There is a dynamic online community in life sciences that includes US federal labs (NIH, FDA, etc), grant agencies, and potential collaborators around the globe. Whether you are happily employed or actively job searching, your online networking is becoming as important as face-to-face meetings, and, in fact, one can feed into the other.
LinkedIn is currently the most popular professional networking site on the Internet, so let’s start there. According to its website, LinkedIn has more than 100 million members in over 200 countries in its network. Scientists can be conservative about posting info online, but, if you are on the Biocareers site, you may be on the ‘leading edge’ of scientific users!
So, how could LinkedIn be helpful to a scientist or useful for your career? Would you ever want to…
• Search for key scientists attending an upcoming conference?
• Search quickly for top conferences in a particular research field?
• Connect with other people at a particular institution or company where you’d like to work?
• Connect with people globally with similar interests (or those who are your counterparts at a different institution)?
I volunteer with UMUC’s Biotech grad students with a mentoring program and here are tips that I recommend for them for advancing their careers:
Step 1: Explore!
Allow yourself time to explore the platform in a relaxed and curious mindset. Familiarize yourself with the categories. LinkedIn can be time-consuming at first, but once you’ve set up your “base camp”, it’s faster to use.
Step 2: Writing and posting your bio
Like most online platforms today, the “muscle” of LinkedIn’s searches is through key words. It’s less important to have a brilliantly written bio than to include relevant key words. List all school, internships, or work experiences. Include specific interest area key words (“salmonella,” as well as “infectious diseases”).
Step 3: Expand your groups
Online groups are informal and you often don’t have to be a dues-paying member to be included in their LinkedIn group. Join alumni associations from every school that you ever attended. Drill into topics that interest you (Women in Bio, Bioinformatics Geeks, etc) and send invites to join.
As you become a group member, scan their membership lists. Send invites to people whose interests are aligned with yours. If you’re interested in working at a large biotech company, see if any of the members of that group work there. Be honest about why you’d like to connect.
Step 4: Leverage LI to meet key people at conferences
Don’t leave meeting key people to chance. You can prepare for upcoming conferences by scanning who will be attending (on Home page, sort for “conferences in your industry” on right side). I’ll be attending BIO Conference in June and there are many postings already. It’s easy to see individuals who are attending and to reach out to meet anyone from an institution or company that interests you.
I’d love your feedback. Do you find it useful? I’ll cover Twitter for scientists in my next post.