Last month, I attended the Postdoc Conference & Career Fair in Bethesda, Maryland. There were many talks regarding the transition out of academia into technology transfer, communications, and industry. Going into the day I was not enthused about attending the industry talks. I just did not see myself as thriving in the industry setting. However, I learned two valuable lessons while sitting in the Marriott hotel that day:
1. I should not “shut the door” on industry positions so quickly. Industry seeks people that work well in teams and can communicate effectively. I have had experience with both and, for me, those skills are probably better developed than my lab hands. So, I would relay that learning experience on to you and encourage you not to “close the door” too quickly on jobs that from the periphery seem outside of your “comfort zone.”
2. One of the industry speakers, Randall Ribaudo, shared a tidbit of useful information regarding LinkedIn. I’d never really thought about how or how not to use LinkedIn before. I guess that I assumed LinkedIn was like anything else, the more connections the better, right? Well, Randall disagreed with my default of just adding people that I recognized to my network. He was pretty clear on his thought that LinkedIn is not equivalent to Facebook and told the audience that each account holder should be comfortable contacting each of his/her LinkedIn connections; otherwise the network of connections loses some of its usefulness.
I thought about what Randall had to say and also recollected a recent real-life LinkedIn experience. Now, I think that I agree with him. Let me share that recent encounter with you.
My friend, who I will call Jane for now, was looking to move back to Maryland after spending a few years in the Midwest. She was particularly interested in learning about job opportunities in technology transfer as well as consulting and project management. Knowing that my husband was a technology transfer specialist, Jane e-mailed me, requesting that I put her in contact with him. Then, after Jane looked through my LinkedIn network, she saw that I was connected to someone who worked at Booz Allen as a consultant. I’ll call him John.
Jane, John, and I were all in the same graduate school department at the University of Maryland during the same time. However, Jane did not really know John and did not feel comfortable contacting him directly. She asked me if I would be willing to contact John for her. I did, and he got in contact with her about potential opportunities at Booz Allen.
What would have happened if I did not feel comfortable contacting John, even though he was in my network? My network connection list would have proved to be of no use. With that, I would encourage you all to go in and check your LinkedIn connections (or if you do not have an account, consider setting one up.) And then, take the time to actually reap the benefits of your account. Look at your connections. Do they have anyone in their network that you might be interested in meeting or setting up an informational interview with? Don’t be afraid to ask your connections for help? It’s networking—just without the happy hour.