For life science executives, networking is one of the most important ways to advance your career. In an increasingly connected world, it’s not about what you know, but who you know. A valuable connection can help you secure your next executive tenure; either through them recruiting you directly or referring you to one of their connections.
Networking is all about building long-term relationships; connecting with professionals based on career path, experiences and interests. It’s one of the most impactful ways to expand your network. While networking is often viewed from a sales perspective, it’s actually more about how you can empower others in their career, and how they can help you in return. Essentially, it’s a way to establish your personal brand and build your reputation within the life sciences industry.
Your network should consist of your peers, ex-colleagues, key influencers, alumni and headhunters. You never know when your diverse network will come in handy.
What are the benefits of networking?
- 80% of professionals consider networking to be a vital aspect of their career success
- 70% of individuals are hired at organisations where they already had a notable connection
- 85% of jobs are filled via networking
These statistics speak for themselves; the more established your professional network, the more likely you are to excel in your life science career. Building a strong support network with the right kind of professionals can expose you to new career opportunities and put you on the hiring manager’s radar.
Increase your visibility:
Regularly attending industry events or conferences increases your odds of being noticed and remembered. Introducing yourself to industry leaders and hiring managers and delivering your elevator pitch is a great way to boost your visibility in a saturated industry.
Exposure to confidential opportunities:
The reality is, most executive and senior-level positions aren’t published online. They remain undisclosed, usually because the organisation would prefer to keep the role confidential. If you connect directly with hiring managers or executive search firms, they can keep your details on record so that when an opportunity arises, they can get in contact with you.
Your network provides you with an outlet to share ideas or stories of how you overcame challenges in the workplace. Seeing how your peers conquer hurdles can give you fresh ideas and inspiration that you can adopt into your own work.
Networking can help you secure referrals to hiring managers and organisations. Hiring managers are bombarded with CVs on a daily basis, but a CV accompanied with a detailed referral will increase your chances of getting hired tenfold. That’s because people trust recommendations. Generally speaking, referrals are also more convenient for organisations in the sense that it saves them valuable time and money advertising, qualifying and interviewing talent.
Below are some tips for you to take on board while networking:
One of the best ways to create a robust network is to attend events and conferences, building relationships with other attendees and industry speakers. In fact, many networking events and conferences are structured to enforce communication and networking opportunities. While for many, approaching strangers can be intimidating and nerve-racking, it’s worthwhile in the long-run if it results in you securing your dream role.
Do your research:
Prior to the event, do some research to identify who will be attending and speaking. While the event’s website will provide information on guest speakers, following the event’s hashtag on social media may provide additional insight about the attendees. It’s a good idea to find these people on LinkedIn to pinpoint who they are and brainstorm ways you can strike up a conversation with them at the event; perhaps you’ve worked for the same employer, have similar experiences or both share a passion for volunteering outside of work. Whatever the connection, harness it so that you can go to the event prepared to make a strong first impression. You may find that these professionals will look at your LinkedIn profile in return and be more willing to connect with a familiar face at the event.
Once you’re at the event, approach the professionals you researched, as well as anyone else you would like to initiate a conversation with. Now would be the perfect time to deliver your well-crafted, executive elevator pitch, introducing who you are and what you do in 30 seconds or less. Be careful to avoid boasting about your career, or unsubtly hinting that you are looking for new job opportunities. Remember that networking is mutually beneficial; your recipient won’t be best pleased to be bombarded with an unnecessary overload of information about all your past achievements. The key to networking is communication; politeness and manners go a long way. Ensure that conversation flows and demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in hearing what they have to say. Conclude your conversation by exchanging business cards or LinkedIn profiles (for a nifty way to do that, click here) so that you can contact one another afterwards should the situation arise.
Most networking occurs immediately before and after an event. It is good practice to connect with the professionals that you met on LinkedIn immediately after the event so that your face will remain fresh in their mind. There’s nothing worse than going home and forgetting the names of potentially important contacts or waiting weeks before you send them a LinkedIn request. This diminishes the chances of your connection request being accepted as the recipient might not remember you. Always send a LinkedIn request with a brief personalised message, mentioning that you enjoyed meeting them at X event and hope that you can both keep in touch in the future.
Social media networking:
Social media is playing a key role in recruitment. According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 70% of hiring managers are using social media to screen potential candidates, emphasising the importance of social savviness. If your LinkedIn profile is inconsistent, out-of-date and unprofessional, then you’re missing out on a crucial opportunity to impress the hiring manager. Not only is LinkedIn the best platform for you to highlight your professional accomplishments, but it’s also a terrific way for you to foster connections with industry leaders.
Develop your personal brand:
LinkedIn enables you to position yourself as a key thought leader in the life sciences. By consistently publishing posts and sharing relevant articles, you can build your reputation and promote your expertise. Your updates will naturally attract other professionals who will consider you a trusted source of information. Additionally, you can attach presentations or videos of you speaking at conferences to your profile. Don’t be afraid to inject personality into your words with a bit of humour. While it’s tempting to remain strictly professional on LinkedIn, humour is a great way to demonstrate that there’s an actual human being behind the keyboard, rather than a robot. People are far more likely to engage with you on social media if they can relate to you.
Engage with your network:
It goes without saying that networking is a two-way street. While you want professionals to engage with your content, you should equally be making an effort to like, comment and share their posts. Not only is this the polite thing to do, but it also helps to foster long-term relationships. If someone in your network has just received a promotion or started a new role, comment on the post and congratulate them. Your message doesn’t need to be complicated; simply respond to their update how you wish people would engage with your own.
Join networking groups:
People naturally seek to connect with individuals who share the same or similar interests. LinkedIn groups allow you to do just that; providing an arena to share content, ideas and solutions. You can amplify your personal brand and credibility just by engaging with others in groups like these. This is just another way for you to forge close relationships with fellow executives who could one day help you.
Maintain your network:
While conversing with your network online has its benefits, meeting face-to-face is generally the preferred way to get a better gauge of an individual’s personality. If searching for a new job is your primary motive in developing your professional network, then you will, of course, benefit greatly from speaking on a one-to-one basis. Ensure that you regularly keep in touch with your network. If members of your network are posting about attending an event that you too will be at, then drop them a message suggesting that you catch up.
The fact of the matter is, we’re far more likely to help those who help us. If you’re not engaged with your network on an active basis, and simply contact them when you need something, they won’t be as willing to recommend or refer you for new opportunities. Members of your network can reward you with a new job just from you being a thoughtful, friendly being.
For more advice on job searching for life science executives…
* Fraser Dove International is a talent consultancy operating exclusively across the life sciences industry. While our roots lie in executive search, we provide more than the traditional recruitment services. Uniquely placed within the market, we have been providing cutting-edge talent solutions and insight to organisations at all stages of their journey – from start-up to established leaders – since 2013.