The 3 Most Important Factors of a Job Search: Networking, Networking and Networking

November 14, 2013

Image of stick people with dotted lines connecting each individual to anotherIn real estate parlance, it is said that the three most important factors in maximizing the value of your property are location, location and location.  Networking carries a similar importance, especially for those preparing for a career beyond NIH, or your current institution.  Many good jobs are filled by candidates who have been identified prior to that job being officially posted.  Therefore, the more broadly your net of contacts can be cast, the better your chances of receiving advanced information on positions which are of interest to you.

Developing and cultivating your network of contacts is critically important whether your career plans are in the academic setting or in industry.  For those of you at the NIH, who are planning a career in the academic setting, networking is more straight-forward in that the people with whom you are in contact every day are often key components of your network.  For those who desire to move into a career in industry, networking will involve going beyond your normal day-to-day routine.  In this case you will need to build a network of contacts that are working in industry and doing similar jobs to those of your interest.

There are some tools available that can help you establish and maintain contacts outside of your current work environment.  LinkedIn can be used to identify and communicate with people in industries and companies that you have targeted.  Your University’s Alumni Database as well as the NIH Alumni Database can be good resources for finding industry contacts as well.  In addition, contacting these alums can provide insight on the issues associated with the transition from academic labs to industry.  Once you have identified potential contacts, an informational interview is an excellent way to discover more about a company and develop a contact (hopefully an advocate) within the company when job openings occur.

Another way to bolster your network is through attending conferences.  Not only do you have a chance to meet industry scientists who are in the same field as your area of expertise, but you also can take the opportunity to meet the business people from the companies who are displaying at the conference.  Both the scientific and business people within the companies can help you navigate the HR policies and procedures when there are job openings.  In addition, attending trade association get-togethers can also be a good way to build your network.  These are the same conferences and meetings that you would normally attend; use them as an opportunity to meet the people from industry.

One final thought; start your networking today!  So many people say that they want to get their next job now, so it is time to start networking.  Networking should begin the day you start in your present position.  Your network of contacts can take years to build and cultivate.  It is often the case that a contact you meet for one particular purpose can play a role in your career months, or even years later.

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The Top 4 Things You Should STOP Doing on LinkedIn

September 23, 2013

A stop sign that has fallen overBy now you have probably realized that LinkedIn can be a powerful tool during your job search, but LinkedIn is not just another social networking site – it is the professional social network.  As in real-life workplace situations, judiciousness and professional courtesy should steer all of your activity on LinkedIn.  You have worked hard to make and keep a good impression in your lab and/or office.  The same should hold true on LinkedIn; you need to make and maintain a positive, professional appearance. A LinkedIn faux pas has the potential to damage your career path, so here are a few red lights to heed to along the way:

1. Stop using LinkedIn’s auto-generated templates.
LinkedIn pre-populates most message fields; however, that doesn’t mean you should keep the generic message as your own.  Whether it is requesting a connection or congratulating someone on a new job you should take the time to personalize your correspondence.  Using the auto generated “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” misses an opportunity to tell the person why you want to connect. Make it as specific as you can; for example, “It was great sitting next to you at OITE’s Academic Job Interviews Workshop on Monday.  I enjoyed chatting about your research at NCI and I’d like to stay connected.”

2. Stop indiscriminately connecting with people.
The people you choose to connect with are often viewed as an extension of yourself, so make sure you know who they are and why they want to connect with you. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t link in with an acquaintance or even a stranger; however, if making a request to add a cold contact, you must explain why you want to connect (which goes back to point # 1).

3. Stop clicking on things!
With just a simple click of a button, you can quickly and easily endorse the skills and expertise of your connections; however, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  An endorsement can be seen as baffling if you are endorsing an individual for something you have never witnessed them doing first-hand.  An endorsement can also feel more annoying than gratifying to the recipient if this is an area that they practiced years ago. Many also wonder, “Are you secretly expecting an endorsement or recommendation in return?”  In an effort to continue advertising the endorsements feature, LinkedIn frequently groups your contacts together and asks if you would like to endorse them all for skills they have on their profile in one fell swoop.  Use your best judgment and think before you click.

4. Stop doing nothing.
Doing too much on LinkedIn – reposting every article you read online that day or asking everybody for a recommendation – can be overwhelming to your connections and it can create a negative online impression.  Equally bad is doing nothing at all. If you are job searching, this could even be worse. So, take the time to set a well-cropped, professional headshot as your profile photo (note: pictures of you on a beach, holding your cat, or with a group of friends do not set a good first impression of you as a serious professional).  Update your contact information, your headline and then get out there! As with any social network, the premise is to participate, so don’t be afraid to contribute to the conversation.