A No-Excuses Look at Virtual Networking
A lot of PhDs ignore a crucial part of their job search – virtual networking.
You may think that because you’re spending a lot of time going to conferences, attending lectures, setting up face-to-face meetings, and checking in with one or two connections when you need a reference or referral that you’ve established your professional network.
Virtual Networking Casts A Wider Net, Even After The Pandemic
Nope, you’re networking by halves if you’re only networking in-person.
I kept seeing a former colleague of mine at conferences really making the most out of his time networking in person. Everybody knew this guy. He had a wide network of professional connections, he had a line of people ready to buy him lunch, and he was very sought out during these in-person conferences. But when the pandemic hit, his network unraveled.
He went almost three years without being able to keep up these same contacts and when he was ready to move on professionally, his job search stalled out and he wasn’t seeing any results from networking in-person. In fact, he had to start rebuilding his network again almost from the ground up. Years of connections gone because he didn’t have a few email addresses.
His job search stalled and his network dried up because of one thing: He didn’t follow through with his network by networking virtually. Building an in-person network is the foundation but you need to shore up your network virtually. In today’s world you need digital follow through for any kind of long-lasting sustainable professional network that helps you move through industry.
Virtual networking is fast, efficient, and inexpensive. And you have no excuses not to take advantage of it. If you’ve got time to check your social media, you’ve got time to virtually network and boost your visibility to industry recruiters. Virtual networking is a small daily investment that pays big dividends.
5 Benefits Of Virtual Networking
The pandemic highlighted the value of virtual networking to job seekers and hiring managers. The necessity of virtual networking changed the professional landscape as we know it, and it doesn’t show signs of switching back to nothing but big lectures and convention center type events any time soon.
From the corporations’ perspective, virtual networking is faster, cheaper, and helps them zero in on the right candidate for the job. 81% of hiring talent acquisition teams say they’re still going to continue to heavily rely on virtual networking and recruiting after the pandemic ends.
If you’re dedicated to getting out of academia and into an industry career, you need to be curating a virtual network. An estimated 70% of jobs are never listed publicly, meaning they’re filled by referrals or direct offers.
Here are benefits of putting effort into virtual networking that you can start seeing results on today.
1. Building A Professional Reputation Outside Of Academia
Virtual networking lets you build a professional network outside of academia. Academic networks and conferences become an echo chamber over time: you’re networking in a closed system with the same people and exchanging the same information. And while networking in academia is an expected part of the profession, are you using it to its full advantage or are you not engaging fully because you don’t want your job search to be public knowledge?
Virtual networking with common tools like LinkedIn and Indeed let you have control over who you network with while you build a world-wide network outside of academia where everyone is networking, sharing ideas, and all working towards the common goal of starting a new career. Nobody in this network is going to question why you’re there or what your objective is. Also, as a PhD, time and money are not something you have in abundance, networking virtually is as easy as opening an app and asking prominent industry experts some engaging questions, congratulating a colleague on a promotion, offering to make an introduction or sharing solutions. This is cost-free, impactful, and most of all, fast networking you can do at least once a week to improve your chances of successfully transitioning into industry.
2. Staying Up-To-Date On Industry Trends
27 million companies post on LinkedIn every day, that kind of information sharing is hard to ignore. If you’re hitting a wall in your career transition, virtual networking lets you stay on top of industry trends and projected trends so you’re poised to know what’s coming next. Not only does keeping current with industry trends and changes make you well-known in a virtual network, it helps you grow your professional skills and makes you more attractive to hiring managers and recruiters. When you gain a deeper understanding of your industry, you gain marketable skills, and your virtual network is a great tool for staying ahead of the curve of industry. Staying up to date also keeps you visible to your network – potential employers will notice you attended their webinar or their virtual networking lunch and subscribing to their email lists means you’re getting curated information from the source so when it comes time to apply for a job or even interview, you’ve got a good handle on what the company is looking for in an ideal candidate. And not only are you staying up on specific industry trends, you’re staying up to date with hiring trends, like new resume formats, cover letter best practices, and interview prep.
3. Virtual Networking Lets You Stay In Touch
Virtual networking lets you stay in contact with older connections and keep potential professional relationships alive. What my colleague didn’t realize was that by not putting effort into virtual networking, he wasn’t maintaining his existing network, and therefore ignoring his professional reputation. Because in-person networking opportunities shut down for up to three years, his visibility dropped off and he was no longer front of mind when recruiters and hiring managers started thinking about candidates. Stay visible by responding to networking emails, extending introductions, and gaining a reputation for being generous with your time while networking. Networking is vital at every stage of your career and it doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or if you’re working on what’s next for your career and networking virtually lets you keep up the momentum you’ve built over the years. It’s never too early or too late in your career to start networking. Just sending an email checking in with an old colleague you know just got promoted or helping out someone just getting started in their job search makes you memorable and it shows a personable side to potential employers – they’re getting to know you and what your professional currency is.
4. Position Yourself As An Expert Go-To
Becoming the go-to resource for other professionals in your field keeps you visible. Virtual networking can also set you up for success by providing you with the tools to become an expert and go-to resource for other professionals in your field. Setting yourself up as a knowledgeable, professional resource is a fast way to gain visibility and credibility. Experts are visible, and showing your virtual network you’ve been focusing on becoming a subject matter expert, you’re also demonstrating your deep knowledge of trends, and a focus on continued learning and professional development, all things that recruiters and employers are looking for when they’re planning to fill an important role – a role that you fit. Virtual networking can help you step out of your comfort zone when it comes to getting used to showcasing your expertise. In short, experts get hired and you need a virtual network to showcase your expertise. When you’re seen as a professional contact for resources and knowledge, you’ve made yourself a prime candidate for most major employers and put yourself above the competition by creating a name for yourself. Potential employers know your skillset can match the future of their work and take the company or product further. It’s hard to be the go-to resource with in-person networking as conferences aren’t happening all year ‘round. Being known as the person with answers isn’t helpful if you’re also the person who can’t be reached. Virtual networking helps you position yourself to be known, seen, and sought after. By increasing your visibility in online networking communities, recruiters and hiring managers will look for you during in-person events, as you’ve become someone they’re interested in talking to.
5. You Create Opportunities For Collaboration
Creating opportunities for collaboration – and showing off your transferable skills. Using virtual networking to collaborate with your peers at any level lets you showcase your ability to manage time, work well with others, and meet group goals on a macro level. One of the virtues of virtual networking is that it allows you to take your thoughts and work outside of the academic bubble and cast a wider net for yourself. Plus, the more you collaborate, the wider your network grows.
What Ten Minutes Of Virtual Networking Daily Can Do For You
Investing ten minutes of your day in your virtual network keeps your network strong so when an opportunity arises, you’re the first person people think of. A strong virtual network is a matter of sending a few emails, congratulating someone on a promotion, offering support or resources to a colleague, or just asking thoughtful questions about a trend or project. You have the time to do that if you have time to doom scroll.
10 Virtual Networking Websites for PhDs
All online networking sites and opportunities are what you put into them, and with time, effort, and patience, you’ll start seeing professional results. You should also sign up for newsletters from prominent companies you want to work for in industry and industry trade publications. This helps you stay informed and on top of industry trends and you’ll get information about their webinars, virtual mastermind sessions, and any talks, presentations or conventions they may have coming up.
You’re not building a sustainable professional network if you’re ignoring the virtual side of your network. Recruiters place high value on it, employers expect to see you participating in virtual networking, it’s fast, easy, inexpensive, and sets you up for a successful job search and hopefully, a successful career. Even just a few minutes a day and you’ll start to see your professional network shift, and soon you’ll be able to benefit from those opportunities.
ABOUT ISAIAH HANKEL, PHD
CEO, CHEEKY SCIENTIST & SUCCESS MENTOR TO PHDS
Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by millions of PhDs and other professionals in hundreds of different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.
Dr. Hankel has published 3X bestselling books and his latest book, The Power of a PhD, debuted on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list. His methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.More Written by Isaiah Hankel, PhD