Many scientists cringe at the suggestion of having to network. Some are uncomfortable with the idea of networking because they feel that they have to be fake or sleazy. Networking can certainly induce anxiety among introverts and extroverts alike because they must engage complete strangers in forced conversations.
At a recent workshop at the NIH, Joe Tringali, a recruiter for the life sciences, tried to convince an auditorium full of postdoctoral scientists that networking can be valuable.
He gave the following reasons:
1.Collaborations: Through networking, we may meet people with similar interests and develop successful collaborations, which are very important in our scientific careers.
2.Scientific discussion and new insights: While browsing journal articles may keep us updated in the field, a conversation with other scientists will certainly provide the insider’s view of work in progress and inspire new ideas for our own projects.
3.Access to reagents and resources: Scientists may learn about new technology through networking or find a collaborator willing to share a valuable mouse or antibody.
4.Share students: To enhance the repertoire of techniques in our laboratories, we may send a student to a collaborator’s laboratory to learn a new set of skills. Students can also work on projects jointly supported by multiple laboratories or research groups, giving them more exposure to team science.
5.Papers: More networking may lead to more collaborations, which may result in more papers. And that is always a good thing, right?
6.Opportunities to review manuscripts, attend and present at seminars, and participate in study sections: Because of networking with other scientists in the field, they will become aware of our expertise, and we may receive invitations to take advantage of opportunities that look great for our CVs.
7.Enduring friendships: There are scientists who look forward to a particular annual scientific meeting because they will be reunited with people with whom networking was the instigator of a mutually beneficial relationship and friendship.
8.Insight on job openings, the job market, and various career paths: This is what networking is sometimes best known for, but it’s only one of the many reasons to network.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Government.
Wenny Lin, PhD, MPH, is a fellow in the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at the National Cancer Institute. Prior to joining the Nutritional Epidemiology Branch in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Wenny earned her MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2009 and her PhD in Cell & Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008.