Productive networking requires strategy, research and patience. Networking is about building relationships—not simply selling yourself or only asking people to do favors for you. There are five mistakes networkers commonly make during job hunting:
- Misusing the Internet
- Being vague about what you want
- Being selfish
- Over-using members of your network thus burning them out
- Stopping your networking after landing a job
Let’s look at how to avoid each of these problems.
Misusing the Internet
You can over-rely on the Internet by depending too much on e-mail and networking websites such as LinkedIn. It’s very easy for people to delete an e-mail or not respond to a LinkedIn™ message. Telephoning is good but nothing beats face to face meetings over lunch or coffee. People remember faces and conversations more than written messages. You may want to use Twitter™ to send shorter messages rather than relying on e-mail.
Don’t be vague
Be specific when you tell networking contacts about your career goals, education and experience. Also be focused; rehearse your discussions on career goals, education and experience so your statements will be succinct, not vague and wordy. Know what you want in terms of a job and professional growth before beginning your networking discussions. ACS offers helpful resources such as the new “ACS Career Pathways™” series of workshops and the book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers” that can support chemists in these efforts.
Don’t be selfish
Offer help to your networking contacts in any way you can. Show an interest in them. If you only try to extract value from others they won’t stay members of your network for long. Share information your network will find useful. Assist them in connecting with each other if it will be to their benefit. If your networking contact is doing something like organizing a symposium or doing work for your ACS local section, offer to help.
Don’t overuse members of your network
By developing a broad network of useful contacts you’ll avoid the need to contact individuals excessively. Frequently contacting members of your network regarding your job hunt can burn them out. A good idea is to ask your contacts when it would be a good time to telephone them again. Then you’ll have a feeling for how soon you should call.
Contact members of your network when you have specific news to report concerning your job hunt. Also, when you have other news that should interest them or you are sending information you promised. Try to make every e-mail message you send useful in some way to the recipient.
Don’t stop networking after you find a job
Professional networks are like houseplants; they require continuing care and maintenance. Otherwise, the members of network may not respond when you contact them after a long interval. Don’t ever stop networking, even after you get a job; that way your network is in place when you need it again.
For example, my networking at an ACS national meeting with a professor led to an invitation to present a seminar to his engineering department. Subsequent discussions led us to jointly submit a grant proposal to the NSF in which I was listed as a principal investigator. We received our grant impressing my supervisor and coworkers. Our joint research resulted in issued patents on paper recycling technology and the use of one of my employer’s products in a newly developed paper recycling process.
If you’re not job hunting then members of your network may be able to provide other useful assistance such as suggesting potential research collaborators, recommending a particular model of a laboratory instrument to purchase, or helping you solve research problems.
John Borchardt is a chemist and freelance writer who has been an ACS career consultant for 15 years. He is the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers.” He has had more than 1200 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he holds 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents and is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers. As an ACS Councilor, he serves on the Joint Board – Council Committee Patents and Related Matters.