Have you ever seen the movie, Yes Man, starring Jim Carey?
It’s about a guy who vows to say, “yes,” to everything for a year to help himself get out of a negative slump. In the movie, he takes this concept a little too far (it’s quite comical – go see it!), but the point resonates with us at CNSPY regarding networking opportunities. If you’re in a career search slump, start saying, “yes,” to everything.
Opportunities don’t just rain down from the sky and fall into your lap – you have to actively seek them out. And at its core… networking is a numbers game.
Let’s say about 10% of your encounters lead to something useful in your career search… Well, if you attend one event per month and only talk to 1-2 people, it will take almost ten months until you find a promising lead worth pursuing. On the other hand, if you attend one event per week and talk to 4-5 people at each one, you not only increase the chances of finding a useful connection but you also decrease the amount of time it takes to find that lead, bringing your average to one useful connection every few weeks.
In this fast-paced world we live in, most people would agree that the latter situation is the better of the two options, so how do we make that happen?
Start saying, “yes,” to everything. Period.
“Hey, do you want to grab a quick drink after work?” – YES!
“Why don’t we meet up for lunch on Thursday?” – SURE!
“Are you going to the seminar with the guest speaker from XYZ company?” – YES!
“Do you want to go to the happy hour mixer tonight?” – YES!
“Should we go to the department retreat, the XYZ Conference, the industry meet-and-greet?” – YES, YES, YES!
You get the idea…
The more events you attend, the more opportunities you have to meet people and the more likely it is that something great will pan out for you.
You should even agree to attend or participate in activities that don’t appeal to you because you never know who might be there and what a conversation with that person might lead to.
For example, go to a conference that is outside your specialty (or a conference that has nothing to do with academic research at all). At first this might seem like a waste of your time, but you could very well meet someone there who knows someone in another specialized area that you happen to be interested in. They put you in touch, you send an email, your new connection informs you about an internship, you apply, matriculate in the program, and then meet someone else through the program who ultimately gives you a job. That’s a great result from attending a meeting you initially didn’t want to go to or waste your time with – and let it be known that this series of events is, in fact, a true story…
So, if you feel like you’re not moving towards your career goals, don’t blame the universe for your “bad luck.” Odds are, it’s not “bad luck” that’s afflicting you. It’s more likely that you aren’t doing enough to help yourself and you’re not maximizing your chances of getting “lucky.”
“Luck” itself is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to networking. It’s not that some people are just luckier than others – they simply put themselves in a position (multiple positions) to not only find opportunities, but also capitalize on any opportunity they may stumble upon.
Again, it’s a numbers game… If networking is only useful 10% of the time, only 1 out of 10 encounters will work out in your favor. That means you have ONE opportunity to cling to. However, 10% also means that 10 out of 100 encounters will work out for you. That gives you 10 different opportunities to choose from. Personally, when it comes to a job search, I would rather have a few options instead of being forced to put all my eggs in one basket.
So, learn to say, “Yes.”
This can be hard for many reasons:
- “I’m too tired to go.” We get it… After a long day in the lab, you’d rather go to bed than attend a cocktail reception. We’ve all been there, but one hour may be all you need to find your big break. Muster up the strength to go for at least one hour, THEN bail and hit the hay.
- “I have to write this really competitive paper… like right NOW!” No, you don’t. Yes, it’s competitive, but again, one hour won’t ruin it for you. Take a moment to network, and then dive back into the workload.
- Speaking of workloads… “I can’t go, I have too much work.” In academia, the work never stops. It’s never done, and it never will be – it’s perpetual. If you put off networking until you’re done, you’ll never network, and then you’ll be stuck with nowhere to go. Take a break, go to the seminar meet-and-greet or the alumni mixer, and make it a point to meet at least one person before retreating back to that never-ending pile of work.
- “I have to get home to my kids/spouse.” Alright, we can’t argue with this one, but learn to use your time wisely. Lunch… who are you spending it with? Ever read the book, Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi? If you can’t stay after work, use the daytime lunch hours and coffee breaks to get your networking done. Then get home and tend to your family’s needs.
Any excuse you can come up with, there’s probably a very easy solution or a minor compromise (i.e. one hour of your time, lunch, etc.) that will address your concerns. You can either make excuses, or make it happen – it’s your choice.
One excuse that truly has no place here at Yale is, “I can’t find any events to attend.”
This is exactly what the CNSPY is here for! We are constantly working to provide a plethora of networking opportunities for science students and postdocs to attend.
For example, here are a few of our ongoing activities:
- Networking in Nature – If you’re tired of the standard cocktail receptions, this is a unique way to network and even get a little exercise while hiking the trails of CT state parks with leaders in careers outside of academia.
- Small Group Discussions – About once a month, we bring in a professional from an alternative career track to speak to students and postdocs at an informal round-table discussion, spurring casual conversation, questions, and advice.
- CNSPY Mixers – Quarterly, we host a mixer to bring together former, current, and prospective CNSPY members and a number of Yale Alumni to provide a comfortable setting conducive to networking.
Also, we have our Annual CNSPY Networking Event coming up soon as well, for which we’re bringing in 13+ professionals in a wide variety of careers (and the list is still growing as we speak!) to interact with students and postdocs over dinner and drinks. Last year, 80+ attendees benefitted immensely from this event, and this year it promises to be even better.
Here’s the official blurb for the event:
“Exploring your career options as a PhD? The Career Network for student Scientists and Post-docs at Yale (CNSPY) is bringing you its third Annual Networking Event.
Come interact with career mentors from various fields including Medical Writing, Pharma, Biotech, Science Policy, Consulting, and Academia, and get a chance to meet the CNSPY leadership team. You’ll also learn about ongoing and upcoming initiatives from the CNSPY and our sponsor, the Center for Scientific Teaching.
All Yale graduate students and postdocs are welcome. This event is co-sponsored by the Yale Center for Scientific Teaching, Graduate and Professional Student Senate, Asian Network at Yale, and the Graduate Student Life @ McDougal Center. This is an event not to be missed! Dinner will be provided.”
When: Friday, October 24th 2014 at 6pm
Where: Cohen Auditorium (230 South Frontage Road)
Dress code: Business/Casual
RSVP by Monday October 20th 2014 at http://cnspy.commons.yale.edu/events/cnspy-annual-networking-event/
Direct inquires to email@example.com
So… with all these activities going on right here on campus, there’s no reason you can’t start being more proactive about your networking prospects and maximizing the chances that you stumble upon a great opportunity.
Start saying, “yes,” to more, if not ALL, events that are available to you.
When the next CNSPY Weekly Digest comes out, sign up to attend events, volunteer to get involved (which is also a great way to meet people!), and explore links to other opportunities. The same goes for the Postdoctoral Affairs Weekly Announcements and other emails detailing numerous opportunities for you to take advantage of.
Do you want to join the next Networking in Nature trip on November 8th with Maximilian Vargas, Director of Commercial Strategy and Market Access at LambdaVision LLC? “YES!”
Do you want to attend the next Small Group Discussion (details coming soon), followed by dinner with the guest? “YES!”
Are you going to sign up for the Annual CNSPY Networking Event to meet professionals in a Medical Writing, Pharma, Industry, Biotech, Science Policy, Consulting, and more?
GREAT!!! We’ll see you there! 🙂
** Take the “Yes!” challenge and tell us how it goes! **
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