Career Network for student Scientists and Postdocs at Yale

Creating a platform for discussion of scientific careers

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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.

“Why Should We Hire You?”

In any job interview, there are inevitably going to be questions that will stump you. They’ll stump you not because you don’t know the answer or because you’re not knowledgeable, but because they seem like obvious questions that don’t even need to be asked. It’s like asking a race athlete, “Why do you want to win?” Um…? Why WOULDN’T they want to win? Why would they train and prepare for so long if their goal was to lose? It seems obvious, so why bother even asking the question?

However, in an interview, you can’t be so blunt when a similar question arises, such as “Why do you want this job?” Well, you’re unemployed and on the job market – why on earth WOULDN’T you want the job??? Another common question that gets asked in interviews is, “Why should we hire you?” Well, buddy, you invited me to this interview, so you’re obviously interested in hiring me – why don’t you tell me what’s so appealing about me instead?

Clearly, these responses are not what you want to say out loud even though you’re probably thinking them in your head. Regardless, we still have to answer the question, so what should we actually say in response to these types of seemingly obvious questions?

To give an amazing answer to “Why should we hire you,” there are two main things you want to accomplish in your answer:

  1. Address the “we,” not the “me”
  2. Solve their problems

and here’s why…


Address the “We,” not the “Me”

Our natural tendency when asked, “Why should we hire you,” is to start talking about what makes us so great. This seems appropriate since the question emphasizes YOU. However, shifting the focus from ourselves to a team-centered vision that merely includes ourselves is the way to go.

Remember that the company is less concerned about you and much more concerned about the company, so what they’re really asking with this question is, “How can you help us?” and more importantly, “What it is that you can bring to our company that no one else can?”

When you think about the question rephrased in this manner, it becomes easier to answer because it’s not as vague. It’s clear that they want you to articulate your assets in the context of their company.

So when you formulate your answer to the question, highlight your strengths and how they align with the company. For example, let’s say you’re an RNA biochemist interviewing for a pharmaceutical company who has burgeoning interests in RNA therapeutics – and you know this because you’ve done your homework on them – but they haven’t yet launched this research division yet.

Rather than highlighting how skilled you are at the bench and stating that you’re a hard worker who would bring your superior intellect to the company’s research and development (R&D) team, which is a very “me” centric answer, instead focus on how you’ve developed a keen sense of new and emerging trends in RNA biology in recent years and you’re very interested in the company’s vision to move in that direction for future projects. Then highlight how your knowledge base and background would be a good fit for the existing R&D team as the company transitions into this new field of therapeutics.

This is a much more “we” focused answer that is sure to make the interviewer think you are indeed the best candidate for the position over other applicants because you can help the company expand and become more lucrative.

By answering in such a way that demonstrates the match would be beneficial for both parties, you are much more likely to seal the deal. So, although the question seemingly asks about you, assume that it’s asking about them and how they would be better if you joined their team.


Solve Their Problem(s)

Similar to highlighting the “we,” not the “me,” in your answer to the question, “Why should we hire you,” you should also focus on how you can solve any existing problems for the company. This is different from the above-mentioned example in which you could help the pharmaceutical company pave a new path into RNA therapeutics. What this perspective gets at is how you can fix something that is currently amiss, not something that has yet to occur, in the company.

For example, let’s say the same pharmaceutical company is experiencing a high rate of turnover for their R&D scientists, which is inherently slowing down the team’s overall progress. Additionally, let’s say that throughout the course of your interview day, you’ve gathered that there aren’t a lot of career development or enrichment programs in place for the scientists at this company.

Given your background working with CNSPY and/or other campus organizations at Yale that work to provide career development opportunities for scientists, you could highlight that, in addition to the skills you’d bring to the bench, you’d be interested in taking the initiative to form a similar organization at this company to provide enrichment programs for the R&D scientists to improve job satisfaction and overall team morale, which should decrease the rate of employee turnover.

This response is sure to catch the attention of the interviewer for reasons other than your technical skills. As a result, you will become a much more desirable candidate over others who merely have the ability to help the company’s R&D team at the benchtop.

So, when asked, “Why should we hire you,” take this as an opportunity to address how you can solve any existing problems the company may be experiencing. Doing so is selfless and puts the company first and you second. Again, keep in mind that the company has one goal – to improve itself.

Thus, by focusing on how your skills and your background can help the company move forward, either by solving their existing problems or paving the way for them to accomplish their desired future goals, you will have given the interviewer very little reason why they shouldn’t hire you.

This is why it’s so important to 1) Address the “we,” not “me,” and 2) Solve problems for the company. Leave no doubt in their minds that you are THE best candidate for the position, and THAT is why they should hire you!


** Refocus your answer to this common interview question and let us know how your next job interview 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.

How to Handle Criticism at Work

Guest blogger, Supriya Kulkarni, a member of CNSPY’s Communications Team, shares more of her advice this week about how to accept and handle criticism in a professional manner. She provides some great advice that can be used everyday! Here’s Supriya…


“I am my biggest/worst critic!” We have all either said or thought of ourselves as our strictest critics. Yet, why is it so difficult to swallow criticism from others? We have all had it from our bosses, co-workers, peer reviewers, funding agencies, or job applications. It is difficult NOT to get disappointed at criticism. Negative reviews and critiques can have a significant effect on our professional attitude, and they can impinge on our personal lives as well.

You cannot avoid criticism. However, as amateur and beginner professionals in a research environment, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers need to understand how to face, handle, and convert criticism into a learning experience.

Here are a few tips to help you constructively handle ANY criticism:


1. Take the time to really listen and understand “what” the criticism is about-

It is very natural to become emotional when we hear or read a negative comment about our work or our behavior. However, the more emotional we are, the more convoluted our thinking becomes and our reactions become unprofessional, to say the least. Remember, the critique is about your approach to a specific problem or a response to a specific issue and not ALL of that makes you, YOU. Also, it is a professional critique, NOT a PERSONAL one. Hence, we should not take it personally. Instead, we should listen carefully to the comment and be objective about the point of the criticism.


2. Stay Calm-

Sometimes it’s not the criticism in itself, but the manner in which it is said/written/delivered that appears offensive. Getting riled up and emotional when you hear negative comments/criticism is a part of being human. But remember, in a professional setting, such emotional outbursts (even though silent) reflects negatively on you. Don’t be brusque and offensive, KEEP CALM and STAY STRONG.


3. Ask questions-

Clarify what seems ambiguous to you; it is VERY easy to misinterpret negative comments. By asking for clarity and being objective, you also project a positive attitude and an eagerness to solve the issue at hand rather than just being emotional. Remember, as a young professional, you have a lot to learn! 🙂


4. Determine the accuracy-

The way that the criticism was presented might have been striking or unprofessional. However, try to determine if the criticism (although presented to you in the wrong manner) has value in it. Ensure that the source of the criticism has all the information and is not unaware of important facts related to the issue at hand. If needed, speak with your mentors, friends, and/or family members to assess whether the criticism is valid and get their input on how you can resolve the issue.


5. Do not be hasty in your response-

Again, when criticized, it is a natural and protective reaction to respond and address the comment ASAP, but do NOT rush to explain, clarify, and/or demonstrate that the criticism was incorrect. Instead, digest the comment thoroughly, understand it completely, calm your emotions, and then address the comment. Hasty decisions are many a times incomplete decisions.


6. Address the criticism-

Once you have calmly thought about, understood, and systematically devised a solution to improve based on the critique, ACT on it. When you bring your solution into action, the source/person from whom the negative comment originated will witness the changes you have made and your improved professional approach will be acknowledged tremendously!


7. Do not be afraid to challenge the criticism-

If you go through the process of understanding, evaluating, and re-evaluating the criticism and realize that the person did not have all the information needed, or you genuinely believe that your approach/behavior was correct, or you conclude that the criticism was inaccurate, state your view of the situation assertively, but be respectful and professional while stating it.


Try to apply these tips the next time you hear a negative comment on your professional approach!

** Let us know if these tips were useful in helping you turn a criticism into a stepping stone to success in the professional world, and let us know if you have any additional tips that will help in these situations. Comment below! **


Decoding the Job Description

This week’s blog post comes to us from guest blogger, Supriya Kulkarni, who recently joined CNSPY’s Communications Team. Though she hasn’t been with us for very long yet, she is already making a big impact on CNSPY! Join us as we welcome her to the team and launch her first CNSPY Blog Post, which spotlights a recent article on how to decode the job descriptions of job postings. Here’s Supriya…


It is a universally recognized fact that “decoding” a job description and then profiling your skillset against the requirements is probably the most important step when applying for a position. But knowing “how” to decode the job description can be a challenge. It gets more complicated when assessing most important versus the less important requisites (both technical and soft skills included) from a given laundry list (which according to me is a common feature across the cross section of all listings 🙂 ).

David Jensen in his column “Tooling up” in Science Careers, recently published an article entitled, “Learn to read between the lines of a job ad,” that tackles this exact question. Not only does he talk of different variations in the job-ad posting “language” that we see, but also, he speaks of the reasons behind the language thus used. In this blogpost we highlight the components he writes about in his article that applicants routinely come across.

With his first example, he speaks of the most common reason some of us cross out a particular job listing: “PRIOR INDUSTRIAL EXPERIENCE.” He explains…

A minimum 2 years of industry experience is required. Read as, ‘We’ve been burned in the past by academics thinking that a move to our company would simply be like going on to the next postdoc.’ Why would employers put a minimum experience level like this into their job qualifications? They aren’t interested in helping an academic make the adjustment to industry; they want some other company to have taken that risk. Not everyone is a sure-fire success in industry; that’s why [Tooling Up] exists….”

He further states that as long as you can make a case for your candidacy for such a position by the way of a GOOD cover letter, you should apply for the position, also mentioning that, “Hiring managers will be receptive as long as you appear to understand the differences in culture between academia and industry and have a few industry buzzwords at your command.

He emphasizes that industry is looking for problem solvers and whether you have prior industrial experience won’t affect your standing as long as you can prove with examples that you can and have solved problems before!

The second point he decodes is that of the laundry list of TECHNICAL QUALIFICATIONS many of the job postings have. He writes…

Seeking a Discipline A Ph.D. Scientist with experience in Disciplines B, C, and D, as well as hands-on experience with Techniques X and Y and a thorough knowledge of Technique Z. Read as, ‘We’re tossing in everything but the kitchen sink because we’re in no big rush, and we might as well reach for the moon because we haven’t really figured out the job yet.’ This happens frequently: A company that hasn’t completely thought through what it is looking for throws together an impossible-to-fill profile to test the market. This is all the more common these days, because companies can experiment with ads on various online boards for so little cost. These laundry lists of skills result in what I call ‘pinpoint hiring.’ Back when I got into the recruiting business, seeing an ad that said, ‘Ph.D. cell biologist needed for growing biotech company’ (or ‘microbiologist,’ ‘biochemist,’ etc. …) would be fairly common. But in the years that have passed, employers have added skill after skill to their requirements so that the opening now exists on the head of a pin. Increasingly, there are no more broad areas of need in the sciences; there are only pinpoints.

In this case, David Jensen bids us to identify “the core area of expertise” and establish our competency through our CV and cover letter, but he does not discount the fact that the employer might be seeking an individual with all the mentioned skills who can begin contributing ASAP. He also indirectly alludes that a 60% technical skills match is good enough to apply to a position with such an exhaustive list.

Third, he points out that the DEGREE REQUIREMENTS for a job can be equally confusing, especially when accompanied by prior work (industry vs. academic) experience.

Requirements include a Ph.D. with 5+ years experience in cell biology or biochemistry, or a M.S. degree with equivalent experience.” He explains, “Read as, ‘We’ve got a Ph.D. opening here, and that’s the way we’d like to fill it, but we’re required by human resources to show respect to those few Master of Science-level employees who have reached the scientist ranks at our company.’ I’m sorry to be sarcastic, but every time a client company sends me a Ph.D. scientist assignment that says ‘A master’s is OK, too,’ I find out later—after hours of interviewing a few M.S.-level candidates—that this isn’t the case. Despite what those ads say, for an R&D leadership position, the Master’s degree holder has to work her or his way up in the company, a process that differs at every employer but one that takes years and numerous hurdles. (Note that this is not the case in manufacturing operations, quality control and assurance, and other technical positions where M.S. degree holders go right to the top.) Now, with what may first appear like a slight change of wording, this ad can mean a great deal more opportunity for the Master’s graduate. For example, consider ‘M.S. or Ph.D. required, with emphasis on cell biology and biochemistry.’ By rearranging the order of the preferred degrees, employers show that their intent to consider M.S. candidates is indeed serious. In fact, the ‘or’ part of the statement says to me that the M.S.-level applicant is exactly what’s at the core of this need and that Ph.D. holders applying for this job could easily be seen as overqualified.”

Lastly, he points out issues with RECRUITING FIRMS job ads. He writes…

ABC Recruiting Company has a position to fill for a $50 billion market cap client in the pharmaceutical sector. Please forward your CV to us at … Read as, ‘We’re using a blind ad in hopes that referencing a company without name will allow our Internet trolling effort to pick up leads for our candidate database.’ This is a common ploy used by some recruiting firms to expand their universe. Think about it—why would employers not want to use their names in ads? I suppose some ultra-secret plans for research might require confidentiality, but those odds are low. Most of the time, employers want people to know that they are hiring—it is good PR!”

He suggests sending a one-page bio-sketch instead of complete resume into what he calls “the black hole of blind ad,” which will compel the hiring company to communicate with you directly in case they are seriously interested and hence you would retain control over the whole process.

Interestingly, he mentions that job ads have shown “declining value to employers“ and hence companies now rely on talent acquisition teams that “identify and recruit candidates directly within the social media platforms that we use every day, in almost every aspect of our lives.” Hence, make sure your LinkedIn and ResearchGate profiles are updated regularly!

However, he says, “the business of finding a job requires attention to be paid to every single element in the process, and job ads will remain one of these elements for some time to come.”

To read the full, original article, click here.

We hope these guidelines will help improve your job description decoding skills and allow you to highlight your eligibility for any given job posting in the best way possible!


** Use these strategies in your next job search 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.

Think Outside the Box

Throughout life we are taught that there are certain ways of doing things. This is how you tie your shoes. This is how you treat others. This is how you apply to graduate school. This is how you write a resume and submit a job application. Etc.

However, sometimes these standard methods of accomplishing goals have to be challenged because they don’t work anymore. While there may still only be one way to apply to graduate school – i.e., submit an application via the website – this is not necessarily the case for job hunting.

Yes, there is still a website or a link from which you can submit a job application, but as we’ve discussed countless times here on the CNSPY blog, submitting a resume into the black hole of online job application sites is truly a shot in the dark. Networking, however, can greatly increase the chances of having your resume make it to the top of the pile of the hundreds submitted. This is one way to beat the system.

This is precisely why networking is so important. If you simply applied for the job as per protocol, you’d never get seen amidst the pile of many, many, many equally qualified candidates. In this regard, networking is a way of thinking outside the box. It’s a way to get around the system and directly get in touch with the people you are trying to reach.

However, networking is a very simplistic example of “thinking outside the box,” and sometimes networking isn’t enough. Despite our best efforts, we may still fall short of reaching our desired contacts. So what do we do? Sometimes we have to think further outside the box.

The further outside the box our efforts are, the more likely they are to get noticed and thereby get us noticed.

This week’s blog post features a girl named Nina Mufleh who used a very non-traditional route to secure a position at her target company. She wanted to work for Airbnb, but her countless job applications to the company were all met with silence or rejection. Considering that she had moved from the Middle East to San Francisco and gave up a great job working for the Queen of Jordan to come work at Airbnb, she wasn’t going to give up so easily.

So she got creative.

She created a website where she posted not only her resume, but also what she saw as the company’s strengths and weaknesses, highlighting areas that she felt the company could grow substantially. In building her website, she mimicked the style and formatting of the Airbnb website to “speak their language” and organized all of her thoughts for growth and improvement in a series of Powerpoint slides that she posted directly on the front page of the website. The conclusion slides to her website presentation identified why she belonged at Airbnb and exactly how she could help move the company forward in these new directions given her background.

Once the website was completed, she then used Twitter and social media to put this website presentation right in front of the CEO’s face. She tweeted the link at him, and his curiosity got the better of him. He clicked on the link, started reading, and was very impressed!

She was later called in for an interview.

See her creative resume on her website and read the Twitter conversation that got her the interview she was after here.

Although her resume and presentation looks as though it took her a long time to put together, she admits that it only took her about a week to gather all the research and make the short 12-slide presentation. Then she had a friend and former colleague help her set up the website itself. So it really wasn’t THAT much additional work – she would have done that same research anyway prior to a job interview to make sure she was prepared.

Her creative attempts to think outside the box caught the attention of not only the people she was trying to reach, but also those at other companies. Uber and LinkedIn also noticed this stunning resume and report and called her in for interviews to join their marketing departments. Read more about this here.

This highly innovative strategy showcased her abilities and put her resume in front of countless people. Less than two weeks after her tweet, her website had over half a million hits and the resume itself had been viewed 14,000+ times. This is insane when we think about how we’re usually hoping one person sees our resume once when we submit a job application online!

Clearly her unique strategy worked, and not only did she land the interview she wanted, she also received a number of other interviews with competing companies, which turned the tables. She was no longer seeking out one company; many companies were now seeking out one person – her! Talk about negotiation power! As a result, she ended up getting a much better job than she had ever bargained for with Upwork.

This story is obviously one in a million, but it highlights that thinking outside the box and using the tools at your disposal can help you beat the system. The goal in any job search is to stand out. Nina clearly stood out amongst the rest not only for her unique approach, but also because she clearly displayed talents that others likely didn’t have, which made her a very desirable hire.

The goal of today’s post isn’t to encourage you to launch a similar campaign in order to secure your next position – although you could certainly go that route if you wish. The point we’re making here today is that you shouldn’t be afraid to think – and then step – outside the box to get your application materials in front of the right people. Following protocols may work for your Western blots, but it won’t necessarily work for your job search because the online application process is largely a broken and dysfunctional system.

As a scientist, you are inherently creative and think of news ways to achieve goals all the time. All you need to do is learn how to apply this creativity to your job search strategy to help you stand out as the best candidate and get noticed by the people who make the hiring decisions at your desired company. So start thinking!


** Share your thoughts on other creative ways to get noticed! **

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 to Cold Connect on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great resource for job seekers because it can be used to expand your network without actually attending a networking event. LinkedIn allows you to connect with total strangers and begin a dialogue that may lead to a great job opportunity. However, as great a tool as LinkedIn is, if it is not used properly, your efforts can completely backfire on you.

When you’re searching on LinkedIn and find someone at your target company, some may reactively hit “Connect” in efforts to begin a dialogue. However, this rarely, if ever, works. Why? Because it is a completely cold connection with no context. The person receiving the connection request not only has no idea who you are, but also no idea why you are contacting them. Thus, they are more than likely going to ignore the request altogether.

To avoid getting dismissed, it’s important to customize your connection request.

Similar to the way in which you would customize a cover letter for a job application, a LinkedIn connection request should be equally customized. To do this, take advantage of the optional message box that accompanies a connection request prior to sending it.

DO NOT use the standard message that LinkedIn automatically provides: “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” This is the equivalent of not saying anything at all and just clicking the “Connect” button.

Instead, compose your own message stating that you’d like to connect despite never meeting. More importantly, explain WHY you’d like to connect, and, as usual, a little flattery goes a long way, so include a brief note of admiration in your message, too. Finally, keep it short. There isn’t much space allotted for this message, so you’ll need to be as concise and direct as possible.

In terms of message content, depending on what your goal is, there are many different approaches you should consider taking when deciding exactly how to customize your connection request. Here are some examples below:


1) The Experience Approach

One way to customize a connection request is to highlight that the person’s background is what caught your attention and that you’d like to learn more from their experience.

“Hi Jack,

We’ve never met, but your profile came up when I was looking for top editors at Science. I’m really impressed with your background and would love to learn what drew you to the company. They are very innovative in their editorial content! Can we connect?

~ [Your Name]”

This is a great way to highlight Jack’s accomplishments without obviously trying to flatter him with fluff words (i.e., “your work is amazing,” “I really admire your work,” etc.). This message also acknowledges that you do not know each other and later gently asks for permission to connect instead of just sending a request with the assumption of connecting. Finally, the most important aspect of this connection request message is that, instead of overtly stating that you are looking for a job at Science, you are simply requesting to learn more about the company.

This should put Jack more at ease, thinking that he can help by providing genuine information, instead of feeling pressured to help you find a job. No one likes to feel used, but more often than not, people are willing to offer thoughts and advice if you ask nicely. 🙂


2) The Project Approach

With this type of connection request, you fixate on a certain item or project in their LinkedIn profile that is related to something you’re doing. In this way, you’ll be highlighting something the two of you have in common, which usually makes it easier for them to agree to the connection because connecting makes logical sense.

“Hi Jack,

We’ve never met, but your profile came up when I was looking for people with successful experience managing projects that involve XYZ software. I just started using this technology and was hoping to get your thoughts on its usefulness. Can we connect?

~ [Your Name]”

This message concisely highlights exactly why you’d like to connect, and it implies that you admire the person because you are seeking their expert advice on the topic. Moreover, if this software/technology is specific to a certain field, Jack may view the connection as mutually beneficial.

In other words, for example, if the technology in question is a new type of genome sequencing software that is only used by a particular scientific field of study, you’ve unintentionally highlighted that you and Jack work in a similar field and that you could potentially collaborate on future projects together; thus, Jack may be more willing to accept your connection request for his own reasons of personal gain.

Finally, notice the subtle hint of flattery included here with the use of the word “successful,” which will likely sit well with Jack when he considers connecting with you.


3) The Perspective Approach

Similar to the Project Approach, asking for someone’s perspective on a new innovation or a novel finding is another way to highlight that you share mutual interests.

“Hi Jack,

We’ve never met, but your profile came up when I was looking for top scientists in the field of structural biology. I was interested in getting your perspective on the new methods of X-ray crystallography that were recently published in XYZ journal. Can we connect?

~ [Your Name]”

Alternatively, you could ask about the changing market trends if you are seeking a connection from someone in a non-academic position.

“Hi Jack, 

We’ve never met, but your profile came up when I was looking for scientists at top pharmaceutical companies. I was interested in getting your perspective on how the newly imposed FDA regulations affect Research & Development efforts at companies like yours. Can we connect?

~ [Your Name]”

In either situation, you’ve clearly stated that you are merely seeking their expert opinion. Whether or not you actually have ulterior motives in requesting to connect (like inquiring about a job later), asking for someone’s advice does not actually convey “I want a job at your company,” or “I want to do my postdoc with you.”

Of course, after the initial contact and some dialogue, you can certainly move the conversation in that direction, but up front, you’ve simply flattered them by seeking their expert opinion. Not to mention the use of the word, “top,” also adds a bit of flattery to your message as well.


4) The Respect Approach

This is the type of angle to use when the person you are trying to connect with is MUCH further ahead of you in their career (or much higher ranking than you) and the connection would seem odd or out of place at first glance.

“Hi Jack, 

We’ve never met, but your profile came up when I was trying to find experts in clinical research. Given that you’ve been conducting clinical trials and writing on the subject for 25+ years, I was hoping we could connect so that I could learn more through your work.

~ [Your Name]”

Clearly there is a significant age disparity here if you are a graduate student or a young postdoc, so emphasizing that you appreciate Jack’s career’s worth of work is not only respectful, but also flattering in itself because it indicates that you’ve done a little homework on him.

Given that your target connection is much older and likely much busier than you, it may be more difficult to connect with them and seek their advice, but it’s always worth a shot, and you can’t go wrong with the Respect Approach.


5) The Mentor Approach

This connection request is a form of “thank you” because you first explain how the person’s work has taught you something valuable for your career and/or professional development. In essence, you are appreciating them for what they’ve done for you, whether or not they realize the impact, if any, they’ve had on you.

“Hi Jack, 

We’ve never met, but I’ve been following you on LinkedIn, and your advice has really helped me understand the business aspects of scientific consulting and develop an interest for this career path. Your recent piece on sustaining client relations was the best yet! Can we connect?

~ [Your Name]”

This message conveys admiration and appreciation for Jack and highlights that you’re interested in learning from him, not necessarily asking him for a job. Again, that could be your ultimate goal, but don’t start with that at the forefront of your professional relationship. People are much more willing to offer advice and help than they are to bend over backwards to help someone they don’t know get a job, and simply making the connection is more important in the beginning – you can always steer the conversation in a particular direction later. Thus, always go the route of asking to learn rather than asking for a job or a connection to a hiring manager.

Additionally, taking the Mentor Approach is a humble way of acknowledging that you have a lot to learn before you can even dream of asking about potential job opportunities. It tells the other that you know your limitations but that you are eager to learn and improve.


6) The Interview Approach

This type of connection request is posed as more of an opportunity for the person you’re trying to connect with. Asking for a quote from the person for a blog post or an article you are writing is a great way to begin a dialogue with someone. However, you must then actually write the piece! You can’t just say you will and not follow through on that promise – that would look very bad for you!

This may constitute more work for you, especially if you were really trying to connect for different reasons, but this is a great way to make it easier to connect up front. From there, you can nurture the relationship and later turn it into a viable lead for job prospects.

For example, after writing the piece, you’ll undoubtedly want to write to them again to give them a copy of the article or give them the link to your final piece. This gives you a great excuse to rekindle the connection and strike up more dialogue with the person that possibly doesn’t pertain to the article or blog post at all. And given that you did something nice for them, perhaps this next conversation could, in fact, lead to a new opportunity or job prospect for you.

“Hi Jack,

We’ve never met, but I’m writing an article for the CNSPY blog/Newsletter, and I wanted to get a quote from you regarding careers in Pharma. I’ve been following your work, and I think our readers would really appreciate your perspective. Can we connect?

~ [Your Name]”

First of all, this message poses as a completely selfless act. It’s as though you are not searching for any personal gain whatsoever: A) you’re reaching out to Jack to benefit your readers, not you (at least not necessarily), and B) you’re doing Jack a favor by featuring him in your article. At face value, there appears to be no gain for you, which makes others, like Jack, feel less used.

Additionally, being asked to provide a quote or be featured in an article is flattering in itself. You could have picked a number of other people at a number of different companies from whom to seek a perspective, but you chose him. How flattering! By asking him to provide insight, you’ve implied that, of all the options, he is the one you admire most and view as THE expert. Who wouldn’t want to accept that kind of flattery and recognition? Very few… very few. That’s why this approach is so successful.

So, if you’re stuck or feeling intimidated about the idea of cold connecting with someone, consider writing a piece for a student organization or your own blog to be able to start making connections in this way. It’s a very strategic move that works really well! Trust me, I would know! 🙂


Overall, cold connecting with someone on LinkedIn is not easy, but taking any one of these approaches will make you much more successful at securing a new connection than simply clicking the “Connect” button on someone’s profile page. Depending on why you are contacting the person, one approach may be more successful than another, so it will take some thought on your part to figure out which method will be best for a given individual.

However you decide to connect though, just make sure you include a few key points in your message:

  1. State that you’ve never met. This addresses the figurative elephant in the room and makes the connection less awkward, even though it is inherently a bit awkward by nature.
  1. State WHY you want to connect. Without a reason, you will get nowhere fast.
  1. Add a subtle touch of flattery – it goes a long way! But the emphasis is on ‘subtle’ here. Don’t be overly obnoxious with flattery, as this tends to come off as disingenuous.
  1. Ask to connect. Don’t assume the connection will simply come just because you reached out. Asking for permission is always a gentler way of getting what you want.
  1. Be concise! You don’t want to flood your message with too many words or details. Not to mention, LinkedIn won’t allow long connection request messages, so choose your words carefully and be concise!

Take these tips to heart and apply some of the approaches described above and you’ll be able to grow your professional network quickly by cold connecting with people on LinkedIn without ever leaving your desk! No networking events required!


** Customize your cold connection requests on LinkedIn 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.

Hate Networking? Give the Speech

The main reason so many people hate networking is because small talk can be exhausting. Before you can make any progress on what you’re really after, you undoubtedly have to start with the simple “hello’s” and “what do you do’s.”

It’s a form of professional etiquette that must be adhered to. Imagine someone walking up to you and starting with their main objective… “Hi, can I have your card so I can talk to you about a job at your company?” If you were the company representative, this opening line would immediately shock you, and you’d be left thinking, ‘wow, that’s bold, and I totally feel like I’m being used.’ Newsflash, you are being used.

This is why the small talk is essential. It creates a soft opening and introduction and gives the two people a chance to learn more about each other before either party dives in to help the other. Importantly, the small talk portion of the networking conversation gives each person the chance to assess the other and decide whether or not they WANT to help the other person. This is why small talk cannot be skipped.

However, the small talk is often the most exhausting part of networking. This makes sense because it’s much easier and quicker to shoot off an email and ask direct questions, whereas nurturing a friendly and mutually beneficial relationship face-to-face with someone you barely know is far more difficult and taxing.

But what if there was a way to avoid the small talk altogether? This would certainly make networking less challenging. Well, while you may not be able to completely avoid small talk, there IS indeed a way to significantly cut down on the amount of small talk you’ll need to do at a networking event…

Give a Speech at the Event

This may seem counterintuitive – i.e., if you shy away from the one-on-one small talk, why would you want to address the entire room all at once? – but by giving a speech (or the speech) at an event, you do yourself a huge favor, and here’s why:

1) Everyone in the room already knows who you are by the time the networking portion of the event begins if you speak earlier at the event. Thus, you can avoid repeatedly introducing yourself to everyone you meet, which saves time and mental energy.

2) You can get to the meat of the conversation much faster since you no longer have to introduce yourself. Skipping the introductions and a bit of the background small talk lets you get to the heart of the conversation more efficiently. In this situation – when the other person already knows who you are – it is much easier to dive right in and ask more direct questions about what it is that you really want to get out of the conversation. This is beneficial for both parties.

3) You won’t have to repeat yourself all night because, again, everyone already knows who you are and little bit about you, so you can skip the “Hi, I’m so-and-so, and I work on XYZ [and proceed to explain XYZ].” Repetitiveness leads to mental exhaustion, which is one of the reasons why so many people hate networking, so decreasing this mental exhaustion, by not having to repeat yourself as much, will make networking less taxing.

4) People will seek you out, so there is less searching to do on your part. Think about it… if you’re at a networking event and a speaker inspires you or sparks some interest for you, you’re specifically going to target them in the networking portion of the event. Thus, if YOU are the speaker, or one of the speakers, the attendees will naturally come to you. In this case, you may not have to go far – or move at all! – during the networking event to meet the people you’re interested in meeting.

5) You inherently showcase your personality and demeanor when you give a speech; thus, recruiters and other potential network connections know before they officially meet you whether or not you’d be a good fit for what they are looking for. One goal of small talk is to get a sense of someone’s personality to check for good compatibility, but if you’ve already demonstrated your personality before you meet someone, you will be able to get to the heart of the conversation faster because there is less need for small talk and personality assessments.

6) You naturally set yourself apart from the others in the room by putting yourself in the spotlight and speaking. With a level playing field of intelligence in the room (i.e., everyone has, or is getting, a PhD), anything you can do to set yourself apart will serve you well when it comes to networking and finding a lead for your next position. By stepping into the spotlight, recruiters and other potential network connections will inherently view you as slightly more important than the rest of the attendees who may have the same, or similar, credentials as you.


Regarding networking and small talk, these are some of the key benefits of speaking at an event.

Although it can be overwhelming to think about speaking at an event, keep in mind that you don’t have to give the keynote speech. In fact, doing so probably wouldn’t draw a great crowd especially if you’re a graduate student or postdoc amongst a sea of similarly qualified jobseekers.

However, you don’t have to give the keynote speech to accomplish the goals stated above; you can simply give a short speech at the event. For example, volunteer to introduce the keynote speaker or the panel of distinguished guests, provide a 5-minute overview of the event’s agenda, give a short presentation on behalf of a student group, or advertise upcoming events, initiatives, and opportunities for eligible attendees.

Any way that you can get in front of the audience, briefly introduce yourself, and speak about something is a great way to cut down on the amount of small talk you’ll need to do in the networking sessions that follow the feature presentation. So don’t shy away from the opportunity to address the audience, and, in fact, you should try to find ways to create that opportunity for yourself!


** Don’t be shy – speak at the event and let us know how the networking portion goes for you! **

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