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Career tip: Scientific networking ought to be easy December 26, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.

Social networking and business networking are not different animals

Many people now are immersed in social networking through such venues as Facebook, Myspace, and other social networking websites. They tweet on Twitter. They are quite familiar with and relaxed about doing these many, many times each day. But the same dichotomy as social interactions in the “real” world exist. In that, scientists have professional networks and ways of performing the interconnected parts of science – knowing and interacting with fellow researchers in their field; exchanging preprints, reprints, or useful references; exchanging samples or sources of useful reagent, and so on. The dichotomy? Many scientists behave differently in this professional context than they do in an analogous situation in their “personal” lives.

I often hear scientists say that it is difficult to meet people at a conference, yet they can socialize well in their personal lives. They are more outgoing and gregarious than they are professionally. They are more insular and less open about their work, forgetting that networking is based on friendliness and a give-and-take of information.

Conferences are an ideal set-up for meeting others in your field. You all are doing similar research or you would not be presenting or listening to the same types of talks. Use that commonality to connect. Talk to speakers in their breaks, or even to those whose questions show that they are interested in the kind of work you do. Exchange business cards (and follow up after the meeting to connect further by asking for reprints or a possible source of something or a suggested other contact). Friends of friends are in a social network; colleagues of colleagues ought to be in a scientific one – or contacts of contacts.

If you see a paper that interests you, let the presenter know or if it is in a journal, contact the lead author to see if there are allied papers. If you know of another paper that might be of use, mention it. Offered information is always welcomed, even if the recipient already knows of it.

Until they realize that social skills can be used in both contexts, these scientists stunt the benefits of their professional network. They limit its size and vigor. As with social networking, the more you interact with energy and mutuality, the scientific network gains from similar attitudes. Your scientific network is not just a list of names and email addresses. The connections grow stronger and more useful as you involve yourself as a scientist in them.



1. tyrosine - December 27, 2009

So true. A year ago I wrote to the lead author of a paper I really liked. A few emails later and now we have several collaborative projects and joint graduate students. True story.

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