How To Kick-Start Your Industry Job Search By Networking During Your PhD Or Postdoc
Written By: Irene Mencia, Ph.D.
My intention of transitioning into industry was clear in my head from the very start of my PhD.
However, I didn’t envisage a particular plan or strategy after completing the PhD.
This meant I ended up taking on a postdoc after finishing my PhD.
I gave myself a top deadline of 2 years to find the next challenge and transition into industry.
I knew I had to network in order to get hired in industry, however I felt at a loss on how to really bring that into action beyond a LinkedIn request to connect.
But I sought help, and soon I began to go to blue ocean networking events in person and set up informational interviews in person and by phone.
I even won an elevator pitch competition and started a traineeship in financial consulting through a contact derived from that event.
Through those new connections and informational interviews I was able to decide my transition path, and choose the positions that really resonated with me.
This allowed me to focus on my job hunting efforts.
The opportunity that landed me my current position began from a LinkedIn post where the name of person advertising the job was displayed.
I first messaged the job poster, and after a couple days of no response, I went ahead and applied.
I got a call back for the position!
The whole interview process was four weeks long, all the while I kept chasing other job opportunities too.
I did four on-site interviews.
To prepare for this I had great help from doing mock interviews and just rehearsing my answers in video with the STAR method.
I prepared a big list of questions for my interviewers too; my time asking questions was close to a third of the interview in the first two stages.
Ultimately, I was offered the job and negotiated my salary.
I started my new job as Senior Innovation Consultant at a medium-sized Spanish company and finally I am back in my home and dream city, Madrid, Spain.
This first month has been full immersion, and I am already managing four projects, four writers and juggling the training.
I’m so busy and happy!
Why Networking Is The Key To A Successful Industry Job Search
Behind every job opening there is a person who will decide who gets hired.
A person who you will need to make a connection with and prove that you are the right fit for the job.
But your efforts to connect with that person should start way before you are in the interview.
You should start by networking with people who work at the companies where you want to have an interview, where you want to get hired.
You should start networking with the intention of getting a referral.
Hubspot reported that 85% of all jobs are filled through networking.
This might seem high, but think about it from the perspective of the person making the decision about who will get hired; if a job candidate comes recommend by someone that you trust, that job candidate is much, much more likely to get hired.
That is the power of networking.
Networking with industry professionals and getting job referrals build the rapport you have with a hiring manager before you have even met them.
It really makes you stand out.
According to Ryze, 25% of people don’t network at all. Don’t be one of these people.
You are a PhD.
Put in the effort to network and to stand out as a top job candidate.
7 Strategies To Network While You Are Still In Grad School Or Doing A Postdoc
Many PhDs think they are too busy to network.
Spending all your time in the lab or writing up your next paper is not going to get you a job in industry.
You have to get out there and network.
But there are great ways that you can fit networking into your schedule as a PhD student or postdoc.
Here are 7 ways that you can leverage the power of networking while still in graduate school or while you are doing a postdoc…
1. Shift your networking motivation from ‘I need a job’ to ‘I want to learn.’
Having the right motive is key to a successful networking experience.
What is your motive?
Are you going to networking events with the goal of getting a job or advancing your career?
These motives, although they may seem good enough, are actually harmful to the success of your networking experience.
When you go into a situation with these motives it can make the experience more awkward because it makes the networking seem like a transaction.
Networking is actually more of a collaboration.
Instead of thinking about networking as a way to advance your career or gain more influence, shift your thinking to view networking as a way to learn.
Meeting new people is an incredible way to learn about new things and new people.
You can still be focused on your job search, but go into the event wanting to learn about a career, learn about the industry, learn about the company etc.
These motives make networking much less awkward for you and for other people.
When you shift your thinking and use networking as a way to learn, you will start to enjoy it more and want to do it more.
And the more you network the faster your job search will progress.
2. Use the phone to stand out when networking.
When was the last time you called a new connection or a recruiter on the phone?
This is a vastly underused resource.
Yes, you probably are worried about calling a stranger on the phone if it’s not something that you are used to doing.
But do you want to get a job?
Put yourself out there and do the extra things that will make you stand out from the crowd.
This can be as easy as mentioning in your follow-up email that you would love to jump on a 5 minute phone call with them, and would they be open to that?
Having a phone conversation will boost the rapport you have with someone so much compared to just sending emails.
This is why companies do phone screens as the first step of interviews, because you can tell a lot about someone over the phone.
Plus, people are bombarded by hundreds of emails and LinkedIn messages everyday.
They will be getting far, far fewer phone calls.
And you don’t have to leave the university to make a phone call.
You can be in the lab or at your desk and be networking!
3. Connect with 2 people on LinkedIn every day first thing in the morning.
When you first go into your office in the morning you probably don’t get right to work.
You probably check your email, check social media, have a cup of coffee, read some news.
Well, this is valuable time that you could be working on your job search.
So, instead of mindlessly looking at the internet in the mornings, make a new habit to connect with two people on LinkedIn.
But make the connections meaningful.
Find two people who you want to learn from.
They might work in a position that you are interested in, they might work in a company you are interested in or they might be a recruiter.
Whatever the case, every morning identify two people and send them personalized connection requests.
To take it one step further, add those names to a spreadsheet with the date and set a reminder to follow up with them every few weeks so you can continue to build your professional relationship with them.
4. Initiate a power networking season.
The more you network the faster you will get hired.
But thinking that you need to be networking several times a week indefinitely is incredibly daunting.
No one wants to network that heavily for extended periods of time.
The way to combat this is to initiate a ‘power networking’ season.
This means to dedicate the next couple months to extreme networking and commit to attending several events every week.
Find all the networking events in your area that you can attend.
Explore events that are targeted at non-PhDs and events for people in different fields than you.
This is the best way to meet lots and lots of new people and to get your job search going very quickly.
But do not waste this extreme networking.
It’s essential that your follow-up strategy is solid and that you have a clear plan for how you will stay in touch with and add value to your new connections.
If you really commit to a few months of extreme power networking, your job search or career will get a major boost.
5. Only go to a networking event for 20 minutes.
As a PhD, going to a networking event for hours probably seems difficult and like a waste of your time.
Networking for many hours is hard, especially if you are an introvert.
Introverts are those people who gain energy from being alone, and so events with lots of people are very draining.
But here’s the good news.
You only need to go to a networking event for 20 minutes.
Yep, 20 minutes.
Spending any longer at the event is totally optional.
If you spend a highly focused 20 minutes at the event and have 3-5 conversations with people and make a connection with them, that’s enough.
Spend 5 minutes or so with each person, get their contact details, and then you can leave.
Once you leave you can start executing your follow-up strategy, because the follow-up is where the real networking happens.
So the next time you are dreading a networking event, instead of not going, just go to the event for 20 minutes and set the goal to connect with 3 people.
That way you save time and energy, but you still make progress on your job search.
Networking is the most important part of your job search and you should start networking while you are still in academia. That means that as a busy PhD student or postdoc you need to figure out how to fit in networking. Five ways that you can find time for networking is to shift your networking motivation from ‘I need a job’ to ‘I want to learn,’ use the phone to stand out when networking, initiate a power networking season, and only go to a networking event for 20 minutes. If you implement these networking strategies, your job search will see an incredible boost.
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