Like you, I’ve seen a great deal of change through my years in the R&D industry. We’ve experienced dramatic transformations in how we develop, test, and manufacture therapies and medicines around the globe. I’ve seen old treatments evolve and expand or be cast aside in favor of more effective ones. And benefited from the explosion of information available to make finding solutions and disseminating them faster than anyone would have dreamed of just 25 years ago.
All in all, I’ve had a pretty interesting career. And I believe it’s helped me to have and understand the skills and tools needed to keep moving upward. Because doing your job is one thing; but managing your career is another, especially today as employers are building out their analytics capabilities and evaluating their brand to target top talent.
Common wisdom suggests your success often depends upon networking; getting yourself out there, making connections, and enjoying face time with peers and potential employers.
Or not. Some will tell you that networking is overrated. That feedback, self-evaluation, measurement, and management are keys to success. Or that work shops, extra training, and certifications matter most as you build your CV.
Personally, I think networking encompasses all of the above and more. It creates a set of circumstances that make it possible to do something. You could say this is the real definition of “opportunity.” But there’s a catch.
In my opinion, everything you do to prepare for future opportunities matters. Enhancing your skills, getting feedback, interacting with co-workers and management, having a social presence, and increasing your certifications all fold into the networking equation. Alone or together, each helps you stand out and get noticed, giving you good material for an elevator-pitch answer when you meet someone and they ask, “What have you been up to?”
In the long run, success depends on being ready when opportunity knocks. Throughout my career, being prepared for opportunities invariably has meant that I would negotiate the outcome well. Those times when I wasn’t prepared—perhaps resting on my laurels or not actively improving my position via strategies like the ones outlined above—were when my career stalled.
So yes, networking is a critical tool in your career toolbox.
But if you don’t put that tool to good use on a regular basis, what I call “networking with purpose,” it will get rusty and won’t do you any good when you need it most. For example, if you hear about a workshop but don’t bother to attend, there goes an opportunity. Or when you hear about an open position but don’t go after it, then what? Or maybe you go to an event and just chat without purpose? There go more opportunities.
Ultimately, your networking strategy should be part of an every-day, holistic effort that becomes a habit instead of a reaction. Too often, it takes career-crisis moments to get people actively networking, and being in a state of panic is not the best time to present yourself if you want to get ahead. At Kelly Services®, where I work, we’ve thoroughly researched networking. As we’ve learned, it’s important to:
- Establish your network connections by finding reference points in common and personalizing your invitations.
- Maintain your network by regularly checking your updates and responding to posts.
- Leverage your network carefully, so when you need assistance, your contacts are predisposed to help you based on a positive past history.
And understand that networking is a career-long necessity, one that will pay long-term dividends. It’s not about the next three months; it’s about the next 30 years.
Change is inevitable, especially in the life science world. But it’s easier to deal with when you embrace it. Networking well and often certainly can make opportunities possible, so follow the advice of the Romans and “carpe diem!” Do you agree or disagree? Get in touch @MarkLanfear1.
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