Life is a journey. We stumble upon individuals that we do not plan to meet and interact with a host of different personalities along the way. Sometimes these connections end up being invaluable for our career development. As many know, it takes a village to raise to a child – this is applicable to building a career. It takes a village of people to build a successful career including our mentors, those that sponsor our work, the people who help us learn the trade of developing our network, colleagues, and even family and friends who support us through the more challenging times. Building a network capable of supporting ourselves throughout our development requires strategy, energy, and purpose.
I have been with the IUSM’s NetworkIN Committee for over 3 years, and the experiences and connections I have garnered in the process have been invaluable. I have built some great relationships with my fellow NetworkIN committee members throughout the years. The experience of planning, organizing, and holding events has been quite a learning curve. But none of this would have been possible without incredible colleagues – Kaela, Emily, Lakshmi, Jenny, Sudha, Liz, and Noopur. These colleagues who have welcomed me in and provided constant support have become my network, aiding in my own development and helping to support our mission of conducting semi-annual events to grow our students’ networking skills. As I bid adieu to this wonderful committee that has blossomed and grown exponentially, I would like to share my thoughts on what I have learned from my experiences.
Start networking early
We don’t have to wait until we are in the “real world” to start our networking efforts. Beginning networking early will set you up for success later on. This is where events like our own and those from other organizations – such as Indy Science Connect and Biocrossroads, to name a few – located throughout Indianapolis provide a great platform to enhance your networking skills. Additionally, a new tool “INscience” has been recently made available to help you keep your finger on the pulse for upcoming events, news, and job opportunities within the life science sector in Indiana. Check out this extremely helpful information source:
Connecting with previous graduate students and postdocs who are affiliated with our potential future employer can be helpful in learning about the day-to-day routines and life in that specific role. Alumni can often give us valuable advice and even connect us to internship opportunities and/or other valuable career development opportunities. Indiana University School of Medicine students and postdocs have been very fortunate to interact with and learn from enthusiastic IU alums who have kindly opened doors to present graduates to experience life in the industry through tours of organization facilities, internship opportunities, and career-related presentations.
Internships provide an opportunity to test trial jobs outside the world of academia, whether it is pharmaceutical, biotech, or scientific writing. These internships can provide important insights to help navigate and decide on our career directions. Mentors should support their mentees to explore the industry world outside of the academia “bubble” because, during the internship period, you are provided a good opportunity to talk to multiple professionals within the company to gain a number of perspectives. Maybe unknowingly, this will start a new thread of your networking web, and with these new connections, it may lead to future opportunities when looking for a more permanent position.
I think lots of us appreciate the value of having a network, yet many of us find the act of establishing a network challenging. Strong relationships are often founded when there is a benefit for both parties. As we move forward through our careers, it would be beneficial to the next generation if we are reflective about those individuals who have helped us get to a strong professional place, so that we are able to eventually pay this favor back to our mentees.
ALWAYS follow up!
It’s a simple task, yet many professionals neglect this critical step in the networking process. While we don’t need to send a long, heartfelt message immediately after meeting a new connection, a simple LinkedIn request can help keep track of our interaction. A personalized note may be helpful when establishing this connection. Additionally, LinkedIn can often be used as a tool to assess the career journeys of established professionals and allow for further researching of similar professional positions.
Being proactiveand strategic
Being active in our network can help us throughout our professional journey. It is easy to wait until we are in need, but the beauty in networks can often be the continual interaction, nurturing, and personal growth that blossoms from these professional relationships. A good place to start with networking is to identify a few key areas of our own development that we would like additional support in. Then we can strategically target events or personnel who may be able to support us in these areas.
Networking doesn’t have to be limited to attending a networking event. Volunteering at different events, especially those that align with your interests, are an excellent way to gain experience, show your values, and meet new people.
Scientifically, conferences and seminars are a good place to become familiar with other people within your field. Coffee breaks and food events may provide a perfect platform for you to learn a little more about an individual.
Networking can be an extremely daunting task, and we might prefer to procrastinate. However, it is never too early or too late to start building connections. We never know who we might meet along the way and what connections we might build. So, get out there and start networking!
Bibliography (A few reads that I have found very helpful in adapting my game plan towards networking):