Career Network for student Scientists and Postdocs at Yale

Creating a platform for discussion of scientific careers

Author: Victoria Schulman (page 1 of 7)

Leave Them Wanting More

To the CNSPY Community,

This is a bittersweet moment, as I announce that this will be my last post here on the CNSPY Blog. I created the blog two years ago to offer advice and insight to others looking to improve their networking skills and expand their professional networks. I hope that it has been helpful to you in your journeys to find your next career steps, and as this post discusses, I hope that I have succeeded in “Leaving you wanting more!” It has been an absolute pleasure serving you, and I am happy to pass on the reigns to the new Director of Communications and CNSPY Blogger, Lydia Hoffstaetter, who will be bringing you further insights and advice going forward.            

~Victoria Schulman


Have you ever found yourself in a conversation that seemed to die off, leaving everyone awkwardly staring at one another trying to figure out what to do or say next? With long awkward pauses, everyone desperately looks for a way out that won’t be viewed as impolite. These situations are networking nightmares because all the other person wants to do is get away from you (quickly!), which is the exact opposite of what you want to accomplish at the networking event.

If someone is desperately trying to get away from you at a networking event, they probably won’t want to talk to you via email afterwards either. In fact, they’re probably hoping that they can just get away from you and never have to worry about interacting with you again because the initial meeting was so uncomfortable.

This is clearly the opposite of what you want to accomplish at a networking event.

In contrast, we want the other person to leave wanting more. We want them to wish they had more time to talk to us so that they could learn more about us and/or our work. If they feel as though they didn’t quite get a chance to finish the conversation or ask all of their questions, they will be more inclined to engage in email correspondence with us later.

So we need to leave them always wanting more. How do we do that?

One way to accomplish this task is to only briefly mention certain topics in your discussion. Of course, be sure to give enough detail to explain your points and/or projects to get them interested, but there’s no need to divulge ALL the details.

For example, if someone is interested in learning about a technique you’re using, give enough detail to explain the premise and the concept of the protocol, but leave out the nitty gritty details and offer to send them your typed up protocol later. This keeps them interested for the time being and encourages them to seek you out for further information later.

Similarly, if you’ve taken on an extracurricular project – let’s say you’ve started a blog – you can, and should, voluntarily mention this side project in your conversation, directing people to the blog’s website if they want to read more. By giving them a brief description of the point of your blog – maybe it’s a blog about emerging trends in biotechnology within the context of financial gain – you give them enough information to get interested in looking it up without spilling all the details. Then later, after they look at the blog, and assuming they liked what they saw, they will more than likely contact you. (Alternatively, after the conversation at the networking event, you can reach out to them to provide them with a direct link, making it easier for them to find and view your content.)

After these strategically planned conversations, you’re sure to receive follow-up emails from those individuals later wherein you can continue your conversation and potentially shift the dialogue, turning this new connection into a potential job lead for you – because, as we’ve pointed out before, if you give value to someone first, they are more willing to help you in return.

Another way to leave them wanting more is to merely end the conversation somewhat prematurely. Not abruptly, but prematurely – there is a difference.

If you can’t find a way to steer the conversation towards something that allows you to leave out a few crucial details that the other person wants or needs, you can always leave a little be desired by not overstaying your welcome.

Let’s say you’ve introduced yourself and briefly spoken about your work, background, and goals going forward, as has the person with whom you’re speaking. After a few additional minutes, you can sense that the conversation might be heading towards one of those awkward pauses where neither party knows what to do and the desperate need to get away quickly starts to creep up. If this happens, you need to abort the conversation – fast!

You can do this by politely excusing yourself. For example, say, “Well, it was a pleasure meeting you, but if you’ll excuse me, I need to use the ladies room. I’ll definitely be in touch with you later though about that XYZ program though!”

This is a perfectly acceptable reason to leave a conversation, and it doesn’t leave the other person thinking ill of you – who can argue with basic biological needs? You’ve provided a natural ending to the conversation, giving permission to all involved to go off and strike up new conversations with no hard feelings in either direction.

Importantly though, when you give excuses like this, you need to do so confidently. Don’t sound apologetic in your comment – this just perpetuates the awkwardness. Instead, just state quite matter-of-factly with a smile on your face that it was indeed nice to meet them but you must be moving along, however, you’ll be in touch later to follow-up on XYZ that they mentioned.

It is much better to abandon a conversation that isn’t going well than to hang around and overstay your welcome, which invites long awkward pauses into the mix, leaving everyone desperately trying to find ways to leave the conversation. If, instead, you proactively and confidently end the conversation a little short of what you were hoping for, this avoids those awkward moments and gives you a second chance to continue the conversation later over email, where the dialogue is hopefully less difficult to carry on.

These types of techniques can be employed in a number of different scenarios, too. For example, if you are giving a seminar, leave out a few details and invite interested parties to come find you afterwards. Alternatively, if you are trying to encourage participation in a program or event you’re hosting, provide enough information up front to garner interest, but leave out the details about the highlights or featured presentation to entice would-be participants to attend your function.

There are many situations in which leaving a little to be desired is a beneficial tactic. Thus, we should use this strategy more in our professional lives because if you leave people wanting more from you, you will never be short on networking connections and career opportunities. So don’t play all your cards at once and don’t overstay your welcome. Hold a little bit back to encourage further conversation later.


** Leave them wanting more at the next event you attend and let us know how it goes! **

Share your thoughts below by clicking the “Leave a Reply” link or by clicking the chat bubble in the top right of the post.

Common Cover Letter Phrases to Avoid

So, you’ve written your cover letter… you’ve customized it for the company and position you’re seeking, you’ve opened and closed strongly, and you’ve stated your case. You’re ready to submit your application, but before you do, go back through your cover letter one more time and eliminate these commonly used phrases because they can kill even the strongest of cover letters.


1) “I think I’d be a great fit.”

Opinion phrases can inadvertently cast doubt on what you’re saying. You “think” you’d be a great fit? Why don’t you know you’d be a great fit? Would other people disagree with you and think you wouldn’t be great fit? Why do you only think you’d be a good fit? You don’t want to leave these thoughts in the hiring manager’s mind.

These types of opinion phrases can make you sound insecure. Sure, you may have simply been trying to avoid sounding too cocky, but instead, you’ve undermined your own abilities. Don’t use opinion phrases. Period. And keep in mind that sentences such as “I’m confident I’d be a good fit” are also opinion phrases that can cause similar problems.

Instead, drop the opinion part of the sentence and just state your position because if you’re saying it, it’s obviously your opinion. You don’t need to clarify that it’s your opinion. Moreover, simply stating, “I’d be a great fit,” is far more convincing than the same message with “I think” or “I’m confident” in front of it. It’s also shorter and gets right to the point.


2) “Good”

Cover letters often highlight our best qualities, but if everything is just “good” – i.e., “I’m a good writer,” “I have good project management skills,” “I’m good at working with other people” – we actually sound rather average.

There are so many more exciting adjectives that we could use that will really make us sound spectacular. For example: “I’m an accomplished writer,” “I have expert project management skills,” and “I’m efficient and experienced at working with other people.” These small word choice changes make these phrases take on a whole different connotation. Clearly the person being described in this paragraph is much more qualified than the one described in the first paragraph.

Here’s a list of many other words that you can substitute for the word “good” that will help you shine throughout your cover letter:

Skilled, talented, experience, accomplished, expert, successful, apt, seasoned, thorough, capable, competent, efficient, etc.

Use any one of these (and more) words to replace “good” and see how quickly your cover letter improves.


3) “This position would help me because…”

Sometimes we may feel inclined to describe how a position fits well with us and our goals in efforts to explain why we’re applying for the job. Thus, it may seem fitting to describe how a certain job would help you further develop your leadership skills, for example. However, the hiring manager truly does not care how this job can help you. He is primarily concerned with how you will help him and the company. That’s it.

So instead of trying to use these types of arguments to explain why you’re applying for the job, use a different tactic. Simply describe your abilities in the context of the company’s needs and then detail how, together, you two can achieve the company’s desired results and goals. You can fix their problems and address their needs – THAT is why you are applying for the job.


4) “As you can see on my resume…”

If the hiring manager can see it on your resume, you don’t need to highlight its presence there. They can see it for themselves.

Similar to point #1, this is a phrase that could indicate some insecurity on your part. If you have the experience, it should be blatantly obvious on your resume; thus, you shouldn’t have to point it out.

So instead of saying, “As you can see on my resume, I’ve been working in medical communications for the last three years; thus, I will be an asset to the marketing department of XYZ pharmaceutical company,” drop the first part, and just say, “I’ve been working in medical communications for the last three years; thus, I will be an asset to the marketing department of XYZ pharmaceutical company.” This is a more direct statement that is not only stronger, but also projects unwavering confidence.


5) “I’m the best candidate because…”

Speaking of confidence… confidence in a cover letter is great, but there is a fine line between confident and cocky. If you are overly confident, you will merely appear arrogant.

You may believe you are the “best” candidate, but without reading ALL of the applications yourself, you really can’t be completely sure that you are indeed THE best candidate for the position. And imagine if you were the hiring manager and you read 10 cover letters in a row, all of which stated that they were either “the best candidate,” “the ideal candidate,” or “the perfect candidate.” That would get pretty annoying rather quickly and you’d probably dismiss all of them.

Instead, remain confident without crossing the line into arrogance and cockiness by using any of these words:

Excellent, great, terrific, strong, outstanding, unique, etc.

Conveying the idea that you would be “a strong candidate” for the position is much more accurate, demonstrates your confidence, and doesn’t overstate your abilities.


Eliminating these five common phrases from your cover letter will instantly make your letter sound stronger, and, in turn, your letter will be much more effective.

Your cover letter is your first opportunity to impress the hiring manager. Don’t unintentionally doubt your own abilities, make yourself sound average, or frustrate the hiring manager in the process. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and with cover letters, that first impression comes across in your word choice, so make sure you choose words and phrases that make you shine!


** Review your cover letter(s) for these mistakes, correct them, and let us know how it goes! **

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Your Resting Face Affects Your Image

Think about the last time you gave a presentation. When you looked out at the audience, what did you see? In most cases, you probably saw a lot of seemingly unhappy faces, which can be very unsettling to you as the speaker.

However, it’s highly likely that those scowls and furrowed brows are not portraying anger; those people are just deep in thought about what you’re saying. And those frowns are not necessarily unhappy or upset people; they might simply be in awe or surprised by something you’ve said and they’re trying to make sense of this new found knowledge in the context of their own work (perhaps it even overturns their hypotheses and they are mentally scrambling to make sense of it for their own project’s sake). Finally, those blanks stares don’t always imply boredom or confusion; those people are probably following along just perfectly and understanding everything you’re saying.

The point is that these negative facial expressions are not always associated with negative thoughts. However, from your perspective, given the lack of positive facial expressions in the audience, you might feel as though you are not being received well at all. But maybe these individuals simply have a less-than-happy-looking resting face. That’s not your fault, and it has nothing to do with you. In fact, you and your presentation might be knocking it out of the park! However, the fact remains that wouldn’t be able to know that based on the body language feedback you’re receiving.

Now, turn the tables.

Have you ever thought about what your resting face and your facial expressions convey about you? If you are genuinely interested in a topic, does it show? Or do you appear as though you are angry or bored?

In a large setting, such as a seminar or lecture, it is less of an issue if you seem angry or bored from outward appearances because you are one person in a massive sea of faces. The odds of the speaker taking YOUR facial expressions personally are very small.

However, in a small setting, for example a one-on-one conversation at a networking event, unpleasant resting faces can leave your potential network connection with a sour opinion of you, which is obviously not good.

How do we fix this? We ensure that our resting face conveys positive energy by taking notes and adopting strategies from an unlikely source… news anchors and talk-show hosts.

Have you ever noticed how news anchors and talk-show hosts always look thrilled to meet their guests on set and interview them? But they do so without being overly obnoxious and enthusiastic? It’s not like they have giant ear-to-ear smiles plastered on their faces and are exploding with energy. What they exude is a more contained positive energy that makes the guest feel welcome.

Considering that they are merely the host of the show, they probably aren’t as thrilled as they seem to be to meet every single person who comes on the show. By nature, they have to entertain a variety of personalities to cater to the broader viewer audience, so it’s unlikely that they are actually as thrilled as they seem to be to meet everyone they host on the show. Yet, as a viewer, you wouldn’t have a clue that they weren’t actually interested in a particular guest. What is it they makes us believe otherwise?

Connie Dieken, a successful news show host who has branched out and created her own speaking engagement brand, shares her trademarked move that she claims has led to all of her successes both on and off the screen.

The Magic Move, as she has coined it, is simple. She instructs her mentees to put their index fingers at the corners of their lips and lift up slightly. Then she tells them to move their fingers away but to maintain this lip stance using only the muscles in your face. The result is a tiny hint of smile.

Additionally, because these little muscles, known as the levator labii muscles, connect the corners of your mouth to your eyes, activating these muscles simultaneously makes your eyes look more attentive and engaged – they “sparkle” as Connie puts it.

Obviously, the tiniest of smiles and a hint of an attentive sparkle in your eyes will be received much more positively than an inadvertent frown and a blank stare.

This is the ideal resting face you should strive for, especially in one-on-one networking conversations. Keep in mind that everyone loves themselves, and they love talking about themselves and having other people be interested in what they’re saying. If you look bored or uninterested in what they are saying, they will lose interest in you. So make sure your facial expressions convey a sense of excitement and genuine interest when you’re speaking with potential network connections.

Although it may seem like a bit of work to adjust your resting face, it is definitely worth it, and it really doesn’t require that much effort at all. Unfortunately, despite your true thoughts and feelings, your facial expressions can, and often do, convey a completely different message. And you don’t want to send the wrong message to someone you’re meeting for the first time because you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

So take heed to Connie’s advice and adjust your resting face because it most certainly affects your image. To see her “Magic Move” in action for yourself, pay attention to the host on the next talk-show you watch and look for this technique. Notice how the host either does or doesn’t have a slight smile while listening to their guests, and take note of how they come across given their facial expressions.

After seeing firsthand how this can drastically change your view of the talk-show host, realize that the same habits will either negatively or positively affect your image as well. Then, to ensure that you always give off positive vibes, try her technique in the mirror and see the difference for yourself. Finally, apply this technique to your next networking event and see how it influences other people’s interactions with you. I’ll bet they’ll improve and lead to some great opportunities for you!


** Adjust your resting face to project a positive image and let us know how it goes! **

Share your thoughts below by clicking the “Leave a Reply” link or by clicking the chat bubble in the top right of the post.

LinkedIn: The Basics – Part 3

This week we’re closing out our Summer Spotlight Series with Post #4 from guest blogger, Tenaya Vallery, CNSPY Executive Board Member and former CNSPY President. Here, she takes what she’s shared in her previous posts to a new level to help you start connecting on LinkedIn. Here’s Tenaya…


In a series of four posts, we are delving into LinkedIn and discussing its advantages for science PhDs. In my two last posts, I focused on the LinkedIn profile. Now it’s time to connect! In this post, I will discuss creating and strengthening your LinkedIn network. Along the way, I will share examples and tips.


Your LinkedIn Network



There are two schools of thought on LinkedIn networks:

  • Open to All – connect to as many people as possible, even if you don’t know them
  • A Close One – connect only to people you know and whose emails you would answer.

Personally, I prefer the latter option and dabble with the former.

Ninety-five percent of my network consists of people that I actually know. If I saw their name in my inbox or in my LinkedIn mail, I would open their message and vice versa. My reason is that if another connection asked me to introduce them to one of my other connections, then I want to be able to say, “yes, I could introduce you to that person,” rather than, “sorry friend, I don’t really know that person.”

The counter argument is that you never know. A random connection might lead to a job opportunity. Plus having a large network (500+) on LinkedIn marks you as a LinkedIn Pro. Lastly, you can always develop that initial connection into a deeper one at a later time. Recruiters, for example, tend to follow the ‘open to all’ option, but that comes with their job description.

The type of network you have is a personal choice and you will need to see which one fits your style. Regardless, I will share my strategies for turning a cold contact into a true connection.


Cold LinkedIn Invites 

Cold networking is very difficult. Vickie, the CNSPY blogger, wrote a post on this subject. The take-home message is the same for LinkedIn.

Personalize your LinkedIn invite!

You have a 300-character limit. I restrict my message to reminding them when we met and suggesting a specific collaboration for the future, such as hosting them at Yale for a CNSPY event. Alternatively, I ask them a question about something they said. The idea is to get to know the other person and so that they remember you. You want an honest exchange of information and/or resources, a give and take.

Practicing Cold Emails. CNSPY is a great platform to practice cold networking. Other executive board members and I help new members draft their cold emails and coach them on how to approach face-to-face interactions. I myself had the same help from Thihan, one of CNSPY’s founders, when I first started, and we continue this tradition today. Moreover, there are many other organizations on campus that will offer the same opportunity for skill development and provide a platform of giving. But if you are interested in CNSPY, apply to be a project manager. We are always looking to diversify our leadership team.


Receiving a Cold LinkedIn Invite

Every now and then, I receive a LinkedIn invite from someone I do not recognize. After a while of feeling awkward and not knowing what to do, I developed a strategy and have had some fulfilling experiences as a result.

Is this person someone you want to connect with? First, I look at their LinkedIn profile to assess if s/he is a troll or a real person. I familiarize myself with their basic information and jot down particular experiences that I would like to learn more about. Then I respond to their cold invite with:


This approach opens up an opportunity for a cold contact to become a true connection. For me, this strategy works one out of five times. Cold networking is difficult, but it can be incredibly rewarding.


My Success Story with Cold Networking via LinkedIn

In Fall 2015, I received a cold LinkedIn invite. I followed my strategy by first looking at her profile. She was a founder of a company that connects academic scientists with programmers. The academic scientists receive assistance on program development to answer unique academic questions, while the programmers are challenged to develop new algorithms and gain experience on different problems. Her idea was not only innovative but also useful for the Yale community.

Being proactive, I responded using my above strategy. We exchanged a few emails and had a phone call to discuss her Ph.D. experience, her career after graduate school, and her company. From our conversations, I knew that other Yale science trainees would benefit from her insights and experiences.

So I invited her to CNSPY’s Annual Networking Event (ANE). She said yes and then offered to lead a seminar on networking strategies, Networking 101, before the ANE, to help our members.

Cold LinkedIn networking can lead to great opportunities for not only a deeper connection for you, but for others, too. You should be open to cold networking and to strengthening cold contacts into deeper connections.


LinkedIn InMail

This tip comes from Vickie, the CNSPY blogger. 

LinkedIn recently changed its mailing feature. A few years ago, you could send a message to anyone. But now, you must buy into their Premium service to send a message to anyone who is not a first-degree connection.

With a free account, you can only send messages to your first-degree connections and 300-character invites to everyone else.

To counter this limitation, people have been providing their email and contact information directly on their website/profile.

Here is Vickie, explaining this issue more:

“If you aren’t already friends with someone (or linked with someone), you can’t send them a message or use the InMail service. Recruiters (or anyone for that matter) have to pay for a premium LinkedIn account in order to send InMail to someone they don’t already know. So sometimes, recruiters will go for the low-hanging fruit – someone who willingly gives away their contact info on their profile, even if that person may not be the best candidate in order to save their company some money.”

In essence, LinkedIn is moving toward more buy-in options to market their Premium service. One way to circumvent the inability to send messages through LinkedIn and their character limits is to provide your email address directly on your profile, for example, at the end of your summary section.


Strengthening and Staying Current with Your Network

LinkedIn is a great platform for strengthening and staying current with your network. It offers a few services to help you do this:

  • Notifications on profile changes in your news feed.
  • Daily suggestions on how to stay connected with your network such as, “Jon Doe has a new job. Do you want to say congrats?” These suggestions appear in the right column of your home page.
  • Returning endorsements. When someone endorses you, LinkedIn automatically prompts you to do the same for others in your network.
  • Emails about what’s going on in your network.
  • Suggestions of people you may know.

These features and more are incredibly helpful ways to stay up-to-date with your network and to strengthen it.


In closing, LinkedIn is a dynamic resource for networking and maintaining a healthy, strong network. I wish you the best with your LinkedIn experience and hope that my tips and insights have helped you in some way! Please send me an email or link with me on LinkedIn to let me know specifically. I welcome all feedback.


Summer Spotlight Series:

  • LinkedIn vs. Research Gate
  • Basics Part I: Editing, profile picture, and professional headline
  • Basics Part II: Experience section – media, recommendations, endorsements, and publications
  • Basics Part III: Invites and InMail


** Once you have updated and maximized your profile, start connecting using the tips discussed above and let us know how it goes! **

Share your thoughts below by clicking the “Leave a Reply” link or by clicking the chat bubble in the top right of the post.

LinkedIn: The Basics – Part 2

This week we’re highlighting Post #3 of the 2016 CNSPY Summer Spotlight Series. Here, guest blogger, Tenaya Vallery, CNSPY Executive Board Member and former CNSPY President, expands on her previous posts on how to improve your LinkedIn profile. In this post, she specifically discusses the Experience section and how to make your profile stand out. Here’s Tenaya…


LinkedIn! In a series of four posts, we are delving into LinkedIn and discussing its advantages for science PhDs. In my last post, I discussed the profile picture and the professional headline. In this post, I will address the meat of your LinkedIn profile, the experience section and skills & endorsements. Along the way, I will share examples and tips. Here we go!

Reminder: Turn off the notifications when you edit these sections. Learn more here.


Entries of Experiences

The first version of my LinkedIn profile consisted of information copied and pasted from my CV. This is a good first step. With each iteration of my LinkedIn profile, I find better strategies to convey information and will share those throughout this post. But the CV strategy is a good start. To make an entry, each experience must be added individually.

  1. At the top of the experience section, you will see a ‘+ position’ Click on this.
  1. Provide the job title, place of work, and time period. If possible, select the place of work as a group already on LinkedIn. You may have to fiddle with the name for the search option to pop up, like ‘Yale University School of Medicine’ instead of ‘Yale School of Medicine.’ By choosing their LinkedIn group/company, their logo now appears on your experience entry, e.g. Yale University. Pictures and logos can convey information faster than the written word. But your viewers may not recognize the logo, so include both the logo and the name of the company in your experience entries.
  1. Provide a description. List your key responsibilities and successes for each experience. I recommend using bullet points for ease of reading. You may also want to include numbers and statistics.
  • “As a TA, I designed learning outcomes and prepared materials for discussion section. I held review sessions, co-wrote three exams, and graded and evaluated ~20 students.”
  • “During my presidency, CNSPY organized 20 events, and developed a blog and podcast. I also personally raised over $2,500 for CNSPY events.”

For research and teaching experiences, I also provide a sentence or two on the research topics and a brief course synopsis. You should consider including conference information related to a particular research project.

  • Researched very long abortive transcripts (VLATs) from coli RNA polymerase on a T5 N25 promoter variant with in vitro roadblock transcription.
  • Presented a poster at the 2010 American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Anaheim, CA (Poster 679.7)

Experiences to include:

  • Research experiences – summer internships, graduate work, undergraduate work, rotations. More on rotations – if the rotation led to a publication or a poster at a conference, then I would include it. You made a worthwhile contribution, and you should showcase it.
  • Workshops or presentations you’ve given on a topic – this will demonstrate your expertise.
  • TA-ing, tutoring, or teaching positions – this will reveal your life-long dedication to teaching if you are going for a teaching position.
  • Leadership experiences – this is important for consulting and team-leading opportunities.
  • Teamwork experiences – this is relevant for those going outside academia.

Remember: You need to review the wording to ensure clarity and brevity. Like your CV, it’s a work in progress.


Media in the Experience Section

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

LinkedIn also provides the option of media uploads for each experience entry. I think this a fantastic tool. I commonly see photos, but you can also upload videos, etc. I recommend two per experience entry and high-resolution media.

What to provide? You want to use these media uploads to demonstrate your skill set. This is another marketing tool. For example:

  • Teamwork and collaboration. I uploaded a lab photo and a group photo of CNSPY.
  • Laboratory Experience. I put up a picture of me in lab.
  • Communication Experience. A photo of me presenting in front of 100+ people.


Other examples include:

  • A picture of you instructing a class.
  • Education Outreach. Picture of you helping at a science fair.
  • Writing Experience. Links to your blog or other projects you’ve worked on.

These photos and media uploads must enhance your experience entry and have a purpose. My goal is to convey skills through photos. On the first glance, recruiters may not take the time to read the details of my experiences. But the photos will draw their attention and subtly convey my messages.

Remember: High resolution only. Provide simple captions.

Observations: You can upload all types of media – links, videos, PDFs, PowerPoint presentations. I prefer images, but these other forms of media can be helpful, too.


Recommendations of Your Experiences

This is a relatively new, neat feature. Recommendations are statements made by co-workers, colleagues, client, etc., who are first-degree connections. These statements can be incredibly helpful and some say are more valuable than endorsements on the skills section, which I will discuss later.

The recommendations come in different flavors:

  1. Short with two sentences, or
  2. Long with a couple of paragraphs.

Regardless, the common element is specificity. Just like a letter of recommendation, the LinkedIn recommendation must be specific and provide deeper insight into you as a professional!

Before you send a request:

  1. Choose your recommenders wisely. You can only have three recommendations per experience entry.
  1. Talk about the recommendation first with your recommender. Let your recommender know which skills and key words you want to be conveyed on your profile.

How to request a LinkedIn recommendation:

  1. Go to your profile and click the down arrow to the right of the button near your profile picture.

Recommendation Button

  1. Click Ask to be recommended from the dropdown menu.
  1. Choose one of your positions (The related experience must be present on your LinkedIn profile first.).
  1. Name your recommenders. You can have up to three for each experience entry.
  1. Click Send. You can ask your connections to write a recommendation of your work that you can display on your profile.


  • Put some time between recommendations. Stagger them out. Plan ahead so that they do not all appear just before you go on the job market.
  • If you are writing one, I stick to short and sweet. Be direct and avoid vague statements. Provide concrete examples.

Note: Recommendations have a 3,000-character limit.


Skills & Endorsements

The skills & endorsement section is a quick survey of your skills. In this section, first-degree connections can quickly highlight your strengths that your peers value. It is similar to liking a post or photo on Facebook. Recruiters can quickly look over the list and see if your particular set of skills match the position that they are trying to fill.


At the same time, you can build your professional identity through this section. First you can list your skills. Second, you can delete endorsements if you are trying to demonstrate expertise in complex procedures or if you are trying to move away from the bench. This is a great section to help you market yourself as unique and valuable.

Moreover, this is a great way to interact with your network. You can endorse others. In general, if you endorse someone, they will endorse you back.


  1. As scientists, we tend to promote our technical skills. Do not forget to include softer skills like ‘Science communications’ and ‘grant writing.’
  2. If you want a particular trait to stand out, say ‘teamworking,’ ask a few friends to endorse you. There is no harm in this. For example, I endorsed ‘leadership’ and ‘teamwork’ for a fellow CNSPY board member, who was applying for a consulting position.

Two caveats:

  • LinkedIn will make suggestions of possible skills for your connections to endorse. For example, I routinely get endorsed for PCR, but I did not list this skill in my profile. Again you can delete these endorsements if you are seeking a position away from the bench.
  • Moreover from my own profile, I know that some of my connections endorsed me for skills that were not part of our interaction. For example, how would my fellow CNSPY board member know that I do PCR well? I know this and recruiters will, too. This is why recommendations might be a better way to convey your skills. At the same time, I do love the ability to quickly evaluate someone’s skills. In conclusion, there are positives and negatives with the endorsement section.



You can also add publications to your LinkedIn profile! I highly recommend this. For scientists, publications are our bread and butter. They demonstrate our skill sets in a peer-reviewed manner and reveal how we think, our skills at logic, and the scientific method.

In a publication entry, you are able to list the authors in the same order as on the publication and provide a link to the paper. When you do this extra step, you help out your network. The publication will appear on the profiles of the other authors, if they allow it.


If one of the authors is not on LinkedIn, fear not. You can just add their name.

The publication section is another great way to showcase your success as a science professional.


In closing, the experience section on your LinkedIn profile is a great marketing tool. It has many special features that allow you to go beyond the written word with media and endorsements.

In my next post, I will discuss the connecting side of LinkedIn: invites and InMail. Until then, please reach out to me to provide feedback or ask questions. I am happy to help, and I welcome all feedback!

Summer Spotlight Series:

  • LinkedIn vs. Research Gate
  • Basics Part I: Editing, profile picture, and professional headline
  • Basics Part II: Experience section – media, recommendations, endorsements, and publications
  • Basics Part III: Invites and InMail


** Update the Experience section of your LinkedIn profile using these tips and let us know how it helps you improve your professional image! **

Share your thoughts below by clicking the “Leave a Reply” link or by clicking the chat bubble in the top right of the post.

LinkedIn: The Basics – Part 1

This week we’re highlighting Post #2 of the 2016 CNSPY Summer Spotlight Series. Here, guest blogger, Tenaya Vallery, CNSPY Executive Board Member and former CNSPY President, takes us through the basics of the LinkedIn profile and highlights how we can maximize our professional online presence. Here’s Tenaya…


LinkedIn! In a series of four posts, we are delving into LinkedIn and discussing its advantages for science PhDs. In this post, I will go over more basics of the LinkedIn profile – editing your profile, the profile picture, and your professional headline. Along the way, I will share examples and tips. Here we go!

What is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is an online platform that helps you “build and engage with your professional network.” The basic premise is that you have an online profile similar to a CV and you can connect with others, establishing a visible professional network.

In this post, I will focus on creating your professional identity, your LinkedIn profile. Your profile is a window into your professional journey, and it may be your first interaction with recruiters, hiring managers, potential bosses, and other scientists. Ergo you should present yourself professionally, with both images and words.


Editing Your Profile – Turn OFF the Notifications

First, I encourage you to edit your profile at least twice a year or whenever a major career change happens.

Second, when you edit your profile, I recommend turning off your notifications. Your network does not need to know that you changed a little thing in your experience section. The notification feature is great for letting your network know that you switched jobs or got a big award. Otherwise you should turn off this feature.



The Profile Picture

A profile picture is necessary!  A profile without a profile picture does not seem genuine, while, in comparison, one with a photo engages the eye.  I cannot connect the name with a real-life person.  This is also an opportunity to appear warm and inviting. Take advantage of the chance to build a sense of trust with someone before you even meet them!

That said, I am also aware that prejudice can come from a photo. Last year AirBnB, the online room-share website, ran into this problem. AirBnB found that African American users are more likely to be denied a room request by hosts compared to white American users. Specifically, the discrepancy between rates of denied and accepted requests depended on profile pictures and African American-sounding names, leading many African American users to not use a profile picture. Despite what I have heard about this issue, I still believe that your professional profile should be a truthful representation of you, including your photo.

A few tips. I have chatted with several recruiters about the profile picture and picked up a few suggestions.

  • In the picture – ONLY YOU. Some people put up their wedding photo. I understand that this is a significant moment and you both look wonderful, but I am confused about whose profile it is. Be direct. Have a photo of you, by yourself.
  • Background – Neutral, Outdoors. The goal of the photo is for them to look at you. Don’t let the eyes of the recruiter get distracted by your surroundings. The lighting should be even and of good quality. Avoid shadows on your face and behind you. Also keep in mind the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds in photography suggests that, in a headshot, your face should only occupy 1/3 of the image. If the picture is just your face, it is not visually appealing. Alternatively if your face is too small, a connection might not recognize you.
  • Apparel – Professional dress. Dress in business casual with business jackets and collars. Myself, I prefer professional sweaters and dresses.
  • Facial Expression – SMILE!!! No sexy or cute face. Have a warm smile. Be you!
  • Quality – Medium. Professional photographers and high-quality cameras are nice. But I don’t have these. I asked my cousin who works for a TV news station to take and edit my photo. Maybe you can ask a friend with a quality camera to take your photo. If not, use your phone. There are some great apps that provide free filters to edit your photo. Adobe Photoshop is also a great program. The goal is to have a strong, clear image of YOU!! Avoid graininess, shadows, and weird enhancements.


The Professional Headline

When people look you up, they first see your professional headline. It is a statement of who you are professionally, such as Biochemist. I encourage you to use the professional headline as a marketing device.

  • If you are trying to apply for positions outside of academia, try a title like Biochemist, rather than Graduate Student. By doing this, recruiters searching through LinkedIn Premium might find you more quickly.
  • Or you could reword your position. Instead of Graduate Student, how about Ph.D. Candidate or Pre-doctoral Fellow.
  • Do you have a fellowship? Try NIH (Insert Award Code here, e.g. K99) Post-Doctoral Fellow at Yale.

Observations: Some people are putting check marks and adjectives into their professional headlines. I am not a fan. Let your audience judge if you are a Successful Biochemist. Your experience and publications speak for you.

Note: The professional headline has a 120-character limit.


Simplify Your LinkedIn Page Web Address

LinkedIn provides a letter and number code for your LinkedIn page. However, you can simplify it to your name or a simple handle.

How to:

First, click on the gear icon next to the web address on your profile. Hover your mouse to the right side of it for the gear icon to appear.

LinkedIn Web Address

A new page will load. On the right side, there will be a banner with the edit option for the web address. I used my name. Luckily it’s unique and was available. If your name is not available, use alternatives like ‘TVallery’ or ‘tenayavallery_biochemist.’ Remember to stick to professional handles.

Edit Web Address


In closing, the LinkedIn profile is for professional purposes. Ergo you should approach your profile picture and headline through a lens of professionalism. Good luck!

In my next post, I will discuss the experience section, the meat of your profile. Until then, please reach out to me to provide feedback or ask questions. I am happy to help!

Summer Spotlight Series:

  • LinkedIn vs. ResearchGate
  • Basics Part I: Editing, profile picture, and professional headline
  • Basics Part II: Experience section – media, recommendations, endorsements, and publications
  • Basics Part III: Invites and InMail


** Check your LinkedIn profile and see if yours abides by these guidelines. If not, make a few adjustments and let us know how it helps you improve your professional image! **

Share your thoughts below by clicking the “Leave a Reply” link or by clicking the chat bubble in the top right of the post.

LinkedIn vs. ResearchGate

Now that Summer is here and in full swing, the CNSPY blog is hosting its second Summer Spotlight Series! We started this series last Summer with guest blogger, Dianna Bartel, Director of Research Communications for the Spiegel lab in the Chemistry Department at Yale, who wrote a 4-post series on how to write science effectively.

This Summer, we’re continuing the Summer Spotlight Series and featuring guest blogger, Tenaya Vallery, CNSPY Executive Board Member and former CNSPY President, as she details the usefulness of LinkedIn as a professional tool for career advancement. Here, in her first post she compares LinkedIn and ResearchGate and highlights the advantages of LinkedIn, especially for those wishing to leave academia. Here’s Tenaya… 


LinkedIn! In a series of four posts, we are delving into LinkedIn and discussing its advantages for science PhDs. In this post, I will discuss two popular online platforms used for scientific networking: LinkedIn and ResearchGate. Along the way, I will share examples and insights. Here we go!



LinkedIn Banner Logo

Without doubt, you must have a LinkedIn account. LinkedIn is the Facebook of the professional world. Everyone has it, and it is a great resource for staying up to date with your colleagues, companies/organizations related to your field, etc.

Launched in 2003, LinkedIn is a website that connects professionals of all careers, not just scientists. This highly visible website has neat features and evolves rapidly to meet our needs as professionals.

If you want to transition out of academia, LinkedIn is a great tool for that. You can follow companies you are applying to as a way to prepare for your interviews! You will also have access to job postings.

One negative, LinkedIn has also been evolving as a business, with LinkedIn Premium. Some features that were once free are now only available through LinkedIn Premium.

Some of you may be thinking about buying into the LinkedIn Premium package. I caution you against that. Personally, the free LinkedIn account serves my needs and has led to a few exciting opportunities. Moreover I have asked a few recruiters about this. They likewise cautioned against the Premium account, saying “Why pay for something you can get for free?”

As an FYI to current LinkedIn users, expect more changes! Microsoft just purchased LinkedIn. This acquisition may bring more business-like features to increase their profits.

On a whole, LinkedIn is essential for young professionals, even scientists. I strongly recommend you first open an account, develop your profile, and build your network. LinkedIn is an online gateway to your professional world and to new opportunities.



ResearchGate Logo

Launched in 2008, ResearchGate is a publication-centered network for scientists online.

ResearchGate has some research-specific features.

  • You are able to upload PDFs of your publications, which helps the scientific community access your research despite journal fees.
  • Receive stats on your publications, e.g. number of reads and citations.
  • Fellow users are able to direct their questions about your research to you.
  • You can follow and connect with colleagues and others in your field or a field you are trying to break into.
  • Similar to LinkedIn, you may also find jobs through this website and receive endorsements of your skills.
  • You will receive updates on publications coming from peers and connections.

This online platform is very science heavy. You will not find as many recruiters on ResearchGate compared to LinkedIn. But ResearchGate is great for connecting with peers in science and has a feel of ‘open-access.’


Personal Recommendation

I have accounts on both. But I will fully admit that I use my LinkedIn account more. I do like the stats and open-access nature of ResearchGate, but I have not found ResearchGate to be as community-based as LinkedIn. LinkedIn has a lot of group activity, and a lively news feed. ResearchGate on the other hand is slow moving at the moment. Although I love the idea of ResearchGate, I have not received one question yet on my research. I really hope to one day. My standpoint may change with the growing number of business-centered changes to the LinkedIn platform. Other users, myself included, may find ResearchGate more friendly and less corporate-like compared to LinkedIn.

In closing, you should have accounts on both LinkedIn and ResearchGate. I encourage you to invest the energy to develop your LinkedIn profile. In the next three posts, I will go over the basics of LinkedIn and provide some insights into a few neat features of LinkedIn.


Summer Spotlight Series:

  • LinkedIn vs. ResearchGate
  • Basics Part I: Editing, profile picture, and professional headline
  • Basics Part II: Experience section – media, recommendations, endorsements, and publications
  • Basics Part III: Invites and InMail


** Set up your LinkedIn and ResearchGate accounts today and let us know which one you prefer! **

Share your thoughts below by clicking the “Leave a Reply” link or by clicking the chat bubble in the top right of the post.

Is Your Resume Ready for the Small Screen?

There are thousands of resume templates floating around on the internet for you to choose from, but there is one big problem with many of them… most of these templates were designed under the assumption that your resume would be printed on a piece of paper.

This may not immediately strike you as a problem, but it is. With technology moving forward at such a fast pace, very few, if any, resumes are actually printed and read on a piece of paper these days.

Instead, almost all resumes are read on a screen, and screen reading is inherently different from print reading.

Additionally, due to the busy pace that everyone strives to maintain these days, about half of all resumes are read on devices other than computers. Reading resumes on small screens, like those of iPads, iPhones, and other smart devices, means that digital reading can be that much more straining than print reading.

Thus, we as resume-writers need to adjust accordingly, otherwise we run the risk of having recruiters bypass our resume simply because it’s too difficult for them to read on their tiny digital screens.

So what do we need to adjust? Here are two main things to consider…


A) Chunked Text

In print reading, our eyes can digest large chunks of text easily. Paragraph form is how we read books and scientific literature, but on a screen, especially a small screen, a large chunk of text seems even larger and more daunting because it seemingly goes on forever. The same paragraph can seem longer and more exhausting to read on a small screen than on paper because we lose our peripheral vision. On a printed piece of paper or in a textbook, we can see the demarcation of the next paragraph while we’re reading the first, but on a small screen, we can’t, so it seems longer and more arduous.

So, in a resume, avoid long drawn out personal statements or paragraphs of any kind, as these chunks of text are not as easy to digest as quickly as bullet points, for example. And the last thing you want is for the recruiter to get tired or lazy while reading your resume to the point where he starts skipping important information.


B) Eye Movement

In print reading, our eyes generally tend to move from left to right in a fluid motion, just as we’re taught to read at a young age. However, this isn’t always the case with screen reading. With today’s technology, there is a lot of scrolling – in other words, a lot of up-and-down motion instead of left-to-right motion.

This leads to a lot skim reading and jumping around the page, so having a more narrow stream of text that is easy to read or skim quickly in a top-to-bottom manner is much more effective than having a lot of points that extend from one complete side of the page to the other.

Also keep in mind that, if the text is small, this will require your recruiter to zoom in on your long sentence of a bullet point to read it, and he’ll have to scroll to the right to read the rest of it. Then he’ll have to go back to the left and then back to the right to read the next line… then back left, then right, for the next line…. Left, right, left, right, left, right… and before you know it, he’s dizzy and giving up on it. Don’t let it be your resume he’s giving up on. Make it easy to gather the main points in a top-to-bottom fashion.


Given that these two points highlight the major differences between print reading and screen reading, especially on small screens, resumes need to be written using slightly different approaches than those used in previous decades.

Here are some tips to make your resume more small-screen reader friendly:


1) Allow adequate spacing – Instead of stacking all of your lines right on top of each other, only stack the lines of individual bullet points and put slightly more spacing between bullet points to delineate each one more clearly. This creates a bit more whitespace on the page and helps avoid the appearance of chunked text. Specifically, using size 1.5-line spacing (or 1.35 like I use!) is a great way to add just a touch more space between vertical lines without going to full double spacing and wasting precious space on your one-page resume.


2) Limit bullet points to 1-2 lines – To further avoid having large chunks of text on your resume, keep each bullet point to a maximum of 1-2 lines. You may have to spend a great deal of time rewording each bullet point to get it to fit within this space constraint, but it is worth the extra few minutes to make it fit because run-on bullets rarely hold the reader’s attention all the way to the end.

Also, consider limiting yourself to 1.5 lines of text per bullet point. This puts more white space on your resume and creates a more obvious demarcation between the end of one bullet point and the start of another, which can further decrease the perceived amount of chunked text that appears on your resume. Moreover, if the line only extends half way across the page, this facilitates faster top-to-bottom reading with less left-to-right swiping on a tiny, but zoomed in, screen.


3) Front-load your achievements – Since the eyes will always start at the top and the left, put your greatest accomplishments in these places.

For each bullet point, get to the point! The first few words should highlight your accomplishment, and as the line trails off to the right, include a bit more of a description of the accomplishment. If you do this the other way around – i.e., describe the accomplish or start with a lead up into the accomplishment, which is finally stated towards the right side of the page – you run the risk of the recruiter never seeing or noticing your achievement. Why? Top-to-bottom eye movement is more prominent in screen reading. By putting the most important or powerful part of your bullet point in the left half of the bullet point, even if he’s skimming quickly in a top-to-bottom fashion, he’ll see it. Then if he wants more information, he can read more to the right within that same bullet point.

Additionally, as mentioned, screen reading is seemingly more arduous than print reading because a one-page document can seem like a 10-page proposal due to the additional scrolling required, especially on a small screen. Inevitably, recruiters and hiring managers will get tired of reading your resume more quickly when it’s viewed on a screen, so in addition to front-loading your bullet points, front-load the entire document. Your most important or most relevant information should be listed at the top. That way, if they give up reading your resume half way through (remember, the average time spent reading someone’s resume is 6 seconds), they’ll at least see the most important information about you.


4) Use left justification – Many people use full justification (on the left AND the right) of the page because it looks cleaner. Yes, this is true… on a physical piece of paper. However, for screen reading, full justification can royally mess up the spacing between words, making it harder to read, especially on a small screen. Moreover, full justification means there will be less white space at the ends of your sentences/bullets, giving the appearance of chunked text. Avoid this by using only a left justification.


5) Use indentations – To further decrease chunked text and increase white space, use indentations for items that belong under certain sections of your resume. This makes it easier for the reader to categorize and file away your highlights in their appropriate places quickly without having to think too hard. Additionally, indentations make top-to-bottom reading faster as well.


Together, these tips will help you strategically format your resume for easier screen reading. Let’s face it, screen reading is here to stay; print reading is largely obsolete in today’s technological era.

Moreover, with everyone trying to cram as much into every day as possible, it’s highly likely that your resume will be read in a meeting, on a train/subway, walking down the hallway, or possibly even in the bathroom! Everyone is trying to make the most out of every minute of their day, including recruiters, and iPhones and smart devices make it possible to do work anywhere, allowing people to maximize their in-between time – i.e., while walking down the hallway in between meetings. Thus, a majority of resumes are not read in a quiet place, such as someone’s desk, where they can focus and really read everything you’ve written. Instead, resumes are most often read – skimmed actually – on a handheld screen while the person is in a rush or doing something else.

Therefore, be mindful that your resume will be approached differently than it would if it were printed on a piece of paper. All of the tips listed above (1-5) address the two main differences between print reading and screen reading – i.e, A) chunked text is more arduous to read on a screen and B) eye movement is more top-to-bottom than left-to-right on a screen. Each tip addresses these distinctions in different ways, but the core of each formatting strategy is indeed rooted in these two main concepts. Additionally, this list is not exhaustive; there are many other ways you can achieve these goals as well!

However you decide to reformat your resume, just be sure to keep chunked text and eye movement in mind. With these two concepts at the forefront of your formatting goals, your resume will be more successful at landing you an interview because it will be primed for easy screen reading. 🙂


** Tell us how you reformatted your resume for screen reading! **

Share your thoughts below by clicking the “Leave a Reply” link or by clicking the chat bubble in the top right of the post.

Creating Your Elevator Pitch

This week’s blog post comes to us from guest blogger, Supriya Kulkarni, who is back to provide more thoughts. This time, she focuses on how to construct the Elevator Pitch, the short one-minute speech about your work that you could deliver before an elevator ride is over. Here’s Supriya…


Networking is an important part of our professional lives. Yes, as a student and a novice professional, it can be a daunting task to network professionally, to approach senior professionals, and… succinctly, but clearly, define ourselves without taking so much time that we lose their attention. Sometimes, we get tongue-tied, and at other times, we find it difficult to reign in our thoughts. Wouldn’t it be nice to be prepared with a few sentences that define us? Being extempore instead of impromptu? Sound concise enough, but not so rehearsed? The answers to all the above is YES, and the ELEVATOR PITCH is our friend, philosopher, and guide here.

Originally used to pitch business and sales ideas, this less-than-a-minute speech or “pitch” is the standard guide used by all professionals for productive and positive networking. Having an elevator pitch will help you stay focused and, in some cases, develop focus with respect to your career choices.

The elevator pitch or the “tell me about yourself” question should convey: 1) Who you are, 2) What you do, and 3) What you are looking for. Here are some basic ideas and concepts to follow when scripting your elevator pitch. I have compiled these pointers from various sources and if you need them, please leave a comment below and I can put up the links to those original articles.

1. IDENTIFY YOUR OBJECTIVE: This is the most important question that will help you carve out your speech. Why are you scripting this pitch? Is it for new job opportunities? Is it a new start-up idea that you are pitching to your peers? Or is it something that prefaces “you,” as an introductory statement at any networking event?

Although the crux/core of your pitch remains the same, the way it ends will vary depending on the goal that it is intended for. Whereas a new job opportunity pitch may end with “… hence I am interested in XYZ positions in ABC area,” the introductory pitch for general conversation will end with, “I am excited about/looking forward to a certain project that will accomplish ‘new things.’”

Spend time on defining your objective. If you have different objectives for different events, you will have different variations of the pitch.

2. EXPLAIN WHAT YOU DO AND YOUR USP: This is the crux of your pitch! And the most difficult part too! The first two questions about the pitch deal with “who you are and what you do.” Some or most of this content will remain constant in every pitch and requires some focus.

A pitch should include your professional skills; you are a molecular biologist, genetic engineer, psychologist, biomedical engineer working on/with a focus in a disease/technique and so on. However, it should also include your transferrable skills such as your ability to troubleshoot, multitask, communicate, and manage, organize, and lead a team, etc. Besides these, a pitch should also convey your professional outreach efforts such as, “I have successfully organized a science meeting,” or “I am a science journalist for the XYZ organization,” or “I am passionate about STEM outreach programs.”

As a pitch is restricted by time, try to focus on a quality that you are really good at, a skill that you have focused on strengthening throughout our career and one that has a measurable end point. If possible, follow the popular S.T.A.R technique – Situation, Task, Action, Result – for this section. This gives a concise and “productive” measure of who you are and what you do.

You can also define yourself by using “why” or your motivation factor to script “who” you are. It has known that your emotions help your decision-making abilities. Use them to your advantage! Use of phrases like “I am inspired by” and “I believe in” followed by results will be equally effective in conveying your passion.

3. TAILOR THE PITCH TO “THEM:” While it is important to have a clear pitch that defines you, it is equally important to follow through with the objective. The objective generally includes the “audience” who will be hearing the pitch. If it is a potential employer, focus your energy on the professional and transferrable skills that are relevant to the positions available with them. Other professional involvements will eventually come up if the audience gets interested and a deeper conversation follows.

As some authors put it, any- and everyone who listens to you is basically asking, “what’s in it for me?” If you cannot pique their interest in the first few sentences, you’ve lost their attention and interest forever. Focus on their needs and how your skills fulfill their needs? Here, too, using the S.T.A.R technique will help show you in a beneficial light, i.e. benefiting their needs!

On the other hand, you might have to tailor your pitch to fit a shorter time period of half a minute or so. In this case, focus on stating the most important “common point” that defines you but also benefits their needs. Remember, you have to grab their attention but also substantiate your pitch with results and details if it develops into a conversation.

4. ENGAGE WITH A QUESTION: Turn the way you end your pitch into a question, thus initiating conversation. If you end your pitch with “I am currently working on a certain technique to solve a particular problem…”, ask an open ended question of “how do you solve such issues?” or “is there a better approach to resolving this issue?” The emphasis is on an open-ended question to involve the other person and get a better opportunity to showcase your abilities.

5. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, and PRACTICE SOME MORE: Once you have a clear idea of what your pitch is going to be, write it down! Putting it on paper solidifies your ideas and you can then improve those ideas later. Eliminate any unnecessary scientific jargon from the pitch; your audience could be from your field, but not necessarily from your micro/sub field. Read it out loud! Rehearse the pitch out loud till you have imbibed the crux. But remember, the pitch should not sound like an infomercial, hence imbibe the crux and improvise on the embellishment. Basically, as they say, “don’t speak the way you write.” Rehearse your pitch and ask your friends and colleagues for input with regard to the simplicity or the use of language. Prepare a few variations of the pitch to suit different needs – job opportunities, potential recruiters, colleagues, and short versus longer pitches.

Last but not the least, BE CONFIDENT! Even the best-scripted pitch fails when pitched without confidence. Look the addressee in the eye, smile, breathe, and maintain a pleasant upbeat vibe to your pitch. And remember, if you have initiated a conversation without having to pitch yourself, let go of the pitch completely and continue conversation where you can naturally speak about your qualities without having to deliberately introduce yourself with a pitch.

Go on! Write up, and rehearse your elevator pitch using these “points to remember!”


** Let us know if these points were useful in scripting your own pitch in the comments below! **

Share your thoughts below by clicking the “Leave a Reply” link or by clicking the chat bubble in the top right of the post.

How I Accidentally Networked

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! **

Share your thoughts below by clicking the “Leave a Reply” link or by clicking the chat bubble in the top right of the post.

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