna MedNeuro

Caudia Willmes

Getting a job without proper networking is possible, but not very likely. After earning my MedNeuro PhD in 2017, I decided to go a different path than anyone I knew. So it was clear I needed to make new contacts. I was actually not a fan of online networking and even wrote an article about it (December 2016 CNS Volume 9, Issue 4, Networking in the Digital Era). Let’s cut the story short: I changed my mind. Here I am, sitting in the Cambridge offices of Cell Press, living my dream as the Editor of Trends in Molecular Medicine!

1. Online Networking is a Must

Online job portals are an invaluable tool for networking. Joining online discussion groups will help you find like-minded people and mentors. This is especially important if you are aspiring to break into a field you are not familiar with. I made a number of contacts via discussion groups, sending invites to people with interesting job descriptions and sending invites to conference speakers. Chatting with them helped me define my goal and strategy and find the perfect job.

2. Get Invited to Conferences

Your networking contacts will be able to draw your attention to meetings, you would have missed otherwise (again, this is especially the case when breaking into a new field). I was invited to meetings via LinkedIn contacts that turned out to be a great source for new contacts.

3. Go to Conferences That Are Outside of Your Expertise

Whenever you see an announcement for a meetup, hackathon, or conference that is for free or at a low cost: GO! You do not need to be a specialist to take part in the meeting, but you will meet a lot of people. Ask for their business cards, or note down their names. Follow up with them after the conference (e.g. via email or a LinkedIn mail). I got an invitation to a company after following up with a speaker. After a hackathon, I made several new LinkedIn contacts. When I later applied for a job, I was asked during the job interview how I know this particular person and it was important for them that I had that contact.

4. Ask Foreigners to Read Your CV And Give Feedback

Networking will also enlarge the pool of people that can give you input on your CV, or even proofread your CV and cover letter. Each industry has their own standards and getting feedback from someone in the field is tremendously important.

5. Get Contacted by Headhunters

Online platforms work by certain algorithms that basically shoot your profile onto the desks of headhunters. All you have to do is log in to the platform on a regular basis, be active (in discussion groups or by posting articles) and make a lot of contacts. Half a year into my job hunting on LinkedIn I got contacted once a week by headhunters.

6. Get Referrals From People You Have Never Met

Believe it or not, I got my current job via a referral by someone I had never met before! How did that happen? I went through my contacts and looked for their LinkedIn connections that had a similar background to me and were holding jobs that I was interested in. I wrote “cold call” emails, many of them led to conversations (online or phone) and eventually one served as a referral for a job application

7. Get Job Interview Invitations!

You might not only get referrals, but even job interview invitations! While, I was browsing job advertisements to get more information about the job, I searched all people that worked in that company division, invited them into my network and wrote LinkedIn messages. It was great seeing their CVs (so I could estimate my chances), chatting with them on the phone (to get more information about the job and the boss). The group leader was especially impressed by my courage, so he directly invited me to a job interview even though I hadn’t even applied for the job.

8. Ask Your Alumni For Advice

Online platforms are an easy way to contact alumni with whom you have not been in contact on a frequent basis. You will be surprised how many invitations will lead to fruitful conversations. People love to help, because they were at that same position at some point, too. Don’t be afraid to ask!

9. A Job Refusal Can Open New Avenues

Remember to be polite when you get a refusal from a job application. Say thank you and send a LinkedIn invitation. They might get back to you if they have a position which they find might be a better fit for you. Also, you will have access to their network, thereby you can get more insights from the specific field. One of my job interviews led to a refusal, but that didn’t stop me from contacting them. I wrote a thank you letter (they invested time in me, by evaluating my CV and inviting me to the interview), and asked for feedback. Thereby I learned how I could improve my CV and hear their opinion about which kind of job would be a better fit for me.

10. Networking Builds Confidence

First,  it might seem awkward to you to contact strangers. At the beginning I was reluctant to send networking invites- why would they care about me? After a while I learned that many people care because everyone wants to build their network. You don’t need to be afraid, you have nothing to lose! By networking I built confidence about myself, which is something I didn’t realize at the beginning. Having built this network and confidence made me a better applicant in the end!

Header image by The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash

Originally published in Charité Neurscience Newsletter, Vol. 11, Issue 4

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