The #1 Way To Network With Industry Professionals When You Have Nothing To Offer
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.
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.
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…
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!”
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.
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.
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