Rutgers iJOBS Networking Event: BioPharma Networking Group with Current Trainees

By: Samantha Avina

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, professionals in academia and pharmaceutical industries have adapted traditionally social events, like networking, by hosting virtually. The iJOBS program kick-started the fall 2020 semester by co-hosting a virtual networking event with the Bio-Pharmaceutical Networking Group(BPNG) on September 22nd, 2020. The Rutgers iJOBS program, led by Dr. Janet Adler, and the BPNG organization, led by Anil Vaidya, Stan Radomski, and Dr. Stephen Parent, joined in a collaborative effort to discuss how networking serves as a critical component in identifying new job opportunities. 

To start the event, Dr. Janet Adler highlighted the components of our iJOBS program which facilitate optimal networking opportunities to promote student exposure to non-academic based careers. In 2015, Rutgers University was 1 of 17 schools in the United States to receive an NIH Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) grant in the effort to help prepare and promote student entrance into non-academic careers. As a recipient of the NIH BEST grant award, Rutgers founded the iJOBS program. The iJOBS program is comprised of 4 phases in which students learn about the various non-academic careers at their fingertips and are exposed to resources which aid in their workforce entrance. In phase 1, students attend events to observe and inquire about different non-academic career options and identify fields that spark their interest. During phase 2, students apply for official entry into the iJOBS program to shadow professionals in their field of interest via an externship facilitated by the iJOBS program outreach. Further, in phase 3 students are assisted with the job application process for positions of interest. And finally, phase 4 includes the requirement of Rutgers Alumni to give back to iJOBS as a mentor, or more importantly, contribute to a network connection for future iJOBS program members. Many of the participants at this networking event, including leaders of the BPNG program, were Rutgers alumni or previously affiliated with the university.

Visual representation of iJOBS program aimed to assist Rutgers graduate students and post-docs in non-academic career pursuits. Photo courtesy of Rutgers University iJOBS program.

Next, BPNG founder, Anil Vaidya, discussed the benefits of becoming a member of the BPNG network with virtual network attendees. The BPNG program was established in 2012 by founders Anil Vaidya, Stan Radomski, and Dr. Stephen Parent. Anil highlighted how chapters of the BPNG organization have expanded in recent years to provide a large network for scientists throughout the eastern United states. BPNG is comprised of approximately 18,000 LinkedIn members across 8 regions including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Missouri, and most recently Toronto, Canada. Excitingly, their mission is to facilitate crosstalk and networking opportunities among professionals of diverse backgrounds within the health science community.

Whether virtual or live networking, the whole idea is to build strength within yourself and refine your ability to become a people person and interact with people in regard to your career track

Anil discussed how the art of networking includes becoming involved and enhancing your credibility through attending events. “Whether virtual or live networking, the whole idea is to build strength within yourself and refine your ability to become a people person and interact with people in regard to your career track and how to navigate through it,” Anil stated. Mr. Vaidya also emphasized the importance of creating a self-brand so that in the networking process, people can identify you and your associations in the field. 

Presentation slide from iJOBS and BPNG networking event highlighting components of successful networking. Photo courtesy of iJOBS and BPNG.

An important takeaway from the event was how critical it is to  utilize your personal brand to talk effectively  about your career interests in a concise and efficient manner. “As you speak to people you learn interview skills because you get a lot of interview as you network with people face to face or in person,” Anil emphasized. During virtual breakout sessions, students and industry professionals discussed their career goals, network, and even practiced their elevator pitches to focus on creating their personal brands.

As you speak to people you learn interview skills because you get a lot of interview as you network with people face to face or in person

In fact, I myself enjoyed having 3 attempts to perfect my elevator pitch with completely different sets of people as participants were mixed around into different virtual breakout rooms. With every new introduction, I became more concise in how I wanted to describe myself, my research, and my long-term career goals. Even more exciting, I met a lot of people from a mix of academic and pharmaceutical institutions located all throughout the New Jersey and New York area. At the end of the event, attendees were abuzz with excitement about the new connections and networking experiences they gained virtually from all around the tri-state area. In the true spirit of networking, all virtual attendants were able to add their LinkedIn contact information and email to a google doc set up by Dr. Adler to be shared with the group in light of the new virtual adaptation. 

The iJOBS and BPNG co-hosted networking event was a fun, exciting, and engaging virtual event that offered attendees a lot more than just talks about how to network, but also facilitated the environment to practice and make real connections with other professionals in the scientific community. Those who are interested in learning more about BPNG can visit their website and become a member of their LinkedIn page!

This article was edited by Junior Editor Rukia Henry and Senior Editor Brianna Alexander. 

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