Day 2: Building and Leveraging Your Network- Q&A
Below are examples of questions that often come up during our SciPhD webinars, bootcamps and workshops. Hopefully our answers can be of some benefit to those who want to build their networks.
Q: Any suggestions on how to network in the age of Covid? Is it possible to attend events online similar to what you are suggesting?
A: Social distancing has certainly created a challenge for building one’s network. But as we have attempted to adapt ourselves to this new reality, so too have organizations where we might typically attend networking events. Many of the biotechnology trade organizations (MassBio, Life Science PA, BioNJ, Biocom etc) have transitioned their networking events to online where you can meet people who are already in professional organizations. For some this may actually provide a less intimidating way to connect with new people. One key in connecting with someone you don’t know is to ask a question about something you have in common. You could ask what they thought of the virtual presentation. Or, if they work at a medical device company, and you are interested in learning more about working in the medical device industry, you might express that, and ask how they made that transition, and do they have any advice. With a few back-and-forth messages during the networking sessions, you can exchange contact information, and followup as convenient. Asking a question conveys the implicit message of “I value your opinion”, which is a great way to get a conversation going. In general, the approach of shifting out of “expert” mode (“listen to me”) to “learner” mode (“I’d like to listen to what you have to say”), is an effective way to initiate conversations and build relationships.
Q: Why is LinkedIn so important for networking?
A: LinkedIn is an extremely valuable tool for three main reasons: 1) Total membership is almost 700 million, with over 300 million classified as “monthly active”, 2) the ease with which you can identify who in your network can connect you with someone in a particular company of interest, and 3) almost 90% of hiring organizations use LinkedIn as the first screening tool to evaluate your candidacy for a job.
Q: What’s the best way to get someone in my LinkedIn network to advocate for me for a specific job?
A: The first step is to search for the company where you are applying, and find either a first, or second level connection. Reach out to your first level connection and re-establish your relationship. You may have to remind them when and where you met. Explain briefly that you have an interest in a particular company, LinkedIn indicates that they may know someone there, and ask if they might be willing to help make that connection. If they agree, then be prepared to explain briefly why you are qualified for the job (SciPhD’s Flamingo will help with that!), and you can offer your targeted resume for them to look over, and if comfortable, to pass on to their contact in the company. If all goes well, you will now have a new advocate to help get your resume to the hiring manager and get a leg up on your competition.
Q: Can I use an informational interview to apply for a job?
A: Generally, no. Informational interviews are intended for you to get a better understanding of the company, its work culture, work-life balance, and get some insight into whether it is the kind of place you might consider applying to in the future. Informational interviews are typically 30 minutes or less, are not an appropriate venue to offer you resume or ask if there are any job openings. The major benefit of an informational interview, if handled well, is that it can eventually lead to an additional well-placed person in your network. Initially, just send a brief e-mail thanking them for their time. Depending on the response, you might consider offering to connect networks, but only if it’s clear they are interested in staying in touch. Otherwise, it’s best to just reach out sometime later when you are actively in your job search and see if they might be able to assist. That will be your best indication if they can be an advocate.
There are literally dozens more networking questions we receive during our online webinars, bootcamps and workshops. You can learn all about them at sciphd.com