How to Leverage Power of NetworkingJun 13, 2023
I talk to a lot of academics who are looking to join the business world and there is one thing that is common among them: an uncomfortable feeling when it is time to ‘network’.
There is something about Networking that feels self-serving, awkward, inauthentic, or shallow. But at the same time, we all know, it is THE most important factor for growth and career success. So, how shall one approach this situation?
Let’s start with what networking is NOT about:
- to receive a referral
- to be handed a job
- to make a sale
But, it's rather it’s about
- building relationships
- fostering discovery
- lifting each other
Done right and with enough time, it ALWAYS leads to opportunities, long-term relationships, and amazing discoveries. Best of all, it's mutually beneficial. That's why I love Networking.
Here are 3 power use cases for ‘authentic networking’ in practice:
1. Build Relationships
My principles for building relationship is simple:
I intend to make a friend not a business contact
I think long-term not short term
With these two principles, I’ve had numerous friendships, memories, and opportunities in the past decade.
During my first interview, the Director of Clinical Affairs (Hi, Peter!), quizzed me about my love for soccer and we kickstarted a conversation about the English Premier League. As a fresh Ph.D., I was confused at first: why is he not asking me about the experiments I ran or the code I can write? Over time I’ve come to the realization that he was exploring my personality as most other candidates would already have the hard skills so it wouldn’t be a differentiator… fortunately for me, I did end up getting that first job and sadly for Peter, that interaction has now continued to an 8-year iMessage thread where we discuss why Liverpool FC is better than Tottenham Spurs (and vice versa). I’ve moved away from that company for 6 years now, but we continue to ‘bust chops’ even today.
Building such relationships and how it resulted in various unexpected opportunities has been a common theme in my career over the last decade:
my first job post-PhD job got kickstarted by a conversation with a friend from college;
my second job got kickstarted from a 2nd degree Linkedin connection.
my third job got kickstarted with a conversation with a former colleague.
In each case, my ‘networking’ was not geared toward getting a job referral but I did end up with a new job nonetheless. In retrospect, had I gone into this conversation with the intention of generating a referral I am 100% sure it would have NOT led to new jobs.
Genuine curiosity is authentic and can do wonders in building relationships that work miraculously. It is true that it’s difficult to have authentic conversations over a 30 min chat because relationships take time, so my 1 advice to folks would be:
Start conversations early. Don’t wait until you need a job to ‘network’. Relationships that materialize into meanfingul outcomes are usually ones that have been build over a long time.
As academics and scientists, we’re naturally inclined to seek learning and growth. Halfway through my Ph.D., a whole new world opened up to me when I found out about “Informational Interviews”.
Informational interviews are a 30min -1 hour low stake chat/interview/meeting, where folks volunteer their time to mentor, guide or simply share their stories. I’ve found that it is the quickest way to learn about a new industry, company, or a role. I’ve found most of my requests for informational interviews were successful as long as I was sincere in my ask, and respectful of their time and energy.
Three main things you can take away from “informational interviews” are:
Company & Role Insights
If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend setting up some informational interviews with the goal to learn at least one of the three points listed above. Once you grow in your career, you can return the favor as folks begin to seek learnings from you as well. This is also one of the main reasons why I continue to talk to so many PhDs and give back in hopes they find their ways as well.
Whether I am asking someone for their time, or volunteering my time for somebody, one principle that has worked well for me is:
Give with no expectation of receiving.
3. Stand Out During Your Job Search
As we know the current job market is tough. Applying for a job without networking is as good as not applying in the first place. Success rates for interviews are close to 0% without authentic networking.
Let’s have a look at Kinga’s experience by the numbers below:
As we see here, her success rate of interviews was 90% with networking, and 0% without. Similarly, the success rate of offers was 20% with networking and 0% without. Kinga - who is an amazing data scientist and data mapper portrays the reality for all job seekers in this wonderful chart.
Having engaged with dozens of job seekers, I truly believe that:
You can 10x your success rate with authentic networking during your job search.
If you’re looking for templates for networking scripts you can use with the hiring team, hiring manager, and HR; Jonathan Javier has some great ones here.
If you implement these three tips to practice authentic networking, you'll start to see a shift in your mindset and your successes.
You'll begin to view networking as fun and essential rather than something that is ‘icky’.
So next time you're stressing about ‘networking’, remember to remove the stigma and pressure and try to have fun. It may lead to places you’ve never imagined yet. That’s all for today.
See you next week.
P.S. I’m offering 1:1 coaching/resume review sessions. If you’re interested you can book here:https://calendly.com/phdtoindustry/connections
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