There is an age-old stereotype that says scientists are socially inept individuals who don't relate with other people very well – just look at how we are portrayed in the media. When it comes to building a successful research program, however, interacting with others (i.e. networking) is just as important in biotechnology as it is in any other business. Networking is the proactive creation and maintenance of mutually beneficial professional relationships. Here are 5 reasons why you should make the effort to build and maintain a viable network of contacts.
1. Word of Mouth Referrals
By definition, networking provides benefits to both you and your contacts. In many businesses, the best advertising is by word-of-mouth. In the biotech industry, your reputation and the people you know might pay off in the ability to secure venture capital
, share or trade laboratory equipment
, or hire qualified staff.
2. Job Leads
Students should begin networking early in their studies, whether in undergrad or doing a Ph.D.
, for two main reasons. The first is that the contacts made during networking may serve as valuable mentors through the school year. The second reason is that the many contacts made, including professors, can provide references, job leads, or even the job itself.
3. Building a Reputation
Part of networking in the sciences means joining associations or serving on committees. By becoming active in relevant professional organizations, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, reliability, ability to work with others, public speaking skills and more. Any of these qualities may come in handy in future if you wind up looking for a job, bidding on contracts as a CSO
, or seeking startup financing
4. Professional Development
Education doesn't just stop when you accept your diploma. Joining a professional organization and attending special events like conferences, seminars and short courses adds to your knowledge and keeps you up-to-date on current trends in biotechnology and biomedicine. It also demonstrates to your boss that you care about your work and the industry, or, if you are self-employed, adds to the variety of skills required to run a startup
5. The Fun FactorNetworking isn't all about business. Attending social activities and working with people on projects and committees can be fun and relaxing. In fact, for networking to work, it's important to remember that the objectives of the group you have joined come first, and your personal goals come second. The perks of networking will come as a result of the connections you make, the reputation you build and relationships you develop, not from aggressive solicitation. Make the most of your time by choosing groups that interest you.