Random Ramblings about stuff I see going on in biotech, internet and the stuff I read.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Different Questions for different Networks

Last post I was talking about how I don't use LinkedIn to ask questions of my network and then went on to list some things I don't ask. Harry raised some other questions in the comments, and then I went away and thought about it.

I think there are different needs and different networks for different questions.

Harry's questions, and most of the questions on the AAAS board are of the "how do I break in to area X from area y" where Y is frequently post-doc/grad school and X is "other". The answers I have mostly been looking for are "how do I get ahead in this industry". I think those require very different networks and answers.

The "how do I break in" really sort of implies that you aren't already in the field and you need to build a new network. My questions are all of the type of within field.

In my own career, I had built a decent network of PI's etc... to get a post doc There were informal offers out there. I didn't take it further because I knew I didn't want to do that. SO - I flailed about and eventually got lucky at my first company.

The part where I flailed is the part where boards and blogs are helpful. That is the part where you see the questions on boards.

Once you have taken that first step, then you start to build your network and I think then the questions move toward more as I am describing (personal network, not a "public" one).

That implies that I think the people asking the public questions of "I am a grad student...how do I get a post doc" didn't do a very good job of building a network when they were a grad student!

Both have value when used at the right time.


harry haller said...

I definitely agree with you that a grad student who is posting a message saying "how do I get a post-doc?" has done a poor job of networking. But unfortunately, networking [ie, building relationships with peers and those slightly ahead of us] is not something that 99% of grad students are ever exposed to. And it's hard. So people don't do it. Posting a message on a message board is a lot easier, so people tend to do that instead.

And I agree that personal networks are certainly important.

But I also think you are leaving a lot of resources untapped and maybe putting yourself at a long-term disadvantage. No matter how good your personal network is, you have access to only a very small segment of the total number of views, opinions, and information available in your field. There are now tools that allow you to find someone who has good reason to want to talk to you and who has very specific information that can help you. A lot of people out there are learning to use these tools. I find that I get the best answers to my questions by combining both approaches, but as always, YMMV.

Brent said...

I'm a final year PhD and my 'networking' has come from friends and chance introductions. Most PIs don't even think about explaining how collaborations really come about... maybe they don't realize most PhD students are clueless.

Nonetheless, I don't want to go the post-doc route so my network has been alot of people outside of my University. Speaking of which, what position is more desirable for a single PhD graduate: Field Application Scientist (50% travel) or Technical Application Scientist (troubleshooting customer service at HQ)? I would write that question separately somewhere but not sure where that would be.

Brent said...

I've read through the very late entries of the blog and found what I was looking for... thanks for the info!

yes said...


Glad to be of help!

I am biased toward the field positions as that is the way I came in.