Networking Etiquette: Tips to Successfully Build a Network

By: Jennifer Casiano

As a graduate student or a post-doc, we often focus on spending as much time as we can in the laboratory; running experiments, finishing some preliminary data, writing a paper, and so on. All of us know that this can take most of our day. However, one of the best ways to enrich our career is attending to meetings, iJOBS events and talks. During the event that you are attending, we should follow some courtesy and manners which cost us nothing and they work to our benefit with success and respect from others. If we are interested in follow-up with the speaker we must follow certain etiquette,

In previous posts, we had mentioned how networking is a great asset for your career development. There should be always time in your busy days to attend seminars, retreats, talks or being a volunteer in an event. Never underestimate the potential of networking in any event, be it at seminars, retreats, talks, or while volunteering at an event. There should always be a time in your busy schedule for networking. Be prepared to converse whenever you have the opportunity, so you leave a good impression of being engaged. When meeting someone you should:

  • Introduce yourself with a strong handshake (2-5 seconds) and make eye contact
  • When introducing yourself let them know who you are and what you do
  • Avoid the use of the phone
  • Keep eye contact through the entire conversation
  • Be a good listener and listen more than you speak
  • Avoid first names unless the person gives you permission to do so
  • Maintain a system to follow-up with your contact at least once a month
  • Brand yourself in social media, have a notable presence and engage self-promotion
  • Keep your LinkedIn profile updated and be active posting current topics and science-related news

Dress for Success

For some of us, dressing well is not a top priority or interest. This is with good reason, as sometimes wearing “nice” clothes while we are doing experiments can damage our clothing. In addition, I have found that graduate students and post-docs are sometimes judged by others for dressing nicely such that it appears that we are prioritizing our image over our research. For example, as a female and a scientist I like to wear clothes that fall into the category of stylish and comfortable. Sometimes this can be difficult, since in this society of double standards female scientists are often judged by their appearance. This turns out to be a double-edged sword, as females in particular can experience the stigma that dressing nicely makes you incapable of quality work and at the same time not dressing nicely can be interpreted as being messy. In my opinion, judging scientists on the basis of their clothing is not fair; yet, we have to be aware that it is a common occurrence.

Wearing proper attire, regardless of sex and age, should not interfere with your duties and it gives a good impression. It says that you are taking things seriously and that you can present a good image of the company. If you are meeting someone it can say that you care about meeting that person. It is important to have a balance and wear something comfortable for your daily work while still following the safety codes and regulations of a research lab.

When attending an event like an iJOBS talk, seminar, or a casual networking event, we should follow certain tips to make a good first impression. Some recommendations are:

–       Fitted and clean clothing
–       Neutral colors
–       Clean shoes
–       Hair groomed
–       Subtle jewelry
–       Tight clothing
–       Wrinkled and damaged clothing
–       Controversial or graphic tees
–       Sleeveless clothing
–       Large jewelry

As a last statement in this section, I must say that appearance does count. While appearance may not seem to count when you are in the laboratory running experiments, it does count when meeting someone. Since our days often combine the two, it is a good bet to integrate the above tips into your daily life. The best part is that we have the freedom to decide what image we would like to project and how we are going to brand ourselves. Thankfully, there is more than one way for us to make a good impression while still performing our laboratory duties.

Thank you letters

Did you like a presentation or a seminar? Did you have an interview and are interested in the job? Take the time to acknowledge the people around you! One of the easiest ways to build a network is to send thank you letters. It has been found that sending thank you letters after an interview to the interviewer favors the applicant. In addition, a strong network is built upon common acknowledgement and admiration. Let them know how much you enjoyed the talk and provide examples of topics you cherished from the talk. Try to set the tone for a future engaging conversation. For a successful thank you letter you must:

  • Write the letter or e-mail no more than five days after the event
  • Double check the spelling and name of your contact
  • Avoid chit-chat and informal language
  • Use proper grammar and punctuation
  • Be short, concise, and include the following:
    • Mention when and where you met the contact
    • Reaffirm your interest in the position (interviews) or to stay in touch (networking)
    • Mention what you liked and be specific, restate your understanding and mention things you wish to clarify or keep in the conversation
    • At the end, thank the person again for their time, effort, and provide at least one way to follow up, giving permission to reply to the sender’s email or the return address

Good luck in your networking events and remember that every step that leads you to success is important. Don’t underestimate the importance of networking and be sure to share if you have any other great networking tips!

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