SciPhD’s Networking for Success is a 2 Day Webinar-based custom online program that focuses specifically on the practical communications and networking skills you need to get your resume to the hiring manager.  This series includes a VIP networking reception where students can connect with industry professionals that can even lead to a new job.

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.

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