Working The Network


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Landing a job through networking is more than talking science over cocktails.

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Working The Network

  1. 1. Feature Working the Network Mark Crawford Landing a job through networking is more than talking science over cocktails.I t’s been a rough couple of years for the bioscience industry, but jobs arecoming back—and there are plenty of Julie Hertzberg, account manager for Aerotek Scientific LLC, a scientific staffing firm in Denver, says “in Col-qualified candidates to compete for orado, biologists, specifically molec-them. ular biologists, are in high demand “One or two years ago the num- in the renewable energy and biotechber of nonmedical biology postings and pharmaceutical industries, espe-was scant because of the down cially candidates who have specificeconomy,” says Ross Petras, senior skills such as DNA sequencing andrecruiter for biotech and life science quantitative polymerase chain reac-at, a division tion techniques.”of Priority Sales Recruiting in Fort Rob Michitsch, an assistant profes-Lauderdale, Florida. “Since then job sor of soil and waste resources at theopenings have increased by 20 to University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point35 percent, in part due to the rebound and chair of the Early Career Membersin the market, increased venture Committee for the Soil Science Societycapital, and more grants.” of America in Madison, is pleased to Some of the hottest jobs in the see more jobs available for his graduat-private sector are in operations, ing students.microbiology, genomics, proteomics, “I’m a PhD soil scientist (chemis- Molecular biologists are in highbiomarkers, and personalized medi- try, microbiology), waste management demand, particularly in the biotechcine. The abundance of new research specialist (particularly agricultural and pharmaceutical industries. Here,under way, combined with software resources), and biological engineer Jill Livengood is shown working inadvances, is increasing the demand (agricultural waste aspects),” he says. her lab at Inviragen. Photograph:for bioinformaticians. More biology “The global economy in the last five Tina Wood are also available in federal and years has made these fields highly com-state government agencies, as well petitive on the job front; I’m happy to calling and related activities, and 10as at nonprofits such as the Nature report there are many more opportu- percent from job postings,” indicatesConservancy. nities in these fields so far in 2011.” Don Alexander, vice president of life The need for biologists is on the sciences development and commer-rise in the industrial biotech and bio- Getting a job through networking cialization for Carlyle & Conlan, anfuel sectors, especially in regions with Building relationships through net- executive recruiting firm in Morris-high concentrations of biofuel com- working is very effective for landing a ville, North Carolina.panies, such as southern California. job in the bioscience industry. “In the “Networking is a powerful tool,”High-demand positions include those 14 years I have been involved in pro- agrees Lauren Celano, chief executivein biomass production, microbiologi- fessional executive search, 60 percent officer (CEO) of Propel Careers, acal crop management, and biological of my placements have come from life science search and career develop-labs. networking, 30 percent from cold ment firm in Boston, Massachusetts.BioScience 61: 348–352. © 2011 Mark Crawford. ISSN 0006-3568, electronic ISSN 1525-3244. All rights reserved. doi:10.1525/bio.2011.61.5.3348 BioScience • May 2011 / Vol. 61 No. 5
  2. 2. Feature“It allows relationships to be builtover time that can lead to new posi-tions, partnerships, and possibilities.Networking is a skill that gets betterwith time. The more you practice, themore skilled and comfortable you willbecome with networking.” To find your dream job in a com-petitive field such as biology, it helpsto stand out from the crowd. Decision-makers need to know your strengthsand specialties. A commitment to net-working, especially early in a career,provides an edge over the competition.It gives potential advisers, employ-ers, and coworkers the opportunityto learn more about you at a personallevel—and if you impress them, theywill remember you. As much as you may want to impressand please the potential employerswith whom you network, it’s impor- Make an impression at meetings, advises Maryrose Franko, senior programtant to “be receptive, approachable, officer at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “It’s not so much who you know,and neutral, yet still maintain your but who knows you,” she says. Photograph: Courtesy of Maryrose Franko.own opinions,” advises Michitsch.“Different people have different ide- wide audience,” Alexander says. “These a global partnering conference—all ofals and values. Making the effort to trends, however, are not a surrogate for which provide outstanding networkingunderstand different viewpoints will personal contact.” dividends in your job search.” Petras agrees. “Social media hasn’t Industry trade associations can Maryrose Franko adds, “It’s not so replaced a handshake and a cup of coffee. often be a resource for training formuch who you know, but who knows It can’t create the same kind of personal job seekers. “For example, not onlyyou.” Franko is a senior program offi- bond. Instead it creates an awareness does Massachusetts Biotechnologycer for graduate science education for that hopefully leads to personal interac- Industry Association provide network-the Office of Grants and Special Pro- tion. It’s hard to get a job without going ing opportunities, it has also recentlygrams at the Howard Hughes Medical out and meeting someone.” launched a series of career develop-Institute (HHMI) in Chevy Chase, An effective way to start networking ment seminars through a partnershipMaryland. “When your CV [curric- is partnering with a staffing company with Propel Careers to assist grad stu-ulum vitae] crosses someone’s desk or recruiter that specializes in placing dents, postdoctoral fellows, and medi-along with a hundred others, if he or biologists. They know the market, have cal residents with knowledge aboutshe has heard you give a talk or met a wide range of clients, and are in con- career opportunities,” Celano at a meeting (and you gave a stant contact with human resources Networking events don’t have tofavorable impression), that person is (HR) directors and chief science offi- be formal or intimidating—take, formuch more likely to put your CV into cers across the country. There are also example, the Colorado BioSciencethe follow-up pile, rather than some- no fees for candidates to work through Association’s highly popular “Bio-one they don’t know.” these firms. Beers” event. The association part- Consider joining professional orga- ners with the local science communityMethods of networking nizations and trade groups specific to put together this event, which isWhen it comes to networking, go “all to your field. Many of these groups hosted at facilities such as Coloradoin.” Use both traditional and newer are placing more emphasis on job University, Colorado State University,approaches—they are each effective in networking, including online bulletin or the Fitzsimons Life Science District.different situations, from a phone call boards. For example, BIOCOM, a The first half of the meeting con-to having lunch to social media. “Recent life sciences trade association in San sists of networking; during the secondtrends in networking include heavier Diego, hosts more than 75 events half several companies present 5- touse of social media and professional annually, from small networking 10-minute pitches on the technologiesWeb sites such as LinkedIn, which events for contract research organiza- they are developing, to an audienceallow people to reach an increasingly tions to quarterly breakfast meetings to that’s drinking May 2011 / Vol. 61 No. 5 • BioScience 349
  3. 3. Feature “The audience gives honest and of scientists together, and have them my job I’d start with the phone andopen feedback,” says Holli Baumunk, bring their business cards, a pen, and e-mail,” says Majid Moridani, assistantpresident and CEO of the Colorado maybe a small notebook. Then split professor in the School of PharmacyBioScience Association. “The network- them into groups. Place one-half in at Texas Tech University’s Health Sci-ing is fantastic, and because it takes chairs on one side of the table and put ences Center in Amarillo. “I would up-place in a laid-back atmosphere, there the remaining half on the other side. date my LinkedIn profile and send theis good attendance. The microbeers In the front of the room set up a bell link to everyone. Uploading my CV todon’t hurt either.” and a timer. Then decide how much some online recruitment agency Web Another excellent method for time they’ll have together; three to sites and posting it on some job boardsmeeting influential people is through four minutes is typical. Set your timer would also be a good idea. E-mailvolunteering. Biologists can select and ring the bell. They will have only can be an excellent way to introducecommunity volunteer events that are that short time to tell each other about yourself, but you must be very carefulsponsored by their industries or vol- what they do, what their scientific how you use it. The subject line andunteer at professional meetings and interests are, and maybe what they’re content must be individualized to theget-togethers, such as by joining a looking for.” recipient and really stand out. Spend acommittee. Not only does volunteer- Austin indicates most of the interac- few hours getting to know the person’sing look good on a CV but it also cre- tions fall flat, but a significant minor- work, laboratory, and organization.ates close proximity with professionals ity (“more than you would expect,” Do not do an e-mail blast where youwho may be instrumental in helping he says) begin to see a glimmer of a send one generic e-mail to multipleyour career. collaboration possibility, and then the contacts.” This approach is rarely talked about bell rings. They quickly exchange busi- Job boards are another easy place toand often underestimated in its overall ness cards, and the people on one side start. Post your CV or résumé on Mon-value. “Volunteering was one of the of the table get up and move one chair or “Alsobest pieces of advice I received early to the left or right. definitely check out,” urgesin my career,” shares Deanna Dawn, Toward the end of this kind of Petras. “It scours the entire Interneta wildlife biologist with Garcia and event the organized structure may and even pulls job positions advertisedAssociates in Auburn, California. “Not break down. “We did this in August on corporate Web sites. It is puttingonly does it give you real-world experi- at a career-development meeting with a real squeeze on andence in your field of interest, it shows HHMI and several other organiza- because it is free.”potential employers you have great tions,” Austin says. “Instead of a long Although e-mails, telephone calls,initiative and dedication to your field. table with two sides, they had 8 or 10 and written letters are good meth-Volunteering also has great network- big round tables. About two-thirds ods of pursuit, the most effectiveing capabilities—you get to know and of the way through order began to approach is working through profes-interact with individuals already estab- deteriorate and people became uncer- sional groups and associations—notlished in your field. If you approach tain about where to go or with whom just for meeting connected profes-your volunteer position with passion, to speak. They started to hunt down sionals but also to take advantagepeople notice.” those individuals who interested them of high-level career-based training. “Speed networking” is a new earlier in the event. By the end of a Trade organizations often bring inapproach in which people have only a speed-networking session new scien- professional HR consultants or pro-few minutes to introduce themselves, tific relationships are typically formed fessional recruiters who understandshare information, and learn about and new collaborations established. In the market and the bioscience com-the person they are speaking with 90 minutes you may even come away munity. For example, the Coloradobefore moving on to the next person with three new research partners.” BioScience Association provides morein line. The American Association for AAAS is happy to conduct speed than 60 education and networkingthe Advancement of Science (AAAS) networking for any organization or programs a year that allow job seekersis especially adept at speed network- institution that asks, if schedules fit. to participate to help them integrateing. “AAAS is really into promoting “All we’ll ask is that they provide the into the bioscience community, atnetworking for scientists and organiz- venue and cover our costs—we’ll even very little or no these speed-networking events,” bring the bell,” Austin says. “We work closely with the universi-Franko says. “We recently had them ties and research institutions to allowrun one of these for our awardees at a The art (and science) of their undergrad and graduate studentsmeeting, and it was great.” networking to attend functions to network, as well Jim Austin, editor for AAAS’s Sci- Some tips: Have your personal materi- as learn more about the industry,”ence Careers magazine, is a master als (CV, business cards) updated and Baumunk says. “It is critical that wespeed-networking planner. “You basi- ready to go. Contact everyone you keep the industry vibrant by grow-cally get a long table, gather a bunch know in your field of interest. “If I lost ing a skilled workforce, and we find350 BioScience • May 2011 / Vol. 61 No. 5
  4. 4. Featurenetworking is a very effective way todo this.” When attending industry events,trade shows, and job fairs, be preparedto meet and build relationships withdecisionmakers in the industry. Iden-tify the people you wish to contact atscientific meetings and research theirwork beforehand. Also learn who elsewill be attending the conference anddo a bit of research on people in yourfield—even if it is as simple as readingtheir profiles on the corporate Web siteor pulling up their LinkedIn profiles. “The ‘prepared approach’ is critical,whether you are looking for graduateor professional work,” Dawn says. “Youmust make it convenient for the indi-viduals you are pursuing—don’t justapproach them as they walk by. Sendthem a brief e-mail before the con-ference asking if you could chat with Holli Baumunk (second from right), president and chief executive officer ofthem briefly during the conference. Colorado BioScience Association, networks at a BioBreakfast event at TheAlternatively, you might even try leav- Children’s Hospital. “It is critical that we keep the industry vibrant by growinging a message for them in their hotel a skilled work force, and we find networking is a very effective way to do this.”room asking them for a few minutes of Photograph: Colorado BioScience Association.their time. I have done this on severaloccasions and always found people tobe very gracious and receptive.” Social media Be sure to ask for business cards. According to a Challenger, Gray &“After speaking with someone, write Christmas survey in August 2009 thatnotes about your conversation on the asked HR executives to rate the effec-back of the card—and by all means tiveness of job search methods, “net-follow up,” urges Grover. “Not next working online and offline ranked asweek, but that very evening or the next the most effective methods,” Hertzbergday. I can’t tell you how many people says. “The average rating of traditionaldrop the ball after meeting someone (offline) networking was a 3.98 outby never following up.” of 5; the average rating of online net- Moridani notes with some disdain working was a 3.3 out of 5.”that graduate students often attend More than 25 percent of Coloradoscientific conferences for fun and BioScience Association’s member com-drinks—a big mistake. “This is the panies reported using social media andtime to network,” he stresses. “Go to the Internet to locate jobs, and anotherthe poster sessions and hand out busi- 25 percent relied on word of mouth. Jim Austin, editor of AAAS’s Scienceness cards or a short CV. Meet the Many companies and employees also Careers magazine, promotes speedspeakers in your area of interest. If you use employment agencies to help in networking as a way to builddo this every time you go, within a few their job searches. connections at scientific meetings.years they will start to notice you. Then “On average, 10 bioscience jobs and Photograph: Jim Austin.refine your target—what do you want about 15 résumés are posted to ourto specialize in? What are you looking Web site each month,” Baumunk says.for? Be ready for the kinds of questions “Member companies of our associa- community actively uses social mediayou might be asked. Most graduate stu- tion may post without a fee; non- to network: In 2010 we saw a 49 per-dents think about this approach a few members are charged $100 to post. cent increase in activity for LinkedIn,months before they graduate, thereby We frequently hear positive feedback Twitter, and Facebook.”losing any advantage they could have regarding these postings and plan to LinkedIn is a highly effective site forhad going into the job market.” enhance the feature in the future. Our staying in touch with the May 2011 / Vol. 61 No. 5 • BioScience 351
  5. 5. Featurecommunity and keeping your infor- science becomes more ecological, you or mediocre job and the job of yourmation “out there” for anyone to see. might say. New communications tools dreams. It gives you an edge by giving“If you are looking for a position and can assist in the formation and main- you a leg up on the crowd; it gives youare still employed, LinkedIn is a great tenance of scientific relationships; for a name and then gets that name outway to post your information and example, low-cost video conferencing on the playing field. It is not, how-direct potential employers to it with- strikes me as an important develop- ever, a substitute for hard work and aout alarming your current employer, ment because it enhances face time.” strong work ethic. Be persistent, posi-because LinkedIn is recommended In all its variations, networking pays tive, creative, and passionate aboutacross all industries as the best way to off over the long term rather than the networking, but above all be sincerestay in touch with your scientific peers,” short term. Just because you have a job and professional. Believe in yourselfPetras says. “For every 10 placements now, don’t stop networking. and your goals. When one of your net-I make, about one-third come from “People tend to think about net- working tactics pays off and someoneLinkedIn—that’s a huge number.” working when they need something,” helps you out—no matter how small Austin, who is about as old-fashioned Alexander says. “Where possible, do their effort—be grateful. Send a short,as they come yet admittedly spends the opposite. It is much easier to build handwritten, sincere note of thankmost of his life online (including a relationships when you do not need you (not an e-mail or a text). BelieveTwitter stream), continues to hear how anything. Therefore, make it a habit to me, in this digital age, that simplethe Internet and social media will make continue to network and build your list gesture will not be forgotten and maythe old ways of recruiting—and hence of contacts whether you are employed eventually help lead you to the verythe old way of finding jobs—obsolete. or not.” dream job you seek.” “I haven’t seen it yet,” Austin says. Dawn agrees that networking is“Science itself is becoming more net- extremely important. “Networking Mark Crawford (mark.crawford@charter.worked as connections between fields is a great tool and can often mean net) is a freelance writer based in Madison,become more obviously important—as the difference between a dead-end Wisconsin. Integrating Development, Evolution, and Cognition Biological Theory Werner Callebaut, Editor-in-Chief Biological eory is devoted to theoretical advances in the fields of evolution and cognition with an emphasis on the conceptual integration afforded by evolutionary and developmental approaches. e journal appeals to a wide audience of scientists, social scientists, and scholars from the humanities, particularly philosophers and historians of biology. Published by the MIT Press and the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research. MIT Press Journals BioScience • May 2011 / Vol. 61 No. 5