Written by: Catherine Sorbara, Ph.D.
By now, it should be obvious to job seekers that networking is essential for success in industry.
This makes most academics roll their eyes.
They hate the idea of it.
From the awkward silences at networking events, to the insincere underpinning of wanting a favor in return.
But academia is not exempt from it.
Researchers network with other researchers.
At conferences, committee meetings, and symposiums.
It is how collaborations are formed, reagents are shared, and grants are renewed.
And it doesn’t just happen with one conversation.
Imagine meeting an academic researcher for the first time, and then the following day being asked if he can use your microscope, which is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What if he asked if you could read his thesis?
Submit his grant on your behalf because your supervisor was on the approval committee?
You would probably roll your eyes.
You’d think he was entitled and lazy.
Then why, as a job seeker, would you think complete strangers would be willing to go out of their way to act as referrals, review resumes, and ultimately help you leave academia?
I initially made the mistake of thinking they would.
I would attend a networking event and then the following day, I would reach out to my new connection and ask if they could pass along my resume to the hiring manager as I came across a position that interested me in their company.
That was a quick way to lose that connection forever.
I learned the hard way that I have to treat industry connections as I would my friends and colleagues.
Show them the same genuine respect and offer to help them before asking for anything in return.
These networking mistakes were costly but avoidable.
Referrals do not happen overnight.
I had to put effort into networking like I would put effort into any personal relationship.
That was the most difficult lesson to learn.
I had been too impatient and too desperate.
I started investing into my networking relationships by adding value, and things started to shift.
I remember when I was rejected following my first industry interview.
I kept in contact with the hiring manager.
I passed along business news of interest, sent him holiday greetings, and was thankful for his feedback and attention.
Then an interesting thing happened.
A position was opening up at his company and he reached out to me directly, before posting the position online, and asked if I was interested in applying.
Why Networking Does Not End After The First Meeting
So, you have attended an industry networking event and collected a slew of business cards.
You may feel a sense of satisfaction from this, but in reality, you have only just gotten started.
Networking is not about attending an event.
It is about relating to your new connection in a meaningful way and building trust over time.
Consistent, value-added contact, over time.
Building that relationship is essential to a successful job search, considering that 85% of all jobs are filled via networking relationships.
Simply emailing them the following day to say ‘it was great to meet you’ is a good start, but it’s not enough.
It is what happens the weeks and months afterward that is important.
Expert networking skills also sends a direct message to industry professionals about your communication skills in general, a vital transferable skill in any position.
If your communication after a networking event comes to a complete halt, or if you send messages only asking for favors without providing any value in return, you will be perceived as a poor communicator.
It will show that you don’t know how to build relationships or establish rapport in a team environment.
Marks against you that will hurt your job search efforts long-term.
Studies show that employee misunderstandings caused by bad communication is estimated to cost organizations $37 billion per year.
Businesses that communicate effectively are 50% more likely to have low employee turnover rates.
The bottom line is networking is an essential element in your job search and serves as a model as to how you will act as a new hire and long-term colleague.
People want to work with people they like.
So be likeable and be remembered.
5 Ways To Keep The Conversation Going With An Industry Professional
You cannot expect someone to remember you from a networking event six months ago, let alone be willing to act as your internal referral when a position opens at their company.
These networking blunders will keep you unemployed.
Networking is about playing the long game.
You have to be ready to build rapport with the person over time and continue to add value without expecting anything in return.
The more helpful you are to them, the less daunting it will feel when you need to ask for a favor.
Even better, they will offer to help you to reciprocate your genuine kindness.
The key is to be organized.
Keep a list of your network, your last date of contact, and notes on any conversations you had.
That way, it is easy to keep the conversation going and stay at the front of their mind.
Reach out to them once a month with a valuable and genuine email.
Here are 5 ways to build rapport over time with industry professionals…
1. Offer to help the recruiter.
The currency of networking is not greed, but generosity.
Now that you have made a connection, it is time to prove your value.
Offer to help your new connection.
Don’t fear that you have nothing to offer industry professionals.
This can be as simple as introducing them to someone in your network that shares mutual interests.
It can mean sending links to a reliable electrician because they said they were renovating their new home.
If you work in the same field, you can advise them on new equipment or best practices that have worked well for you or others in your department.
Regardless of what it is, now is the time to honor your word and provide them with help.
Putting yourself out there as a resource allows you to build trust and shows them that your offer was not based on empty words in hopes of scoring a new job.
It also gives them a glimpse into your personality and makes you both likeable and memorable.
2. Pass along interesting articles concerning the job.
The best people to connect with while networking are people who have the jobs you want.
This is a great way to diversify your job search and widen your reach across multiple career paths.
While investigating these new career paths, you will come across publications, news items, and websites that would be of interest to anyone in this field, whether they are just getting started or in senior roles.
This is the perfect opportunity to build rapport.
Pass these publications on to your connections.
Perhaps you discussed an issue they had with an experiment or protocol.
You then spot an article that offers an original solution and saves them time and money.
You can also pass along conferences or other networking events that may be relevant to them, as well as acting as an opportunity for another meeting.
This also serves to show them that you are up-to-date with the latest events in their field and that you are keen to see them succeed.
There are many items which can fall into this category.
The key is to reach out so they don’t forget you, but to avoid continually spamming their inbox.
Try once a month to start.
Choose resources and articles that you know will be valuable to them and write a line or two explaining why you felt this would be interesting.
3. Catch up over coffee.
If it has been a couple of months since the networking event, and you fear your connection has gone cold, now is the perfect time to reconnect over coffee.
Nothing beats face-to-face communication — especially with the high value that companies place on your ability to fit into corporate culture.
Make it easy for them to say yes by suggesting a time or stating that you will already be in the area and can drop by their place of business.
Hi [Connection’s Name],
I hope you are doing well. It has been a while since we touched base at [Networking Event]. I would love to hear an update on [specific topic you discussed]. Would you be interested in getting together for a coffee this week? I can come to you to make it easier, as I know you’re busy.
Let me know when would be a good time to meet and we can set something up.
I look forward to hearing from you,
By keeping the subject of the meeting focused on them and their news, they will be more willing to make time to touch base.
Follow the same rules as you would when stepping into an informational interview for the first time.
Everyone loves the opportunity to discuss their work and their opinions.
4. Send holiday greetings.
Holidays are a perfect opportunity to maintain contact with your network.
This can include recruiters, hiring managers, and connections that you made at networking events.
Simply reaching out to someone and showing your appreciation will jog their memory of you and your previous encounters.
Hi [Recruiter/Hiring Manager/Connection],
I just wanted to wish you happy holidays during this hectic time of the year. I appreciate the encouragement/advice you offered me during [networking event/application process].
I hope all is well with you,
According to the DMR Email Marketing Report, the average office worker will receive 121 emails per day.
During the holiday season this number increases as they become bogged down with end-of-year deadlines.
Even if you don’t hear a reply, this note will surely put a smile on their face and remind them that not everyone is trying to ask them for ‘one last favor’ before they leave for holiday.
5. Congratulate them on career achievements.
Once you have connected with someone at a networking event, your next step should be to immediately add them to LinkedIn.
(And before you attend the networking event, your LinkedIn profile should be complete and up-to-date.)
This will allow you to follow their business achievements.
You should also follow their company on LinkedIn and other social media to keep abreast of the latest news.
This has the additional advantage of preparing you for difficult interview questions based on the company’s pipeline, as well as meetings with other industry professionals in the same field or company.
Set up Google alerts, RSS feeds, or bookmark websites such as biospace.com or fiercebiotech.com.
If you see they were promoted or changed companies, this is the perfect opportunity to reach out and congratulate them.
Along the same lines, if you see a positive news story about the company, reach out and let them know that you saw the announcement and immediately thought to reach out to them and pass along your congratulations.
Attending a networking event is one small piece of the networking puzzle. The real work comes when you try and nurture this connection. You need to continue to follow-up with them over time and be memorable. The best way to do this is to be interested in them. Congratulate them on their achievements, offer to help, send them interesting articles, and catch up over coffee when things grow quiet. This is not a one-night stand but a long-term relationship that you have to be prepared for, and will be a pivotal part in gaining job referrals that will lead to the elusive industry offer.
To learn more about 5 ways to build rapport with a job recruiter, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.