The #1 Way To Network With Industry Professionals When You Have Nothing To Offer

how to network with job recruiters | Cheeky Scientist | how to make industry connections
Written by Isaiah Hankel, Ph.D.

I had nothing to offer.

I knew I needed to connect with hiring managers, recruiters, and industry professionals but I didn’t know how.

Why would these people help me when I had no way of helping them?

Still, I tried to network.

I sent LinkedIn messages and connection requests and went to a few networking events.

For every 10 connection requests I sent to industry professionals on LinkedIn, I heard back from exactly zero of them.

I changed my approach by writing longer and longer messages explaining who I was and what skills I had.

I talked about my research and asked insightful questions about the hiring managers or industry professionals’ company.

I told them how perfect the job openings at the companies were for me.

Nothing.

I heard crickets.

Okay, I thought to myself, maybe I’ll have better luck in person.

I went to a couple of live networking events on campus but nobody there was a hiring manager or a recruiter.

No one there even had an industry job.

It was just me and a bunch of other PhDs at a typical red ocean networking event.

That’s when I decided that networking online and offline was a waste of time.

Clearly I was just annoying people and coming off as desperate.

Nobody wanted to help me because I had nothing valuable to offer them.

I didn’t have any value.

This made me feel like getting my PhD was worthless.

It made me feel like I was worthless.

Why You Need To Add Value To Industry Professionals 

No one is going to help you for nothing in return.

Why should they?

Do you really believe industry professionals are going to help you get hired for a job just because you think you’re a good fit for the position?

If you’re waiting for biotechnology and biopharmaceutical hiring managers, recruiters, and industry professionals to fall all over themselves to help you during your job search, you’re going to be waiting a long time.

The hiring funnel is intense and only 25 people out of every 1,000 people who see a job posting will ever connect with a hiring manager. 

A report by Talent Function Group and Ere Media shows that out of every 1,000 individuals who see a job post, 200 will begin the application process, 100 will complete the application, 75 of those 100 resumes will be screened out by either Applicant Tracking Software or a recruiter, only 25 resumes will be seen by the hiring manager, 4 to 6 will be invited for an interview, 1 to 3 of them will be invited back for a final interview, and 1 will be offered that job.

Do you have a strategy for getting through this hiring funnel or are you just winging it?

Do you have a strategy for connecting with hiring managers and recruiters or are you just reaching out to them randomly and telling them your life story?

Imagine running up to a well-dressed stranger on the street, tapping on his or her shoulder and asking, “Hi, will you help me get a job?”

You would never do this.

Even if this person was in fact a hiring manager, you would never do this.

In fact, you wouldn’t even tap a stranger on the shoulder and ask for anything beyond directions.

Yet, this is what most PhDs do during their job search.

These PhDs wait until they are completely desperate. They wait until they’re a week away from graduating or a week away from losing their postdoc funding.

This is when they finally start their job search.

But their job search consists of, at best, reading through a few job sites online.

Then, suddenly, they see a posting for the “perfect job.”

They get really excited and upload their bloated industry resume online and urgently start networking on LinkedIn, sending desperate messages to strangers who work at the company.

The result?

No one responds.

No one reads their resumes.

The job goes to someone else and these PhDs get even more stressed, anxious and depressed. 

Stop Asking For Value And Start Adding Value 

You must give value before asking for value.

If you want a job in industry, the time to start giving value to hiring managers, recruiters, and industry professionals is now.

The reason most PhDs refuse to network with industry professionals is because they don’t think they have any value to offer these professionals.

Either they feel like they’re asking for a handout, which makes them uncomfortable, or they feel like they shouldn’t have to ask for help because help should be given to them automatically.

You have value to offer industry professionals, especially if you have a PhD.

As a PhD, you’re capable of appreciating other people’s scientific work.

You’re capable of solving other people’s complex problems.

Most importantly, you’re capable of connecting high-level professionals to each other.

Whether you know it or not, you have value to offer.

Here is the number one best way to add value to industry professionals…

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The Best Way To Add Value To Industry Professionals

Every PhD trying to get an industry job is trying to increase the size of their professional network.

These PhDs are spending all day on LinkedIn, hitting the “Ask for an introduction” button over and over again, hoping to connect with someone who can get them a job.

They’re asking, if not begging, other people to connect them to industry professionals.

This is what average PhDs are doing.

Intelligent PhDs, on the other hand, are rising above to connect professionals to each other.

They choose to be expert networkers by adding value first instead of asking for value first.

You can either be a reactive follower begging for introductions, or a proactive leader introducing other people to each other.

Here’s the thing—industry professionals are trying to advance their careers too.

They want to grow their network.

They want to get promoted.

They want to succeed.

You can add value to these professionals by helping them get what they want.

A simple way to do this is by introducing industry professionals to people you already know.

Instead of desperately asking to be introduced, start setting up introductions yourself.

Take matters into your own hands by introducing people to each other.

It sounds simple but this is a highly advanced networking strategy that very few PhDs have the wherewithal to do.

Most PhDs are in desperation mode.

They’re about to graduate or their funding is about to run out and they need a job now.

As a result, they become very selfish thinkers.

They become beggars.

“Please introduce me!”

“Please help me!”

“Pleeeeeeaaase!”

Begging is not a good networking strategy. 

It’s a career-killing mistake that far too many PhDs make.

A better strategy is to add value by introducing industry professionals to each other.

How To Introduce Industry Professionals To Each Other

No matter who you are, you know more than one person.

This means you’re capable of connecting two people to each other.

If you’re not sure how to set up an introduction, you can practice by connecting similar friends to each other.

As you become more confident, you can start reaching out to former labmates, people you used to work with at other jobs, people you used to know in undergrad, past speakers who visited your institution, and other people you’re already connected with.

All you have to do is send an email or LinkedIn message to the two people you’re introducing and briefly tell each person why you are introducing them.

Here’s a simple, generic template you can follow…

Dear John, Dear Jane, 

I hope you are both having great days. 

After connecting with both of you, I realized that you share similar interests in microbiology and hiking. I believe you both used to live on the U.S. West coast too. As such, I wanted to introduce you here.  

John- I’ve know Jane for 5 years. We used to work in a lab together on a variety of projects. Jane is one of the most positive and hardworking people I know.   

Jane- John and I recently met at a networking event. John works at Novartis and has a knack for making people feel comfortable. He also recently published a paper with Harvard on cell signaling.  

I’ll let you two take it from here.  

Best to you both. 

-Derek 

Setting up introductions is something you can do to establish new connections for yourself as well.

By connecting other people together, you elevate yourself from desperate PhD to super-connector and potential colleague.

Think of the last time you were introduced by to someone you didn’t know.

If you’re a functioning PhD with any transferable skills whatsoever, you felt a sense of gratefulness towards the person who introduced you.

You saw the introducer as a leader, as someone who was well-connected, selfless, and overall—a giver.

In short, you saw the introducer as someone who had value.

You probably felt a hint of obligation too.

They gave you value and you felt the desire to give value back.

These are the same feelings you will inspire in the people you connect.

Don’t worry—connecting other people to each other is not manipulative or deceitful.

It’s how networking is done. You give value to get value.

This might seem like an odd concept in academia but it’s precisely what’s expected in industry.

The key is to be authentic.

Connect people because you want to add value.

Don’t expect anything return but don’t feel badly about accepting value return either. 

Reaching out to industry professionals who you don’t know and asking for help is foolish. They have no reason to connect with you, help you connect with others, or help you get a job. Intelligent PhDs know that they need to add value before asking for value. The best way to get hiring managers, recruiters, and industry professionals to start helping you is to start helping them first. Instead of asking to be introduced to other professionals, start introducing professionals to each other.

To learn more about transitioning into industry, 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.

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Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.

Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.

Isaiah is a Ph.D. in Anatomy & Cell Biology and internationally recognized Fortune 500 consultant. He is an expert in the biotechnology industry and specializes in helping people transition into cutting-edge career tracks.

Isaiah believes that if you feel stuck somewhere in your life right now, you should make a change. Don’t sit still and wait for the world to tell you what to do. Start a new project. Build your own business. Take action. Experimentation is the best teacher.
Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.
  • http://www.funbiochampion.com/ Chiu-An Lo

    Thank you for sharing this valuable tip, Isaiah. Most of us give too little but ask too much during networking events and are wondering why no response coming back. If this strategy, adding rather than asking for values, is surely adopted in our daily life, it can be a game changer in our job search.

    • http://isaiahhankel.com/ Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Chiu-An. It’s a relatively simple shift in mindset but it will yield great results, and it makes networking a lot less stressful.

  • Carla D’avanzo

    I completely agree! I’m president of a postdoc association and I organize networking events between industry people and postdocs, and all love it. Industry people are really happy to join, have good time and meet people in an easy way. They are constantly looking for recruiting, to meet people in person and be able to make a internal reference when they have an open position. So yes, PhDs be proactive, make action, don’t wait they come to you. Good luck to everyone looking for transitioning in industry from academia.

    • http://isaiahhankel.com/ Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      That is so great to hear, Carla! You’ve created a win-win situation by organizing networking events. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  • ABC

    If you want to start adding value, quit your PhD.

    Industry is a completely different ball game, and your PhD degree is expendable.

    • TheEvilBlight

      I suppose the premise is that PhD’s that fail to do more than publish papers…industry can just take the pick of the litter. And if you aren’t the top dog, then you must swim/fight. Same as if you were looking for academic/post-doc positions (but obviously under different guiding principles)

      • ABC

        Being the top dog in Academia does not guarantee anything. There are lots of stories of top dogs in academic research who didn’t make it to industry or had to work as much as an average performer.

        Nowadays, papers only avail your capacity to tell a nice story. Nothing else. If you can fake it, you can make it become published. And this is well known in the private sector.

        Plus, being an academic genius is useless if you lack soft skills (emotional intelligence, capacity to communicate, teamworking skills). And these are not taught in a PhD.

        • soho

          A lot of R&D positions in industry still seem to require the minimum qualification of a PhD though?

          • ABC

            Nope.

          • soho

            Hi ABC, can you elaborate and give me any examples? All the positions I’ve seen so far require a PhD and relevant experience etc, at least in the UK?

  • Lamia Harper

    This is a great article Isaiah! Even though I’m not gearing toward an industry position, this was still very relevant. In academia, students often struggle with maintaining mentor-mentee relationships because it feels one-sided like we are only taking up the mentors’ time – we aren’t often taught how to ‘use our value’. Here, I’ve found that my value lies in my eagerness to read new literature. It allows me to send potential mentors research articles they might be interested in or pass along a technical paper on a technique that could be relevant. Now I have a strategy for people in other industries or who I’d like to know better. Thanks again!

    • http://isaiahhankel.com/ Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      Glad you found the article useful, Lamia. Absolutely, know your value, you have lots to contribute! Thanks for commenting.

  • BonniePhd

    You need to give value in order to get value, and that is how networking is done. Perfectly said. This article clearly shows all the mistakes done by the people when they are trying to find a job.

  • Sam Jeter

    This is the holy truth I would say. Begging is not good strategy for networking and perhaps it is a career killing mistake. Come on, no one is going to help you for free. You want some help, then you first need to help them with something.

    • http://isaiahhankel.com/ Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      Absolutely right, Sam. Networking has become an ugly word because so many people do it wrong. when done correctly, it’s incredibly rewarding for all parties involved. Thanks for commenting!

  • Dr. Duncan

    Great article. I really liked your example about going on streets tapping some random stranger’s shoulder and asking for a damn help. That is a bang on example. This is the mistake everyone does now a days. Hope people understand it after reading this article.

  • PhDDoug

    Hey that’s a nice and simple way to grow your network. Just find two people, whom you already know, who have some common interests. Then you introduce them to each other. And Boom.. You’ve two people now whom you have helped in some way and they will now be happy to help you in return.

    • http://isaiahhankel.com/ Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      Boom, Doug! Glad you found the article helpful.

  • Dr. Eve Morse

    It is very well said that a NETWORK will give you a NETWORTH. This pretty much sums up everything. You need some help but do not know anyone who can help you in that matter. But hey, you might be knowing someone who eventually may be knowingly someone else that could help you. So that’s it. Hail network!!

    • http://isaiahhankel.com/ Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      Exactly! Relationships are everything in career development, that can’t be stressed enough.

  • Dabbs

    This is absolutely correct. Reaching out to someone whom we don’t even know and asking for help is just foolish. No one is going to help you with anything if they don’t find their benefits in that. So yes, add value before asking for value.

  • Dr. Hutchison

    Hey Isaiah, thank you for this great article. I am very bad at networking with people. I just suck at it. But now I guess I will be better. Thanks to your tip about introducing two people whom I already know and they may later be able to introduce me to someone else. Thanks again!!

    • http://isaiahhankel.com/ Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      I’m willing to bet that you’re not bad at networking, you just hate asking for handouts. When you approach networking with the mindset that YOU are helping others, things will change. Keep moving forward!

  • Gary Wilde

    Thanks for the amazing tips, Isaiah! I always come here and learn something new. You can’t learn such networking lesson without experiencing it. And thanks for sharing your experience with us. One thing I love about your articles is you provide the demo template as reference which will be helpful in many ways.

  • Dr. Menon

    If you want fruitful results from any of your connection, you have to share your skills and value with them so in return you can get back their values. This is how it’s done. Begging is the option for weak minded people.

  • BeckyPhd

    Introducing two unknown people with similar interest and skills is the best thing you can do to build your connection. You might think that what will you get by doing this? But it is the base for your connection. You will also get some new connection from people you introduced. So it’s working like a chain. Keep doing networking.