Starting your STEM Career No.3: Networking
In posts one and two we looked at preparation for job hunting, diversification and making yourself a more work-ready, attractive prospective employee. Another important factor to consider and one we look at here is the importance of networking.
Our practical piece this month offers some networking tips.
What is networking?
Networking has become increasingly important in today’s world. It is vital at every stage of your career and can open doors when entering the work place. Having worked with many students it can be undervalued and I believe it is important to open yourself to this. Ultimately, networking is reaching out to similar minded people, to share ideas, knowledge and possibilities. It can be very collaborative. Networking also enables you to expand your knowledge in the area you are in and offers a flow of information from and to you.
If you are not sure where to start, don’t panic, the chances are you have already begun to network.
You will already know many of the people in your college class. You will have many friends through yours and friend’s courses.
Many will be like minded and branching into all aspects of science. Your networking has begun! Nurture this first level and indeed all levels of networking. It can open up opportunities and doors for them and you.
Social media platforms
There are many platforms to engage in however my personal experience is that LinkedIn is a great place to start. It is simple and straightforward. Set up an account with a profile. Create a professional profile with a professional headshot if possible. Take time to create your summary giving people a feel for who you are and your values. Select companies and organisations that interest you.
Most professionals have a presence on LinkedIn and it offers the opportunity reach out and connect to like-minded people globally.
As well as following people and organisations of interest, it enables you to join global groups where you have a specific interest. LinkedIn also has the career advice hub where you can ask mentors questions for advice. If used correctly it can be a fountain of information related to your area of science. If you are still unsure and need assistance with LinkedIn reach out to WITS and other organisations who can assist. WITS has run workshops to help with LinkedIn.
Network in your chosen industry
It is also important to network with people in the industry you wish to be in or area you are in. If you are interested in roles but unsure of what you need to be suitable for the roles then reach out! For example, if you have considered a role in scientific support for diagnostics there are simple steps you can do. Research the companies or organisations that cover that role, contact them via mail or alternatively call and explain that you have graduated and would like to speak to someone engaged in that role for some advice. If you have prepared some straightforward questions, most people will spare you some time to steer you in the right direction. If you can, offer to take this person for a coffee to discuss the role.
This also demonstrates that you are dedicated and resourceful.
Generally, industries also have annual conferences and exhibitions and so attend the relevant ones and introduce yourself at the stands to the people there. Ask questions and learn about the roles they may have available in the future. After you leave, reach out to them on LinkedIn and thank them for their time. This is both professional and courteous.
Networking also involves contacting recruitment companies with properly prepared CVs and asking questions. Keep in regular contact with them. If you have been unsuccessful in interviews ask for and be open to feedback. Taking feedback on board will help strengthen you as a candidate. If you need help with a CV, again ask the recruiters as they will be experienced in this area.
WITS Women in Technology and Science
A great step in networking is to find and join organisations that help you meet people in your field. WITS is a great place to start as it offers many benefits such as the opportunity to speak with other STEM graduates, the opportunity to have newsletters and events that can provide supports to you in your field. It is also a voluntary organisation and so your membership and participation is valued too.
Most importantly, reach out and connect! Draw on the experience of these people. We were all in your shoes once and many are happy to help-get connected!!!
For more information and advice, the last in this employment series will be posted next month and please look out for our February 2019 WITS careers event.
Written by: Susan Treacy