This week’s blog post comes to us from guest blogger, Laurel Lorenz, a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale Stem Cell Center. In her post, Laurel shares with us how she unintentionally had the greatest networking experience she’s ever encountered and highlights that “networking” doesn’t have to mean going to big events. It could be as simple as coffee with a friend. Here’s Laurel…

 

Let’s get this straight. Until recently, I dreaded networking, but I loved connecting with people. Even though I have heard experienced networkers vow that networking is all about connecting with people, I had always considered networking and connecting to be worlds apart.

You see, for me, the word networking conjures images of awkward and forced conversations in order to capture the attention of professionals at a formal networking event (business cards in hand, of course). If you haven’t totally memorized the CNSPY tips for networking, these formal events can feel like a feeding frenzy for attention.

But as I accidently learned, networking doesn’t have to be awkward, forced, or uncomfortable, and it doesn’t only happen at networking events.

When I recently met with my friend Dianna over coffee, I simply wanted to reconnect. I had no idea that our chatting would turn into my best networking and career development experience so far!

In the month after meeting with Dianna, I connected with nearly 30 people and have added three new lines to my CV: 1) writer for the CNSPY blog, 2) volunteer science fair judge, and 3) member of Toastmasters International.

As I reflect on how connecting with Dianna turned into a great networking event, I noticed 5 key components that turned our coffee chat into successful networking.

1. Identify a goal.

By having a goal in mind, you will increase your networking success because you will have an enjoyable and meaningful topic to discuss.

For me, my goal was to become a better speaker and writer.

Maybe your goal is to learn how the newest PI in your department got their job, how a new technique works, or how your colleague moved from academia to industry. Regardless of what it is, have a goal and work towards it.

2. Identify a friend or colleague that can help you reach your goal.

I met my friend Dianna, Director of Scientific Communications at Yale, in Angie Hofmann’s scientific writing course. Since I wanted to become a better communicator, I immediately knew that Dianna would have relevant advice.

3. Invite your friend to coffee.

I reconnected with Dianna over email and asked whether she would be interested in talking about science communication over coffee. Obviously the coffee shop isn’t the only place to connect with someone, but the idea is to find a convenient and relaxing place to meet.

4. Ask the person for concrete advice for achieving your goal.

To actively extend your chatting session into successful networking, ask your friend for names of people and groups to connect with in order to achieve your goal.

Dianna was aware of so many great people and organizations. This became one of the reasons that coffee with her was such a great networking experience. Dianna connected me with our favorite CNSPY blogger – Vickie – and introduced me to several opportunities, including the AAAS public policy internship, the Yale New Haven Science Fair, and a CNSPY Small Group Discussion.

5. Expand your network by acting on your friend’s advice.

The next step to expanding your network is to take action!

For me, this step amounted to writing a guest post for the CNSPY blog, volunteering at the New Haven Science Fair, and participating in CNSPY-sponsored Small Group Discussions. These opportunities inspired me to take further action, so I reconnected with three of my graduate school advisors and joined the Greater New Haven Toastmasters Club (where I have met twenty more friends – and potential networking partners).

 

By accidentally networking, I learned that networking can be fun and that each connection has the potential to exponentially increase your network. So, on your next coffee or tea break, I encourage you to answer two questions: 1) Who will you connect with? and 2) How will you expand your network?

 

** Invite a friend or colleague to join you for coffee and let us know what opportunities it leads you to! **

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