Networking for nerds

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Networking for Nerds Networking for Nerds Find, Access and Land Hidden Game-Changing Career Opportunities Everywhere Alaina G. Levine Copyright © 2015 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey Published simultaneously in Canada No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the Publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, Inc., 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, (978) 750-8400, fax (978) 750-4470, or on the web at www.copyright.com. 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No warranty may be created or extended by any promotional statements for this work. Neither the publisher nor the author shall be liable for any damages arising herefrom. For general information on our other products and services or for technical support, please contact our Customer Care Department within the United States at (800) 762-2974, outside the United States at (317) 572-3993 or fax (317) 572-4002. Wiley also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may not be available in electronic formats. For more information about Wiley products, visit our web site at www.wiley.com. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data: Levine, Alaina G. Networking for nerds : find, access and land hidden game-changing career opportunities everywhere / by Alaina G. Levine. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-118-66358-5 (pbk.) 1. Business networks. 2. Career development. I. Title. HD69.S8L475 2015 650.1′ 3–dc23 2014049388 Cover image: Photo by Pete Brown 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Dedication This book is dedicated to my mother, Susan Levine, who taught me to always look for, seek out and ask for opportunities, no matter the perceived obstacle, and whose love and confidence in my abilities has helped me achieve my wildest dreams; and to my brother Joshua Levine, whose support, love, and laughter has ensured I remain sane along our road together. “Alaina G. Levine is a Networking Ninja. I’ve learned a lot from her that has helped me get where I am today, and if you follow even half the advice in this book, you’ll be networking better than most scientists I’ve met. You’ll immediately see direct, tangible benefits for your career.” Dr. Kevin B. Marvel Executive Officer American Astronomical Society If you want a great job, if you want to forge new professional connections, you’ll need to network. Anxious about getting started? Don’t be. Once you’ve read Alaina G. Levine’s new guide, you’ll discover that networking is natural, effective – and even fun! Charles Day Online Editor Physics Today This wonderful book is for both those who are new to networking and those who are seasoned networkers. You will learn novel techniques to help you navigate and succeed in the professional world and open your eyes to new career directions. It provides a down-to-earth, common sense approach to networking and will ultimately help you achieve your career goals. I highly recommend Networking for Nerds! Michelle Horton, CMP Director of Administration and Meetings Ecological Society of America Alaina G. Levine has provided thousands of AGU’s student and early career members with invaluable advice during her webinars, workshops, and one-on-one consultations. With the release of Networking for Nerds, scientists around the world will have access to Alaina’s real-world experience and expertise in the comfort of their own homes and offices. Chris McEntee Executive Director/CEO American Geophysical Union Contents Foreword Introduction 1 The Importance of Networking and the Hidden Platter of OpportunitiesTM Eight Networking Myths Understanding the Hidden Career Market Breaking into the Hidden Job Market Chapter Takeaways Notes xi xiii 1 4 10 11 14 14 15 2 Understanding and Articulating Your Value Proposition Your Unique Problem-Solving Abilities: The Cornerstone of Your Value Brand, Attitude, and Reputation: The Networking Trifecta of Triumph Your Brand Statement/Elevator Pitch/30 Second (or Less) Commercial Chapter Takeaways Notes 33 42 43 3 Determining the Right Opportunities for Me The Concept and Pursuit of Bliss Your Personal SWOT Analysis Your Career Opportunities Chapter Takeaways Note 45 45 47 50 54 54 4 Establishing Your Brand and Reputation to Gain Access to the Hidden Platter of OpportunitiesTM Always Ask Questions Asking Questions of non-STEM Professionals Stupid Questions Seeking Mentors: The Importance of Mentor–Protégé Partnerships in Networking Being Professional Professional Etiquette in Networking 16 24 55 55 57 62 63 71 74 vii viii Contents 5 6 7 The Tale of the Ball O’ Butter Taking Advantage of Every Opportunity Failure is the Ultimate Opportunity Self-promotion – The Right Way Chapter Takeaways Notes 75 85 88 90 105 105 Developing Your Networking Strategy Identifying your Goals for Networking The Art and Science of the Thank You Note Following Up Organizing Your Network Continuing to Follow Up and Look for Opportunities to Exchange Value Over Time Chapter Takeaways 107 107 121 124 127 Identifying People for Your Networks Start With Who You Know Institutional Networking Diversity Groups Within Organizations and Companies Professional Societies Conferences Articles Regional Industrial Representatives: Regional Economic Development Organizations, Chambers of Commerce, Industry “Cluster” Associations Alumni Associations Regional Philanthropic Organizations “Young Professionals” Societies Religious and Political Affiliations Regional STEM-related Activities Spontaneous Networking – On an Airplane, Train, Taxi Other Places to Meet People Create Your Own Networking Opportunity! Chapter Takeaways Notes 129 129 130 132 133 139 149 153 161 164 165 166 166 168 170 171 171 172 Networking at an Event Pre-Event Strategies Attending the Event Conversation Starters Conversations Enders If the Person is a Jerk Following Up 173 173 176 178 181 182 184 127 128 Contents Chapter Takeaways Note ix 184 184 8 Social Media Networking Principal Pillars of Social Media Networking Preparation Building your LinkedIn Presence LinkedIn Groups Facebook Twitter Other Social Media Sites Launching a Blog Your Klout Score Chapter Takeaways Notes 185 187 189 191 197 201 203 206 207 209 209 210 9 The Networking Continuum 211 Index 219 Foreword Networking is the Essence of Research To many budding researchers the thought of networking brings about visions of unsavory representations in smoke-filled rooms – of prostituting one’s scientific ideals to get ahead in the world. My experience is that networking is instead the essence of scientific progress, and should be embraced as one of the reasons why we choose to do research as a career. The author and Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt, Copenhagen, 2014. Humanity is a small part of a small planet, which is only 1 of 100 billion planets in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, which itself is only 1 of 100s of billions of galaxies in the visible universe. Yet, through the scientific process, over the past 400 years we have managed to build a comprehensive understanding of the cosmos from the sub-atomic particles that make up normal matter, to the universe on its largest scales. We are insignificant, yet our knowledge is able to explain the vast scales of the universe from the first few moments after the Big Bang to its current state 13.8 billion years later. This knowledge has been gained by building on the toils of previous generations of scientists, working sometimes competitively, but always collectively, towards furthering knowledge. Networking is all about the connections that enable science to progress. While many of us might like to work on problems in isolation, ask yourself: “If I make a discovery and shout it out into an empty forest, and xi xii Foreword no one hears it, have I made a discovery at all?” You of course have, but humanity has not – it is only by sharing what you have learned that science benefits. Networking is not just about sharing what you have learned; it is also about contemplating what is possible. In 1994, while visiting Chile, I found myself in the office of Nick Suntzeff, a scientist who served as one of my scientific mentors during my thesis. We were discussing the prospects of measuring the ultimate fate of the universe, by using the work he and his colleagues had recently completed on supernovae and newly released technology in the form of large digital cameras. It was on that day we hatched the plan that turned into the High-Z SN Search, the discovery of an accelerating universe and, 17 years later, a Nobel Prize in Physics. Networking is an important part of the scientific process and, therefore, doing it well is an important part of being a successful scientist. The innate skills each of us has in networking vary widely, but as with other skills, most of us can improve with training. This book is all about the basic skills you need to learn to better communicate with your colleagues. While much of what you learn has the indirect benefit of improving your career prospects, the primary benefit of learning to network successfully is that it will make you a better scientist. And that is something everyone can be proud of. Brian Schmidt 2011 Nobel Laureate in Physics Introduction The book you are reading right now is a direct result of networking. In 2011, I was writing an article for Science Magazine about common mistakes to avoid in the postdoc appointment and was looking for sources to interview. I asked a colleague if she knew of anyone and she introduced me to Sarah Andrus, an editor at Wiley who was overseeing a program called Wiley Science Advisors. Sarah transmitted my request for potential interviewees to her international network of Advisors and within mere hours I had more sources that I even needed. I immediately recognized that there was synergy between our interests and projects (as did she), and we began a series of discussions in which we learned about each other’s goals and expertise and examined avenues for collaboration. This led to my giving a networking webinar as part of the Wiley Learning Institute in 2012, and another discussion with Sarah in August of that year which led to the birth of this book idea. If I analyze my career as a series of opportunities – opportunities that I have either found, been told of, asked for, been offered, or created myself – I can easily see a direct path that has led me to where I am today. And every opportunity was a direct result of networking. Networking has literally gotten me jobs, awards, opportunities to sit on boards and committees, speaking engagements, invitations to review grant applications, invitations to apply for grants and fellowships, and now this book. Networking has directly provided me with new knowledge about my various professions and suggestions for taking my career in novel directions. Networking has given me access to people, places, information, and inspiration that have transformed my career and my life in ways I couldn’t have even imagined. That’s how powerful networking is. In fact, if there is one message that I want to emphasize, amplify, and continuously shout from the rooftops via this book it is this: Networking is the key to career advancement. Even today, after 13 years of what I refer to as “hard core networking,” in which I have dedicated a focus to building and cultivating mutually-beneficial networks, I am still amazed at the riches networking has been able to bring me. Networking can continuously pay dividends, but most people, especially scientists and engineers, don’t realize that to reap the benefit of networking, they have to invest time and energy into it. Unlike business majors, who are taught to network from day one, nerds like myself, who studied science and engineering in college, don’t get schooled in the ins xiii xiv Introduction and outs of networking, and that it is an absolute necessity to progress in their careers. If we are lucky, we learn about networking by watching others in our profession do it, such as our advisors. But more often than not, scientists and engineers perceive that networking is not a core function of moving forward, and in fact it is often erroneously seen as a sideline activity that takes time away from their preconceived notion of the only avenue to get a job – to do good science or engineering, which is demonstrated in outputs like publishing, presenting at conferences, and teaching. Furthermore, many scientists and engineers believe that the act of networking is a smarmy enterprise, relegated to the purview of a used car salesman. Some of my fellow nerds incorrectly refer to networking as “schmoozing” and think that it entails bragging and other potentially sleazy actions that endeavor to get something from the other party and almost take advantage of them. But as I discuss in Chapter 1, networking is the exact opposite of this. Networking entails providing authentic and genuine information for and between both parties so that you both can contribute value to each other’s projects and interests. It is about building long-term, win-win collaborations, not desperately trying to dupe and fleece the other person. As nerds, we are far classier than that! And I want to be clear – I am a nerd. I have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, where I focused on extremely theoretical stuff – the formulae that describe donut holes and knot theory, for example. I also studied physics and a little astronomy and was President of the University of Arizona Society of Physics Students (a position I got, and a position I leveraged to get other opportunities, through networking). I enjoyed studying for math tests, watched marathons of Star Trek, hung out with other nerds making physics jokes, and spent summer Saturdays going to lectures at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory while I was growing up in nearby Princeton Junction, NJ. These nerdly tendencies have continued as I transitioned to adulthood. I play math puzzles for fun, incorporate Klingon vocabulary into my everyday speech, read (and write for) science and engineering magazines with a voracious appetite. My friends are all nerds. I proudly proclaim “I am a nerd!” So I have extremely great respect for other nerds, especially those who endeavor to improve their skill sets to ensure they can achieve their nerdly dreams, whether they are professional, scholarly, or even personal in nature. I wrote this book because nowhere in my mathematics education did I ever have a professor or advisor tell me how to network or that I should even be doing so. It was an extremely foreign concept. And yet, for me, when I actually began to network, many of the concepts described in this book felt intuitive to me. Additionally, I realized that I had observed others finding professional success and bliss through networking. I knew I had to share these ideas and inspiration with my fellow nerds. Introduction xv So this guide is designed to teach you why networking is essential, how you can utilize networking as a strategic tool in your career planning and job searching, and to dispel any negative myths about networking. You’ll gain tactics and strategies to build diverse networks, find people for your networks, and access new networks for new career opportunities. You will gain knowledge about how to organize and maintain you networks. You will learn how to network at an event and how to effectively use social media channels to expand your networks. And finally you will discover how to preserve the networking momentum you generate with other parties, no matter where life takes you. Remember: Networking is a gift that keeps on giving and follows you from job to job, organization to organization, and career to career. As you read this book, I hope you will also recognize how much power you have, as a nerd, as a scientist or engineer, and as someone who endeavors to connect with others. In many respects you are an entrepreneur – the CEO of your own company – “Me, Inc.” You are in charge of all aspects of advancing Me, Inc. – not the least of which involves being innovative and entrepreneurial in your networking activities. In fact, you will see that you can even create your own networking opportunities or “Networking Nodes,” which I define as any thing, person, place, conference, LinkedIn group, Twitter feed, and so on that draws like-minded individuals together and is thus perfect for networking. Think entrepreneurially, think innovatively about your networking and your career triumph will follow in parallel. But of course, no matter how much time and energy and focus you invest in networking, you must never lose sight of your outputs – your productivity in your field and profession must be sustained at high levels in order to remain and sustain success. Your stellar brand (promise of value) and your reputation, which serve as fuel for effective networking, must never be allowed to incur damage through non-productivity. I write more about this in Chapter 1, but it is an important notion to always keep in mind: You can’t expect to be successful in networking if you are not successful in your profession and job and vice versa. So this book is meant to give you specific steps to take to incorporate active and passive networking into your career plan and even day-to-day activities without sacrificing both the quality and quantity of your vocational outputs. The book is also crafted to give you, my nerdly brethren, many of whom are introverts, a boost of confidence in your networking abilities. You don’t have to be afraid to go up to someone and introduce yourself at a conference. You can walk into a reception and, not knowing anyone there, lay the foundation of a fruitful alliance. Networking is an achievable (and even fun!) enterprise which will only make your life all the more rich, and I will show you how to do this. And speaking of riches, I couldn’t have gotten this far in my career(s), or furthered my own networking goals, had it not been for some very xvi Introduction important people in my life, all of whom I met through networking. I wish to thank them with all my heart: Daniel L. Stein, who, as head of the University of Arizona Physics Department, was my first boss out of college when he hired me as his Director of Communications. He knew me as a student and as a leader in the Society of Physics Students, but he took a chance on me when he could have hired someone with experience and better qualifications. Somehow he knew I would provide value. His seemingly simple decision changed the course of my life for the better, and I am so grateful for the time I had under his leadership and for the mentorship, guidance, and friendship he has shown me throughout the years since. Even after he left the UA in the mid-2000s and became Dean of the College of Science at New York University, we stayed in touch. Both he and his wonderful wife, Bernadette, have been great sources of strength and direction for me for years. Alan Chodos, the former Associate Executive Officer of the American Physical Society (APS), whom I met more than 14 years ago, as a direct result of networking. In 2001, I attended an APS conference and since I had just transitioned from the job as the director of communications in the University of Arizona Physics Department, I asked an organizational representative if I could hang out in the press room at the meeting. I was gladly offered this chance, where I met the APS director of public relations. Four months later, this director emailed me and asked me if I was interested in his job, as he had just left for a new position at the National Academies. I said I was and started corresponding with the person who would have been my boss, Alan. In the end I declined the job. But I stayed in touch with Alan and worked on and off for him on short-term projects for years, before suggesting I write a column for him in 2007. Since then he served as my editor for Profiles in Versatility, a column in APS News, concerning physicists in non-traditional careers, until his retirement in 2014. Alan continues to be a fantastic mentor, guide, collaborator, and pal, and I am so appreciative of his support of my career. And if it hadn’t been for networking I may never have met him. Jerzy Rozenblit, a colleague, client, and friend with whom I first became associated thanks to a mutual colleague who introduced us. As Chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the UA, Jerzy was looking for someone to organize a gala fundraising event celebrating the 100tb anniversary of his department. A member of his staff knew me and knew my work and recommended he speak with me. This initiated a fruitful alliance and gave me the opportunity to work in a completely new realm of science communications. Most importantly, I got to know Jerzy and his team, and we both discovered how much we enjoy working together. Thank goodness for networking and reputation management activities! Introduction xvii Joaquin Ruiz, my second boss, the dean of the College of Science at the UA, who gave me great leadership and offered me amazing opportunities to grow and advance and learn. Working for Joaquin was like getting an MBA – I gained exceptional business skills, and he instilled in me a desire to push myself to always deliver the best. I certainly would not be as successful as I am today had it not been for him and his trust. And by the way, I got the job with Joaquin because he knew me by my reputation! Sarah Andrus, who helped me fine-tune my book idea for publication and whose friendship I cherish. Justin Jeffryes, my editor at Wiley, whose guidance, direction, and patience helped make this book a success. There are yottatons of other people who have helped me in myriad ways throughout the years, and whose assistance I have appreciated in the process of this book. These are the people who have opened doors, introduced me to colleagues, created ways for me to inject value in their organizations and designed new opportunities for me to advance in my career. To all of my friends, compatriots, and teammates who have been on this journey with me, I affirm my utmost gratitude to you. And to you, the reader, my nerdly ally, I thank you for trusting me with your networking and career advancement goals. Here’s to your professional success, personal bliss and all the profits that will bring you and your partners through effective networking. Enjoy your networking!
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