Day 1: Building and Leveraging Your Network
The PhD and postdoc experiences provide academic scientists with exceptional technical knowledge, so much so that they are rightly referred to as “Subject Matter Experts” or “SMEs”. And, as we have been discussing in this series of articles over these past four weeks, the experience of investigative science also teaches the same discipline, control, strategic thinking, risk management and collaboration experiences that are highly valued by virtually all professional organizations. So essentially, scientists who have experienced the PhD process really are eminently qualified for positions in professional organizations- not just by virtue of their “scientific” identity, but their “business” and “social” identities as well.
With respect to landing your first job, these impressive qualifications are almost useless if the hiring manager never finds out about you! In a slight modification of the age-old expression, it’s not only what you know, it’s also who you know. The fact is, over 80% of new hires are the result of referrals. So, the most significant thing you can do beyond continuing your excellent science, is to build your network. And for almost all professional organizations, LinkedIn is the appropriate platform to organize that network. LinkedIn is the primary social media professional platform used to evaluate candidates and is used in almost 90% of all cases and as such, you must have a well-developed LinkedIn profile. In addition, it is an incredibly powerful tool to connect you to those who can get your resume directly to the hiring manager.
There are many opportunities to build your network and invite those acquaintances to become part of your LinkedIn family. Your colleagues where you do your science, the folks you meet at scientific meetings, virtually any event you attend is an opportunity to build your network. Beyond your professional circles, your family, friends, neighbors, and any others you interact with should be invited into your network. The fact is, it is unlikely anyone in your primary network will offer you a job, but it is very likely they know someone who will.
One of the keys to actively building your network and engaging with new people is to use some of the communications skills we discussed earlier in this series, and learn to shift from “expert” to “learner”, and ask questions about something you have in common- like the event that you are at. This is a great way to initiate conversations and bring new people into your network. We recognize this is not easy for many of us. The age of COVID obviously further complicates the ability to network, but the benefits are well worth the additional effort!
Take this process seriously. You will be competing against dozens, hundreds, or even more very qualified candidates, and the best way to get considered is to get your resume and an endorsement directly to the hiring manager. Having an extensive network is the most effective way to do this. That is the first step in getting an interview, which is the goal of the targeted resume. So, build your network, use it to get noticed, and Land That Job! We’ll further explore the art of networking throughout this week.