Networking ideas


There's a lot of help already on the web about networking.  One of the best things I've found is the file attached to the bottom of this page.  It's a list of questions that you can ask while networking or doing an informational interview.  Remember that networking means making a lot of good, mutually beneficial connections. If you're shy, you may have to really push yourself in these social situations, but I can't emphasize enough how important your network will be.

Here are a couple of other brief tips:

  • Join student clubs (if you're still a student) and professional groups - The professional groups usually have good websites and some have job boards. The California Career Cafe has a fantastic webpage with links to every known professional organization.
  • Check out your college alumni association - Many alumni associations are pretty much dedicated to helping alumni find jobs.  For example, the Michigan Alumni Association provides free business cards to Michigan undergrads, has social networking tools, and a Find a Mentor program. Check out the services that your alumni association provides.
  • Identify a list of target companies - Use LinkedIn, family, friends, profs and your network to try to find contacts within the company.
  • Follow industry pundits blogs and Twitter feeds - In some industries there are 'observers' who follow the companies, products, and personalities.  Not only are these good sources of information, but if you comment (responsibly) on the blog entries, you'll start to leave an online trail and perhaps develop a reputation.
Here is how one student proceeded (from LinkedIn):

I rely on LinkedIn, family connections and friends. The first thing I did was open my e-mail and phone book to my close friends and family and wrote an summary e-mail in plain language what I am looking for, what my background an experience was and that I would like to see if anyone knew anybody with a similar background as mine that I could talk to. I managed 4-6 informational interviews within 2 weeks of sending out that e-mail and the interviews ranged from VP of R&D a major pharma company, Scientist at a biotech company, Community College professor, small liberal arts professor, a director at manufacturing firm. Some were really helpful and suggested skills, others tried to help. But quite a few decided to open up their network to me and promised to introduce me to many others. I then used LinkedIn to connect with them (nice thing about linkedin is you can write notes about your connections, I write who introduced me to them and what we talked about in the informational interview) and browsed thru their connections. I then sent followup e-mail to them thanking them for their time and requesting if they could help me more by introducing me to this person in their connection. It's a numbers game. I figure 1 out of every 5 connections I make then becomes someone willing to vouch for me at the company. By vouch, they will help be a referral in the company (and if you read the latest news, nearly 1/2 of new hires are from referrals). Some will actively scour thru their internal postings and tell me the hiring manager and let me contact them directly.

My goal is to get at least 2-3 connection in each company who is willing to be a referral. I figure if 2-3 people say I'm good for the position, the hiring manager will take a serious look.

There are also many other opportunities out there. I know PPD has "training" programs for PhD who want to enter regulatory affairs or clinical trial monitoring. Almost all the major pharma companies have industrial postdocs. Although they're winding down, only a few of them are open. They usually post those in December to early January.

But remember, with the economy as it is and with the "surplus" of Bioscience PhDs out there, I think there are at least 100 qualified applicants for the opening. That is what a contact at a pharma told me. He had to narrow down 100 qualified applicants that HR gave them to 20 for phone interviews. Then from those 20, invite 5 for in person interview. And out of those 5, 1 gets the offer. If he received a recommendation/referral and they fit the qualifications, he would at least phone interview them. In the past, if you had 60-80% of the qualifications, you could get a phone interview. Now you need 90%. If you were referred, you could get away with nearly 80%. But it just goes to show how high the bar is now and you can't get by with hoping they'll train you.
Share this


Submitted by BerkeleyUser on
I would like to ask how to go from an informal interview to the next step. I have some friends who know friends in different companies and make sure I can meet them during dinner, lunch etc. I now wonder how to get from there to getting this person to recommend me. Most of the time, I meet them once, we have a nice conversation, depart friendly and then I never hear from them again. How can I maintain and vitalize these contacts, so that these people end up knowing me and want to recommend me to their company? Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you very much.

Submitted by doug_01 on

It depends on what you are asking them to do.  If all you are asking is for someone to hand carry your resume to the person who is hiring, I've found that most people are willing to do that after only a casual acquaintance.  It never hurts to ask "Would you be comfortable delivering my resume to the head of Marketing?"  Of course, that's not a recommendation, but it's better than sending your resume into an email inbox.  If you are looking for an advocate within the target company, you'll have to establish more of a relationship.  Ask for their email address, and maybe try asking one or two of the questions in the pdf attached to this post.  Remember that most people love to talk about themselves, so ask about their backgrounds and how they got hired.  If they seem genuinely interested, then continue to build on anything you have in common professionally.  Be courteous and respectful of their time and be sensitive if it seems like they are putting you off.  Unless you have known someone for a while or worked with them, it will be hard for them to be an advocate. 

Some companies (especially in high tech) are paying employees a bonus for recommending people if they are hired.  You should have no problem finding someone in the organization to forward your resume at these places!

Submitted by Yuyu on
  I’d like to ask some questions on networking on scientific conferences. I have a PhD in molecular and cell biology and 3 years of postdoc experience. I am preparing to look for a Scientist position in industry. Talking to a company sales rep at a conference is one way of networking. Could this be useful at all? I talked to them at my last scientific conference. They told me to apply on-line and this is how they got jobs themselves. I also heard that in mid- and big-size companies (that you usually see sales reps at conferences) different departments, such as R&D and Sales, are isolated and separate entities, so they do not know much about each other. Could you give me some pointers on networking for industry opportunities at conferences?  

Submitted by dougk on
You'll find that the quality and helpfulness of the sales reps varies considerably, Yuyu.  Some reps (especially if it's a busy conference) won't want to stop and talk with you.  Try not to interfere with their main job (sales) and approach them only when things are slow.  Ask them general questions about the company, how fast it is growing, what they like about working there.  Do they hire scientists into pre-sales (e.g. consulting) roles, or into post-sales support, or only into research?  Also ask whether there is anyone from the research side attending the conference and whether they will be doing booth duty and when.  It's certainly true that at big companies R&D and Sales will be totally separate entities (a mistake, I believe) but the sales people may have useful information for you. At some rapidly growing companies, employees get a bonus for bringing in new hires.  You won't have any trouble getting these people to talk to you! It's important to remember that not every networking contact is going to be helpful in getting you a job.  But each one of them will have some interesting information which could advance your search.  Look at networking as a research project: see what valuable information you can get.  But please be mindful of your contact's time.  And you'll find that in general most people like to talk about themselves, so frame questions like "How do you like working at Frammis Corp?", rather than "What's it like to work at Frammis Corp?".  Ask them how they got their job and what their background is.  Please be genuinely interested and don't be manipulative, and you should get good advice. Good luck!

Submitted by Yuyu on
  I understand that networking in general is critical, but if you want to transition to industry, is there point to network in academia? There are some professors who have contacts in industry, but vast majority of them mostly have contacts only within academia. Plus, if you do not know an academic professor well, for example, you escorted an invited speaker to a dinner and discussed your work, isn’t this a little bit odd to ask him about opportunities in industry? I can readily imagine contacting him later and asking about postdoc position in his lab, but that is about it. Am I wrong?  

Submitted by dougk on
Yes, YuYu, academics can be an important part of your network even if they only have indirect contact to industry.  Remember that sometimes it's the indirect contacts that will be most helpful.  A professor may have a colleague or a former student (or a neightbor!) who might be helpful to you.  (That's partially why LinkedIn can be so useful - it lets you see who knows who. I do agree that you have to be sensitive about when you talk about opportunities.  I wouldn't start with 'Do you know of any jobs?'.  Instead, ask about general trends in the industry: "Where are your students finding work?", "What opportunities do you see opening up in the next several years?",  "What kinds of skills will graduates need to have in the future?".  If the speaker seems receptive, a personal note or email to follow up on specific opportunities might be in order.