Contributing Author: Surayya Taranum, Ph.D.
As a PhD in academia, I never gave much importance to networking.
If I did well, my work was published, I had the opportunity to present it at conferences and meetings where people could critically evaluate and discuss it, wasn’t that enough?
I thought it was until I heard how talented postdocs with several high-impact publications failed to land jobs because they had no network.
There were fewer academic roles available and too many postdocs competing for them.
Postdoc associations were calling out to PhDs to consider careers in industry.
Build their network to make the transition.
Alarm bells went off in my head.
I had worked in academia all my life.
I knew nothing about industry.
How did it work?
Where do I find job opportunities?
How long it would take to get hired?
I did not know where to begin.
So I started to attend career fairs to try to make sense of what industry was all about.
I met many industry professionals, left my resume with a few, never heard back from any of them.
I was disappointed.
Then I started to notice a pattern …I realized that most PhDs behaved in the same way as I did.
They went to career fairs and handed in their resumes to company representatives.
I saw that by the end of the day those industry people had large piles of resumes at their booths.
I thought, they are never going to look at any of them!
There are just too many resumes for anyone to go through.
That got me thinking…I have to find a way to stand out from the crowd.
I didn’t want to do the resume routine anymore.
It wasn’t working, and as a researcher I was trained not to repeat the same mistakes.
I changed my approach.
I searched the internet for industry events in my city and neighboring regions, found one and decided to take a chance.
I went to the event, but felt lost.
There was no one in the room that I knew, and there were no posters to hide behind.
I forced myself to stay put, and very soon, someone approached to say hello.
This ‘someone’ was the CEO of a consulting company. I was amazed.
We talked; I told her about my PhD and my academic background. I also told her that I was thinking about transitioning into industry. I had come to the event to network and see if I could find a mentor.
She said it was a great idea, took me around the room and introduced me to several industry professionals.
By the end of the day, half the people in the room knew me and several of them agreed to set up informational interviews with me.
By the end of the day, I had a career mentor.
All this without submitting my resume.
Why A Great Networking Strategy Is Critical To Your Job Search Success
LinkedIn has 630 million professionals in over 200 countries registered as members, and over 3 million US jobs are posted on LinkedIn every month.
In other words, there are tremendous opportunities available for people searching for jobs, and huge competition to contend with at the same time.
So where do PhDs stand within this hiring market?
Well, industry is the only viable and fulfilling career path for most PhDs.
In fact, the U.S. National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) biennial Survey of Doctorate Recipients showed that in 2017, industry hiring of PhDs was on par with academia.
PhDs serious about their career can no longer ignore industry.
So, how can PhDs stand out from the crowd in the competitive job market?
How can they successfully land jobs they are so well qualified to do?
Networking is the only foolproof method for PhDs wanting to transition into an industry career.
Professional, active and sustainable networking is a critical component of the job search strategy.
PhDs without a robust, diverse and active network will find it very hard to make career progress.
5 Networking Strategies That Will Make Your Resume Irrelevant
PhDs in academia are used to working in silos.
Publications are the currency that is supposed to help them advance in their careers.
But with a rapid decline in academic positions and funding, a career is academia is no longer a viable career option for most PhDs.
Even PhDs with great publications and references from research supervisors can no longer be sure of gaining long-term employment in academia.
However, most PhDs do not realize that hiring decisions in industry are made differently.
Networking is the currency that facilitates a job search in industry.
As a PhD, you must focus on building relationships through networking that will support you in finding your next job.
These are the top 5 networking strategies you can use to get hired without ever submitting a resume…
1. You are always networking. Correctly.
Any industry professional will tell you that the key to a successful career is to be in the job search mode all the time.
Yes, that’s right.
You will have a successful career only if you are always searching for your next job.
You don’t look for a job when you need it.
You don’t ask for a job when you need it.
You can create opportunities for yourself by strategically managing your career.
You create your own opportunities through effective networking.
However, PhDs are generally not used to networking.
As PhD looking toward an industry transition, you must ditch your academic mindset and go ahead with building that top-notch network.
Your network is an invaluable asset in your career trajectory.
There are 3 secrets to building an effective network:
#1 Always add value.
#2 Always add value first.
#3 Keep adding value.
(see a trend?)
Your aim with networking is to secure job referrals for positions you wish to apply for, as well as to learn about the exciting but hidden job opportunities that you didn’t even know existed.
Remember that the hiring manager is looking for a human connection to the job applicant, someone who endorsed the candidate’s application.
All you need to do is to make sure you have the right connections.
You should always be building your network because a truly great network is one that is built over time.
2. You have a strong personal brand.
What is a personal brand?
Why do PhDs need it?
PhDs seeking to transition into industry must be able to articulate who they are and what value they bring to the company.
These are all great examples of values to have associated with your personal brand.
PhDs who are able to demonstrate these traits are prized hires in industry.
Do you know what your personal brand is?
How are you conveying your personal brand in your networking efforts?
The qualities listed above mark PhDs as great leaders and managers, who can build strong and lasting relationships.
Networking is all about building trust and developing relationships.
A strong personal brand is invaluable in building your network.
Pay close attention to the image you are creating online as well as how you carry yourself at networking opportunities.
This all contributes to your personal brand.
3. You are a great listener.
Effective listening is an invaluable tool to help you in developing relationships that help advance your career.
In fact, great listening skills are exceedingly rare and highly prized in potential hires.
Active listening is an invaluable interpersonal skill that even PhDs who are introverts can successfully master.
You can demonstrate active listening by paying close attention to the people you are talking to, asking intelligent and relevant questions, and maintaining positive body language that inspires trust.
Being a good listener requires you to shift your focus from yourself to the other person.
You cannot be a good listener if you are just waiting until you get to talk or if you are only interested in what you can gain from the interaction.
Shift your mindset.
Think about how you could help the other person — how can you add value to them?
To find an answer to this question you must be listening intently.
Ask clarifying questions.
Show that you are trying to learn from and about the person you are talking to.
This authentic investment into another person is how you will start to build a high quality networking around you.
4. Don’t be boring.
The benefits of networking are not just limited to your job search.
Networking will help you develop into a professional that people want in their teams and companies.
You will constantly be learning from others.
PhDs seeking to build a successful career must be proactive in taking control of their career development.
Critical professional and social skills are acquired through networking, including transferable skills so highly valued by employers.
Not only that, networking also provides ample opportunities to strengthen business connections, increase business knowledge, build self-confidence and upgrade career skills.
5. Lose your expectations.
Networking is about building professional relationships that last.
The key to successful relationship building is consistently adding value to others without expecting anything in return.
You must let go of the idea that everyone you help will return the favor or that other people owe you things.
None of that is going to help your job search or career.
So how can you add value to your network?
By being a great leader.
Good leaders have an abundance mindset and are willing to share their time, knowledge and resources to help others without expecting anything in return.
Yes, good leaders give freely without expecting anything in return.
PhDs can share their skills and knowledge with their network through volunteering, mentorship and advice.
PhDs who demonstrate these leadership skills are highly prized in industry, which suffers a shortage of good leaders.
As you grow your network, you can leverage your network as a way to add value too.
You can become a superconnector, by connecting people in your network with each other.
In doing so PhDs can hone their own leadership skills and become career mutlipliers who attract great opportunities toward themselves.
You can create opportunities for yourself by strategically managing your career. Networking fosters the lifelong evolution of your career, helping you develop into a professional that people want in their teams and companies. PhDs seeking to transition into industry must be able to articulate who they are and what value they bring to the company, that is be clear on their personal brand. PhDs with the right transferable skills like active listening are career multipliers, highly prized in industry that suffers a shortage of good leaders.
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