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Talk to me if you're an introvert

Technical writer Lara Burgess, Ph.D., takes part in speed networking.

I love the January NCBiotech Jobs Network events! Everyone comes back from the holidays recharged and revving their “search engines” to reinvigorate their job search. So it’s no surprise that we had a packed house January 27 for our first NCBiotech Jobs Network of 2014. And since it’s a new year, it’s only fitting for the NCBiotech Jobs Network to revisit a basic 101-level course: Intro to … well, intros. Because for most of us, our college degrees didn’t include job-search training.

In this job market it’s more important than ever to make a personal connection with companies you target in your job search. But bear in mind that networking is not a quick fix. It can take time for your network to be robust enough to yield results. And contrary to what Woody Allen says, showing up is not enough. You need to make meaningful connections with the people you meet. But if you’re a scientist, networking might not come naturally to you. After all, as a population, scientists, engineers and mathematicians are statistically more likely than the general population to be introverts.

I took this opportunity to share my views on networking for introverts. I encouraged people to let go of the “introvert” label and the negative emotions associated with it. Instead, I suggested that we recognize our tendency as scientists to focus too strongly on details as we stare at our shoes. TMI: don’t share every detail about your dissertation, or your latest experiment. We are not the sum of our experiments.

Next, I proposed a five-step approach to effective networking that I call LEAFS. Yes, it’s grammatically incorrect, but you’ve got to admit, it’s easy to remember.

  • L: Prepare some opening Lines.
  • E: Practice, but don’t memorize, your Elevator pitch.
  • A: I gave some suggestions to improve your effectiveness At the event.
  • F: Follow up with the people you meet.
  • S: Use Social media, but don’t hide behind it.

This is the Chinese Year of the Horse, but I encourage you to make this your Year of the Introduction. Make your networking easier and more effective by seeing the connections between people. Maybe you know two people who work in the same sector, or who are in the same phase of their careers. Maybe you just have a feeling they would get along. Introduce them! They will thank you for it, and they’re likely to reciprocate with an introduction for you. This year make an introduction/get an introduction.

For a pdf of my slides, see the link. And for more networking resources, see the links on my January 29, 2013 staff blog: Speed Networking: Tips & Tricks.

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