Day 5: Using Networking in the Lab

There are many immediate benefits to practicing and applying your networking skills right now while in the lab.  Here are a few scenarios to consider:

  • You are not alone with respect to the goal of landing a good job.  By inviting your science colleagues into your LinkedIn network now, as they move out into the professional world, you will then have access to them and their connections which may uncover job opportunities before they are publicly advertised.  Those connections can also provide you with access to professionals in organizations of interest to you for informational interviews.
  • Colleagues of your PI with whom you communicate or share materials and ideas should be part of your network.  They expand your awareness of your professional world and are potential resources beyond your current academic environment.
  • If you are a graduate students, members of your committee have a vested interest in your professional development, and are good candidates to be part of your professional network.  By virtue of their success, they likely can introduce you to others who can advance your career, whether it be in academia or beyond.
  • The sales representatives that visit your labs are potentially tremendous networking resources.  Think of all the people and institutions that they visit, and the size of their LinkedIn networks.  How many biotech companies do they visit?  How many industry professionals do they know?  Consider asking your PI if you could be responsible for negotiating contracts with various vendors who provide reagents, equipment, and consumables for your laboratory.  That would give you a position of authority to interact with these sales reps, who in turn are likely to provide you with insights, opportunities, and connections through their extensive networks.  Not only that, you might even be able to add the following statement on your targeted resume: “responsible for negotiating bulk consumable contracts for the laboratory resulting in a 15% reduction in laboratory overhead costs”.  This indicates to potential hiring managers that you have negotiating, business, and social skills, and some financial acumen.
  • Establish professional relationships with established researchers and support people within your organization.  At the appropriate time, inviting them into your LinkedIn network will unlock another group of professionals that could wind up aiding you in your efforts to connect with a specific company for a specific job.  Don’t limit yourself to the PIs.  Building professional relationships with the administrative support staff can bring an additional group of professionals within reach, all through the people who you work with currently.
  • Invite your science colleagues to join you at trade organization events once in-person opportunities resume.  Meanwhile, attend virtual events sponsored by your local biotechnology trade organization.  There are currently “Bio” trade organizations in 48 states.  You can find them all with this link.  See if your state’s bio organization is holding events, and start attending them.  It is likely that your institution is a member of your local “Bio” which will provide you with free or reduced-fee accesss to their programs.

Networking can be a 24/7 activity.  Every interaction is an opportunity to network.  Look for those opportunities, seize on them, bring more and more people into your LinkedIn network, and you will be amazed at how deep and broad your contacts will be, and how they can give you a big leg up on landing your first job!

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