Cheeky Logo
Ready To Get Hired?
Apply To Book A Free Call With Our Transition Specialist Team

How To Sabotage Your Networking Efforts And Get Blacklisted (It Worked For Me)

I was desperate.

And, exhausted.

I was still doing experiments in the lab, I was writing my thesis, I was teaching, and I was working on the side as a tutor because I needed more money.

Plus, I knew that in just a few months, I would submit my thesis and become an unemployed PhD.

Things were not going well.

To say my stress level was high is an understatement.

I barely had the energy to stay awake, let alone try to look for a job.

But, I did not want to be left with nothing after my PhD, and that’s how it was looking.

So, with the last bits of energy I could muster, I attended a few networking events at my university.

I took my CV and tried to dress nicely.

But, you could smell the desperation on me.

There were people who worked at companies attending the event, so I approached them.

I went into detail about my expertise, told them I needed a job, handed over my CV, and then said goodbye, hoping that I would get a job.

Then, I moved onto the next person and repeated the same actions.

Now, let’s stop right there.

I mean, I think that I am an intelligent person, but the fact that I thought that sequence of events would get me a job is ridiculous.

Clearly, I was not thinking straight.

Networking like that obviously did not get me anything except rejected.

Rejected and blacklisted.

No one wants to hire someone who acts like that.

But, I was so exhausted and desperate that I couldn’t see any other way to do it. I was lost and needed help.

It wasn’t until I realized that I had to save some energy for my job search, and specifically for networking, that my circumstances began to change.

I actually really enjoy meeting new people.

So, once I shook off the negativity that was surrounding me in academia, and dove into my job search and into networking, I started to see success.

I started to get interviews.

I started to make real connections with the people that I met, many of whom I still talk to now.

But, the only reason I was successful was because I decided to dedicate time and energy to networking.

Networking doesn’t just happen — you have to make it happen.

Why PhDs Must Capitalize On Every Networking Opportunity

smiling african american businessman with crossed arms in office

The quality of your network will impact the success of your job search and your career.

First of all, as reported by HubSpot, 85% of jobs are filled through networking.

So, if you aren’t networking, you only have access to a small fraction of the total available jobs.

But, what does your networking look like?

Are you just sending cold messages on LinkedIn, or are you truly investing in people?

Think about networking as relationship-building.

Think about it as seeking out people who you want to know and who you want to see succeed.

If you value the people in your network like this, then they will reciprocate that value.

But, the only way to make these real connections, that can last a long time, is with in-person networking.

Because networking in person is the only way you can fully communicate with another person.

As reported in Psychology Today, pioneering work by Albert Mehrabian demonstrated that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken.

Once you are present in person with someone, you have the opportunity to really connect with them — that is, to build a lasting professional relationship.

But, this is not always what happens.

In-person networking, although powerful, can be difficult for many people.

So, you need to learn the right and the wrong way to network at in-person events.

5 Ways PhDs Sabotage Their Networking Efforts And What To Do Instead

Academia does not teach you how to network.

It doesn’t teach you how to talk to people, or how to add value to a connection.

And so, many PhDs sabotage their networking efforts without realizing it.

You need to learn how to avoid some common, but deadly, networking mistakes PhDs often make.

Otherwise, instead of helping your job search, you could be ruining it.

It might be hard to admit that you have made some of these mistakes, but the only way to improve is to recognize where you have messed up and learn from those mistakes.

Here are 5 ways that you might be sabotaging your networking efforts and what you should do instead…

1. Rudely starting the conversation by asking for a job.

smiling african american businessman with crossed arms in office

It is very off-putting when someone you just met asks you for a favor.

It’s like when a stranger asks you for $5 and your immediate reaction is “no” — even if you have $5 to give away.

The same is true for jobs.

If you meet someone new and the very first thing you talk about is needing a job, they will think you are just trying to get something out of them.

They will feel like you are trying to use them.

And, this will mean they are more likely to say no, even if their company has job openings.

You will have missed out.

Instead, lead with questions about the other person.

Find out more about them, their passions, and also about their company.

Ask about their hobbies, where they live, and try to start getting to know them and become more than just a stranger.

But, most importantly, ask for their contact information.

Then use this for your follow-up.

In the follow-up, you should add more value.

After a few more messages that add value, it will be appropriate for you to bring up the fact that you are looking for a job.

And, here is when you can make your simple ask.

Ask if they will pass your resume to their hiring manager, or ask if it’s okay if you put their name on your cover letter as a reference.

Once you establish a relationship with someone, you are much more likely to get the referral you want.

2. Dominating the conversation and talking only about yourself.

Networking is a 2-way street.

Have you ever been talking with someone and they keep looking away, or their body is physically turned away from you?

This means they are done listening to you talk.

They don’t want to spend any more time listening to you and they are not enjoying the conversation.

But, why did this happen?

Why does this person desperately want to get away from you?

It is most likely because you talked only about yourself and did not give the other person a chance to speak.

Everyone wants to be heard.

So, instead of dominating the conversation, invite your new connection to talk about themselves.

Give them a place to talk about something they are passionate about.

You only need to talk for a few seconds when you deliver your elevator pitch.

But, when you give people a chance to talk and express themselves, they are more likely to enjoy talking with you and they are more likely to remember you.

Learning as much as you can about them also makes your follow-up and adding value easier.

So, next time you are at an event, be succinct and let the other person do the talking.

3. Pushing your resume onto your new connection.

Middle aged senior confident woman applicant seeker talking to young hr managers at job interview making first impression, mature old female candidate speaking answering question, recruiting concept

Unless you are at a career fair (which is a unique event), you should not be handing out your resume.

Yes, you spent lots of time perfecting that resume and you are proud of the things on it, but a networking event is not the place to hand them out.

It’s weird and it’s too forward.

It also makes you look desperate.

Those are all things you don’t want people to think about you when you are trying to build a relationship.

People go to networking events to make new connections that will add value to their lives.

Be that connection.

Instead of handing out your resume, find a way to be the most valuable person in the room.

This means listening.

Listen to what people are saying and think of ways you can help them.

Do you know someone that you can introduce them to?

Do you know a great book that might help them with their current situation?

Find a way to add value.

Because, that is the way to build a relationship that can lead to a referral.

4. Acting like you are better than whoever you are talking to.

It might be hard to admit that you do this.

But, take a hard look at your networking habits and see if you are treating everyone you meet the same way.

Academia tends to create an elitist mentality that many PhDs carry over into the other aspects of their lives.

Dismissing the opportunity to chat with an entry-level employee because you don’t think it’s worth your time is a mistake.

If you are interested in a particular field or company, hearing from people at all different levels is important.

There is no “perfect” person to connect with who will solve all of your job search problems.

Plus, someone who is not the CEO is probably less busy and meeting fewer people, meaning that they are more likely to remember you.

No human being is better or worse than you.

Instead of holding onto an elitist mentality, go into every interaction genuinely and without judgement.

You never know who you will meet.

Networking is not about going around and showing how great you are — it’s about building relationships.

It’s about making real, genuine connections with new people and then adding value to each other’s lives.

5. Hogging someone’s time when, clearly, they are done talking with you.

This does take a bit of social awareness.

But, you are a PhD, so you can figure this out.

Every conversation you have with people will be different.

You will have more or less in common, the person will be more or less talkative, the time frame of the meeting will be more or less limited, etc.

Based on the circumstances, you need to judge when a conversation should end and be sure to not overstay your welcome.

You should never spend the entire event talking to just one person.

Instead, leave the conversation at a place where you can follow up to learn more or ask another question.

The conversation should leave both you and the other person wanting to talk again, and to make this happen, you need to know when to leave the conversation.

To end a conversation, you can simply say, “Thank you for chatting with me”, ask for their contact details, and then leave it.

Or, if you are in a group of more than 2 people, simply say, “Excuse me” and then leave the other people to continue talking.

In-person networking is a powerful tool that can boost your job search. There is no other job search strategy as powerful as in-person networking. But, this power means that when done wrong, in-person networking has the potential to ruin your job search. You must learn what common mistakes to avoid, such as starting the conversation by asking for a job, dominating the conversation and talking only about yourself, pushing your resume onto your new connection, acting like you are better than whoever you are talking to, or hogging someone’s time when, clearly, they are done talking with you. As a PhD, you have many advantages over other job candidates, and if you learn to network properly, it’s just a matter of time before you successfully make the transition from academia to industry.

If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists. Apply to book a Transition Call here.

Book a Transition Call
Get Free Job Search Content Weekly


Jeanette is a chemistry PhD turned science communication enthusiast. During her PhD she realized that her favorite part about research wasn’t actually doing research, but rather talking and writing about it. So, she has channeled her passion for discovery into teaching and writing about science. When she isn’t talking someone’s ear off about her latest scientific obsession, you’ll find her on the soccer field or reading a good sci-fi novel.

Jeanette McConnell, PhD

Similar Articles

6 People to Ignore During Your PhD Job Search

6 People to Ignore During Your PhD Job Search

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

When I first began my industry job search, I didn’t know where to begin. Most of the people I asked for advice had none to offer.  Instead, they were adamant I was making a mistake by leaving academia.  I’d spent the last six years siloed in academia – I didn’t really know that many people who weren’t doing a postdoc or staying on to TA.  But I had heard some encouraging things from a few PhDs that had transitioned to industry.  I was really motivated to try and make the same move, even though I wasn’t sure how to start.…

Your Professional Brand Is Academia. 5 Questions To Change It

Your Professional Brand Is Academia. 5 Questions To Change It

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

What’s your professional brand?  As a researcher, my conclusions are based on proven facts and quantifiable results. The concept of something as subjective as brand or image had never felt particularly relevant to me.  I’d heard the question, of course. When you’ve been looking for a job for over a year, you’re bound to come across the idea.  But now, face to face with a recruiter who had turned me down for a job, I was really trying to come up with an intelligent answer.  “What’s my brand?” I asked. I guess feigning ignorance was one way to go.  “Yes,…

Don’t Ignore These 6 Powerful PhD Job Search Trends

Don’t Ignore These 6 Powerful PhD Job Search Trends

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

What does your job search strategy look like?  If you had to describe it in 2 or 3 sentences, what would you say?  I ask because, if you’re reading this, you’re in the market for a job. Working with PhDs for more than 10 years, I’ve learned one thing is true above all others: The right job strategy is what’s going to get you hired. That’s right: I’m saying that a concrete job search methodology is more important than anything else in your job search.  It’s more important than your skills, your degree, your personality – more important than you,…

A No-Excuses Look at Virtual Networking

A No-Excuses Look at Virtual Networking

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

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…

A Pitch-Perfect Elevator Script For PhDs In Industry

A Pitch-Perfect Elevator Script For PhDs In Industry

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I had heard of the term “elevator script” before my first industry interview.  Was I sure what it meant? No. But I got the gist of it: introduce yourself in a compelling way during an interview or networking session. Don’t annoy someone in an elevator. I dismissed the idea of learning more about it than that If I remember correctly, I told myself that it was nothing more than a remedial gimmick. One of those unnecessary “life hacks” that clueless people gobble up to calm their nerves before an interview.  Definitely not something a PhD graduate with a background in…

How To Get A Referral Without The Messy Emotions

How To Get A Referral Without The Messy Emotions

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Towards the end of my PhD, I felt like I was racing time. And time was winning. I was frantically trying to wrap up loose ends in my research, finish writing my thesis, all the while trying to find a job. I knew I wanted a job in industry. In fact, I knew exactly the job I wanted. I just didn’t know how to get there. I was sending my resume off into the abyss of the internet, but I wasn’t getting any replies. I couldn’t fathom what I was doing wrong. The whole thing felt pointless. Now, looking back…

5 Insider Rapport Building Tips (or, How To Make In Person Networking Non-Dreadful)

5 Insider Rapport Building Tips (or, How To Make In Person Networking Non-Dreadful)

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Like many PhDs, I’m an introvert. That means my tendency is to avoid face-to-face interactions at all costs. But when it came time to search for a job in industry, my introverted tactics weren’t working. I was reaching out to people online, even getting a few responses, but in the end, all my efforts fell flat. After months of this, I was right where I started – unemployed. Then, I started noticing what my colleagues were doing; the ones that were getting job referrals and interviews at least. They weren’t just reaching out to people online, they were also attending…

6 Credible Networking Scripts That Make Employers Pay Attention

6 Credible Networking Scripts That Make Employers Pay Attention

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Just as “location, location, location” is the mantra of real estate, “networking, networking, networking” should be your mantra during your industry job search. During the final year of my PhD, I finally conceded – the only way I was going to get a job in industry was through networking. So, like many PhDs, I fired up my computer, hopped on LinkedIn, and clicked the blue “connect” button until my fingers ached. I sent out the same message to each new contact telling them about all my wonderful accomplishments before I asked them for a job. You know what happened after…

Master The Informational Interview (And How To Land A Referral)

Master The Informational Interview (And How To Land A Referral)

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

By the time I started my industry job search, I was desperate. I was nearing the end of my PhD and I was consumed with what seemed like a million last-minute tasks – final experiments, last drafts, and defense presentations. I felt like I didn’t have the time to dedicate to my job search. And what little effort and time I did put into it was haphazard. My attempts involved repeatedly clicking the LinkedIn “Connect” button and uploading the same resume to any online job posting I could find. To make matters worse, I wasn’t even sure what job I…

Here's What Others Are Saying

"I signed the offer today! I am will be working as a technical support manager - it is what you call a field scientist within Cheeky. I am super excited and already feel welcomed!"

Maria Terra Terra

Maria Terra Terra

Technical Support Manager

"I just accepted an offer to be a Clinical Researcher Coordinator for a pain clinic near me. I'll be helping them run their clinical trial that uses a device to stimulate nerves to relieve patients pain. I start next Wednesday. So excited! I wanted to say thanks to Isaiah and all the members of the Cheeky team for your help! I really appreciate it!"

Natasha Fowler

Natasha Fowler

Clinical Research Coordinator

at Columbia Pain Management, P.C

"Going with Nyxoah! Thank you for all your help Isaiah!"

Pratik Chhatbar

Pratik Chhatbar

Senior Clinical Research Scientist

at Nxyoah

"One thing I feel I did great was joining the association as a Diamond member. Modules and Classes helped me to prepare ahead of the search- to do and to go right. The other useful thing was the accountability forum....your classes and modules really helped me to believe in myself and have confidence in myself. I value myself as a PhD. I gave a shot for a senior scientist position, and got one!"

Nabina Paudyal

Nabina Paudyal

Senior Computational Scientist

at Colossal Biosciences

"I am happy to share that I have started a new position!....I look forward to learning from experience colleagues and apply the"

Augustina Kwesie Osabutey

Augustina Kwesie Osabutey

Water/Wastewater Engineer

at Barr Engineering Group

"I'm excited to announce that I have accepted a position as an Innovations Analyst at Cleveland Clinic. Looking forward to using my background to help commercialize healthcare innovations!"

Joe Thomas

Joe Thomas

Innovations Analyst

at Cleveland Clinic

"I'm happy to share that I'm starting a new position as Clinical Scientist at Arvinas!"

Ana Luiza C. Zaninotto

Ana Luiza C. Zaninotto

Clinical Scientist

at Arvinas

"I am deeply grateful for all the incredible support, professional and personal, I got here and was essential for me to get here. I just completed 4 months at my present company and successfully transitioned, from the training process to working full-time in the team in the team I was hired for, this last week! I never fully thanked Cheeky for all the help they gave me in the training in the job search process, in a way that I was able to realize succes on one of the first jobs I applied for, only a bit more than a couple of months after joining the association. I heard and was told it was possible to have such quick results,but I never believed that it would happen to me; for this I am deeply grateful for you all! Joining CSA was one of the best decision I have ever made, and is something that will still help me for many years to come, for as long as my career goes on!"

Jose Hugos Elsas

Jose Hugos Elsas

Geophysical Researcher

at CGG

"I am BEYOND ECSTATIC to finally say I am starting a new position as Patent Examiner in Biomedical Engineering at USPTO!"

Jo Ramos

Jo Ramos

Patent Examiner in Biomedical Engineering


"You will not believe it..... I got them up another 60K and they changed my title!"

Ryan Hendricks

Ryan Hendricks

Project Manager, Rapid Industry Solutions: On-Set Virtual Production


"I'm happy to share that I'm starting a new position as Scientist in Pharma Division at NeoGenomics Laboratories! After all the trainings and advice I could get a 25% increase in my salary! So I’m very happy for that."

Maribel Donoso

Maribel Donoso

Scientist in Pharma Division

at NeoGenomics Laboratories

"I am happy to share I am starting a new position as Principal Fatigue Specialist at Qantas!"

Gemma Paech

Gemma Paech

Principal Fatigue specialist

at Qantas

"I'm excited to share that I am starting a new position as Senior Research and Development Engineer at CORMETECH!"

Carlos Garcia

Carlos Garcia

Senior Research And Development Enginee


"I am happy to share I started a new job as a senior research scientist in medicinal chemistry at x-chem Montreal."

Nicolas Wlodarczyk

Nicolas Wlodarczyk

Nicolas Wlodarczyk Senior Research Scientist

at X-Chem

"I have been quiet here for a while but happy to finally share that I've transitioned! It was a long and challenging journey towards transition, being at another full-time job plus being a toddler mom, but I am so thankful I found this supportive community that has helped me and motivated me throughout."

Shobana Sekar

Shobana Sekar

Senior Bioinformatics Scientist

at Roche

Top Industry Career eBooks

63 Best Industry Positions For PhDs

63 Best Industry Positions For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD & Arunodoy Sur, PhD

Learn about the best 63 industry careers for PhDs (regardless of your academic background). In this eBook, you will gain insight into the most popular, highest-paying jobs for PhDs – all of which will allow you to do meaningful work AND get paid well for it.

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Learn how to craft the perfect industry resume to attract employers. In this eBook for PhDs, you will get access to proven resume templates, learn how to structure your bullet points, and discover which keywords industry employers want to see most on PhD resumes.

AI & ATS Resume Filters

AI & ATS Resume Filters

Isaiah Hankel

In today's competitive job market, understanding the impact of AI is crucial for career success. This involves ensuring your resume stands out in the digital realm, mastering your online presence, and being aware of how AI assigns reputation scores. Discovering how to leverage AI to your advantage is essential, as it plays a pivotal role in shaping professional opportunities.

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel

The LinkedIn tips & strategies within have helped PhDs from every background get hired into top industry careers.