These days, very few aspects of science are done in isolation. Many projects are conducted in collaboration with researchers in other disciplines, and new ideas are frequently sparked by conversations with other scientists. Moreover, finding a job in academia is often helped by knowing people who have a position to fill, or who can point you to those who do. And when venturing outside academia, meeting people who can give you valuable information about how to enter a new work sector is crucial.
Most scientists know that networking is important for success, whether in their research or career, but many still find the mere word off-putting. For many scientists, the thought of stepping into a room full of strangers and striking up forced, superficial conversations over wine and cheese cubes feels icky and can produce anxiety.
It often takes skill, and practice, to start enjoying and reaping the benefits of networking.
But it doesn’t need to be that way—and to be effective, it shouldn’t be. Good networking requires a genuine conversation about your interests, those of the other person, and how they may benefit each other. Getting to the point where networking is a pleasure instead of a chore, however, may not be easy. It often takes skill, and practice, to start enjoying and reaping the benefits of networking. Over the years, Science Careers has published hundreds of articles on the topic to help you reach your full networking potential. Here is some of our best advice.
Who’s in your tribe? by David G. Jensen, 17 June 2015. Making your online networks tighter and better targeted is a good way to establish more efficient connections with people who can help you find a job and advance your career.
Having a ball in science, by Chelsea Wald, 18 March 2015. Last January, Vienna’s scientific community flocked to the city’s first-ever scientists’ ball, where researchers danced, drank, and networked in Viennese fashion, making connections that they hope will further their scientific careers.
Seeking Work in the Social Net, by Clifford Mintz, 9 September 2011. Social media websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube are changing the way those seeking work find jobs.
Social Networking Grows Up, by Lucas Laursen, 24 October 2008. Science-specific social networks offer handy tools to share documents and libraries of research articles.
Mastering Your Ph.D.: Making the Most of a Conference, by Bart Noordam and Patricia Gosling, 23 March 2007. Conferences are a great opportunity to start building your scientific network, which can yield benefits in the form of collaborations, recommendation letters, and postdoc appointments.
Networking on Your Doorstep, by Phil Dee, 20 February 2004. Attending international conferences and earning mobility fellowships can be great ways to expand your network, but just popping your head around the corner in your own department can be very effective, too.
Informational Interviewing: Getting Information You Can Use, by David Bomzer, 11 April 2003. Although the key objective of informational interviewing isn’t networking, the contacts you make may end up helping you find a job.
Networking: How to Get a Good Connection, by David Bomzer, 10 May 2002. You can network in various venues and by many methods, including by phone, when giving a presentation, or face-to-face at a conference.
Lucky Accidents, Chance Encounters, and the Prepared Job Seeker, by Peter Fiske, 6 October 2000. Every day, we meet people who could potentially be important for our career development. Here are some good habits that will help you see these opportunities as they come up and seize them when they do.
How to Work a Scientific Conference, by Paul Recchia, 8 October 1999. Try developing a strategy to help you network at conferences. If you’re shy, for example, consider spending some time tagging along with your adviser, who might be able to introduce you to some important people in the field.
Create your own networking opportunities
Cold emails and hot coffee: Take action on your career, by Albert Chen, Sara Wong, Gabriel Martinez-Santibanez, Angelina Londono-Joshi, Paula Wishart, Aaron Goldstrohm, 18 June 2015. Ph.D. students and postdocs at the University of Michigan have created their own fast-track method for building professional networks: the Active Career Exploration (ACE) plan for career development.
Creating a Successful Online Presence, by Sharon Ann Holgate, 19 June 2013. Using social media wisely may open up your networking opportunities and even help you land a job.
Building a New Niche Network, by Michael Price, 11 November 2011. Researchers working in biophysics, which has emerged as a discipline with a distinct identity relatively recently, created their own professional network to help the field push through its growing pains.
Perspective: Speed Networking for Scientists, by Louise M. Holmes, 12 June 2009. Speed networking events that bring together researchers from different disciplines and institutions can be easily organized.
Networking Group Seeks to Bridge the Poles, by Christina Reed, 4 April 2008. Two young polar scientists saw a need to establish an early-career network to help scientists from both poles collaborate and communicate.
How to do it
Where the jobs are, by Beryl Lieff Benderly, 9 September 2015. The recently published guide Networking for Nerds: Find, Access and Land Game-Changing Career Opportunities Everywhere explains how scientists can foster serendipity and harness mutual benefit to advance their careers, both in and outside academe.
A networking encounter, by David G. Jensen, 19 March 2015. Networking is about establishing personal contact and building relationships, not just expanding your social media world.
The science of schmoozing, by Eli Kintisch, 4 February 2015. Eli Kintisch follows Arctic researcher Hugues Lantuit, who has leveraged his deep network of contacts to build an impressive career, as he works the cocktail hour at a scientific meeting.
Why networking feels so ‘icky’, by Beryl Lieff Benderly, 4 November 2014. To overcome qualms, it helps to see networking as something other than naked self-promotion—for example, by viewing it as developing a source of knowledge that can also benefit co-workers.
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Meeting People, by Melissa D. Vaught, 12 March 2014. Developing a clearer idea of what she wanted from her career and what she had to offer, and choosing events where networking was a bonus feature rather than the explicit purpose, turned an introverted scientist into someone who actually enjoys networking.
Opportunities Come Through People, by Philip S. Clifford, Bill Lindstaedt, Jennifer A. Hobin, Cynthia N. Fuhrmann, 16 July 2013. Forget schmoozing, gossiping, and shameless self-promotion over cheese cubes and plastic cups of wine. Networking is a process of cultivating professional relationships by being authentic, sharing information, and working together to achieve the shared goal of doing good science.
It’s Not Always the Best and Brightest (Part 2), by David G. Jensen, 17 May 2013. You have to be smart to get noticed in the hiring process, but intelligence alone does not guarantee success. These strategies can help.
The Law of Reciprocity, by David G. Jensen, 15 February 2013. Whether you’re trying to move forward on a science project or in your job search, “the law of reciprocity” can help you build trusting and mutually beneficial relationships.
The Informational Interview, by David G. Jensen, 20 March 2009. Networking is about providing information about yourself and collecting information about other professionals and professional opportunities, which is why the informational interview is the ultimate networking tool.
Maximizing Productivity and Recognition, Part 2: Collaboration and Networking, by Stephanie Pfirman, Peter Balsam, Robin Bell, Patricia Culligan, Jenn Laird, 1 February 2008. Effective networks are two-way affairs: Be prepared to provide respect, willing support, and service to others.
Tooling Up: More than Just a Job-Seeking Skill, by David G. Jensen, 18 February 2005. Networking is the process of establishing links between people with the intent to promote communication for mutual benefit.
Network Your Way Into Work: Index of Articles, by Dick van Vlooten, 5 March 2004. Networking expert Dick van Vlooten shares insights and anecdotes related to his seven fundamental laws of networking.
Transitions Part Six: The Golden Contact, by Stijn Oomes, 17 January 2003. When looking for a job, you probably won’t find your “Golden Contact”—the key person who gives you all the right information at just the right moment—until you first go through a depressing number of threads in your network that end up leading nowhere.
Schmoozing 101, by Larry Lab-Rat, 9 March 2001. Networking boils down to three separate phases—contact, maintenance, and harvest—that each demand their own approach.
Out of the Shadows: A Primer for Quiet Scientists, by David G. Jensen, 16 February 2001. If you tend to shy away from getting out there and beating the job-search drums, you can acquire skills that will help you network while also staying true to your nature.
Advanced Networking: Six Techniques for Maintaining Professional Momentum, by Peter Fiske, 2 June 2000. The number and quality of job opportunities that you will find in your job searches will depend heavily on how deep a network you have developed. Follow these tips to help keep your network at its best.
The Dating Game: Why Job-Hunting and Finding a Mate Are Really the Same Thing, by Peter Fiske, 25 June 1999. Just like dating, finding a great job is mostly about getting out there and meeting people.
A Step-By-Step Protocol for Networking, Part One, by David G. Jensen, 7 August 1998. The first part of the networking process—the preparation of a networking database—is akin to doing research.
What to say, and how
Three rules for powerful questions, by David G. Jensen, 19 February 2015. The same principle holds true throughout your job search, networking events, and informational interviews: People remember good questions, and you can make that work in your favor in a big way.
The funny thing about wanting something badly, by David G. Jensen, 15 January 2015. As useful as it can be to want something badly, that same intense emotion can get in the way of achieving what you want, especially if you sound desperate during networking attempts.
Telephone Technique, Part One, by David G. Jensen, 16 July 2014. If you know whom to call, when to call, what to say, and how to say it, you’ll be far less likely to lose your job-search connection because of a botched phone call.
Your Voice: Your Passport to Authority, by Sabine Louët, 27 January 2012. If you don’t like how you sound, there are ways to work on your voice to make it more expressive and authoritative.
Tooling Up: Are You Likable? by David G. Jensen, 16 September 2011. You can learn a great deal by approaching people who are further along their career track at conferences, but you must be authentic and likable for them to want to help you.
Tooling Up: Words With Punch, by David G. Jensen, 15 July 2011. Talking to strangers can be uncomfortable, but the ability to speak positively and succinctly about your accomplishments can go a long way.
Four Must-Haves for Convincing Communication, by David G. Jensen, 19 June 2009. Anyone can be a great interpersonal communicator, provided they incorporate key ingredients for good communication into their own personal style.
The One-Minute Talk, by Victoria McGovern, 13 March 2009. When someone, whether it’s a random stranger on a conference elevator or a Nobel Prize winner sitting next to you at dinner, asks you who you are and what you do, your answer needs to be accurate, interesting, and friendly, all in a succinct yet relaxed burst of speech.
Tooling Up: Conducting an Authentic Job Search, by David G. Jensen, 15 September 2006. Those on the receiving end of networking calls can easily spot an authentic networker—someone who knows that the process is a two-way street—among the networking masses, so follow these tips to make a true networking connection.
When You’re Shy, All the World’s a Stage, by Irene S. Levine, 29 April 2005. Shyness can easily be mistaken for aloofness, coldness, or disinterest, but smiling and making eye contact can help dispel that impression.
Networking, Part Two: More Networking Scenarios, by Dave Jensen, 19 September 2003. After identifying the name of a senior person at her target company, a job seeker makes the brave decision to cold-call her.
Networking, Part 1: Making the Most of Your Contacts, by David G. Jensen, 15 August 2003. Our Tooling Up columnist follows a postdoc as she makes her way through a difficult networking phone call with someone just a couple of steps ahead of her on the career ladder.
The Power of Your Voice: The Best Tool You Have to Capture and Command Respect, by David G. Jensen, 31 May 2002. The best job seekers know that how they sound has as much to do with their success as the words they choose to speak.
How to Make an Impact in 60 Seconds or Fewer. Part Two: Effective E-mail Communication, by David G. Jensen, 20 October 2000. When you are in the throes of a job search, it is prudent to direct more attention to the email process than you might normally.
How to Make an Impact in 60 Seconds or Fewer. Part One: Using Voice Mail, by David G. Jensen, 15 September 2000. One of the best ways to optimize your networking communications is to keep them brief and impactful, a principle that is all the more important in voice mails.
Strategic Communication Inside and Outside of Academia, by Peter Fiske, 27 August 1999. You must be able to communicate vigorously about your accomplishments, goals, and ideas to your organization, colleagues, and network.
Interviewing Skills: What to Do When They Say ‘Tell Me About Yourself,’ by David G. Jensen, 10 July 1998. You’re sharing a cab ride with another conference attendee, who happens to be a company CEO, and suddenly they hit you with this question: “Tell me a little about yourself.” What answer will make an impression?