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.
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.