If a tree falls, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? That is the age-old question. Similarly, if you are eminently qualified for a job, both technically, as well as with respect to your business skills (how you do your work efficiently and with high precision), and your social skills (how you effectively engage with others), but hiring managers aren’t aware of your existence, will you get an interview?
The obvious answer is a resounding NO! There are many super-qualified scientists who aren’t competitive for jobs, simply because they don’t get noticed and so never get the chance to strut their stuff. Your perfect resume is useless if it doesn’t get in front of the hiring manager. And that’s the whole point of a resume- to get the interview! So how do you improve your chances there? By building and leveraging your network. By building relationships early in your career, the likelihood that you will be able to find connections within the company you want to join go way up. And once you have an advocate who can get your resume directly to the hiring manager, along with a recommendation, that’s how you maximize your opportunity to then demonstrate why you are truly qualified during the interview.
Your network is also your most effective resource to get important intelligence in preparation for your interview. We’ve had scientists discover through their networks which scientific paths of investigation the hiring manager is most excited about, which allowed them to prepare and research that specific area thoroughly. In one case, we even discovered that one of the divisions within the company was likely to be disbanded in the near future. This helped frame the answers to questions regarding your scientific passions, and reasons you want to work at that company. Discovering salary ranges for particular positions can be revealed through your network. Pet passions and peeves of prospective interviewers is valuable intelligence to have ahead of your interview. You can also gain important insight into work-life balance, the social environment, and the level of excitement within the company.
So how do you build and leverage your network towards landing an interview? Attend university and trade-organization sponsored events that place you in the same place as industry professionals. Learn to initiate conversations by asking questions (in our SciPhD webinars we refer to this as “shifting from expert to learner”). Exchange contact information. Become comfortable with your three identities (technical, business, social) and have those 10-30 second talking points available so that you can bring them out in the appropriate circumstance. And remember that every encounter is an opportunity to network. Need more networking skills or related knowledge? Check out our SciPhD online programs and request your institution sign up. We’d love to have you in our network!