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Science Matters: The Four Characteristics of Successful Networkers

Whether by training and education or by moving up through the ranks of their respective organizations, fortunate research professionals make their way into fields that offer meaningful work and the opportunity to use their skills to contribute to society.

by Diane Barker
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Each day, scientists have the opportunity to use their talents and work ethic to change the world in which we all live. Through the application of scientific principles to research efforts in human health, environmental and energy issues, product development, and other disciplines, scientists have the greatest opportunity to positively impact society and their fellow humans in a myriad of ways.

Whether by training and education or by moving up through the ranks of their respective organizations, fortunate research professionals make their way into fields that offer meaningful work and the opportunity to use their skills to contribute to society. In addition to good fortune, however, there is one important talent that researchers and managers need to achieve success in their respective careers. That talent is the ability to network.

Through the fine art of networking, science professionals are able to reach their full potential within their fields of work. Whether they are seeking employment in industrial laboratories, university research facilities or world-class government research centers, networking offers a powerful tool.

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By continuously meeting new people and increasing their professional contacts in the scientific industry, scientists can learn about new opportunities within their fields. At the same time, some individuals might want to consider positions outside of their current career fields.

By practicing the following four characteristics of successful networkers throughout their careers, many science professionals may be well-prepared to not only positively impact the world around them, but also obtain exciting research and employment opportunities.

Maintain an open mind

As scientists meet and interact with professionals who work in all types of industries, they may choose to develop relationships with them. By treating each contact equally, whether or not the person is a scientist, science professionals may be pleasantly surprised by the opportunities they are able to uncover.

The most successful networkers in the world typically have two common characteristics—an open mind and the desire to meet people within all professions. Experienced networkers know that career opportunities arise when they least expect them. By maintaining an open mind, many scientists may be able to pursue such opportunities once they are available.

Carefully consider new career opportunities

Experienced networkers can learn about new positions that are not publicly posted. With a broad base of professional contacts, they may gain access to a variety of meaningful positions and use their education, skill sets, and natural talents to positively impact the scientific industry, as well as cultures outside of their own. Some new positions can lead to higher pay and exposure to new contacts, while allowing scientists to develop new skills that will be invaluable throughout the rest of their careers.

In the past, many scientists may have turned away from new career opportunities simply because they were afraid to take risks, fearing that the consequences of failure may outweigh the positives of success. In today's workplace, many employees are responsible for their own careers. As such, some employees are taking risks in order to attain progress.

Listen to contacts and then follow up with them

As scientists meet new contacts, they typically want to ask them a lot of questions. While it is important to communicate with new contacts in an efficient manner, science professionals should listen to them as well, rather than bombard them with dozens of questions.

New contacts will feel more comfortable conversing and networking with their fellow scientists if they are able to tell their stories first, without being interrupted. Out of courtesy, scientists should always listen first. They will likely receive more information by listening, rather than by continuously asking questions.

Once scientists have initiated new relationships, they should follow up. Through continuous follow-up with professional contacts at lunches, banquets and various events, scientists will appear to be interested in not only discovering new career opportunities, but also in learning more about science in general.

Develop lifelong connections

Many scientists acquire a variety of networking contacts, yet fail to remain in touch with them for long periods of time. In order to network properly, science professionals should talk to their contacts not only for a few months or a couple of years, but for an extended period of time. Efficient networking requires years of connections that may lead to lifelong relationships, as well as new career opportunities.

By remaining open minded, carefully considering different career opportunities, listening to and following up with contacts, and maintaining lifelong connections, scientists can be successful networkers throughout their careers and lives. While meeting new contacts, science professionals may encounter a variety of opportunities to positively impact the world and fully develop their talents and skill sets. Simply put, networking will help scientists perform to the best of their abilities in order to achieve goals they previously thought were unattainable.