If You Aren’t Networking, You’re not Working!!

 In PhD/Postdoc Blog

If You Aren’t Networking, You’re Not Working!!

by: Marwa Zafarullah
Ph.D. Candidate (Integrative Genetics and Genomics)
University of California, Davis
Linkdln: (https://www.linkedin.com/in/marwazafarullah/)

The richest people in the world look for and build networks. Everyone else looks for work.” – Robert Kiyosaki


There was a time when I assumed academia was the first choice of every scholar, but now my view has changed: I see how the options in academia are limited, and I can imagine the advantages of venturing beyond the tenure-track to look at the variety of careers in industry, etc. In academia, your career progresses based on your participation in the research publications conversation – just the same, a career in another sector requires engagement with the issues and culture of that sector.

So if I wanted a good view of my career options outside of my academic field, I needed new professional models and mentors. I needed a network.

Networking is one of the most important career development and job search tools in the modern world.  The heart of networking is developing and maintaining connections with individuals in your field of interest. These contacts can provide useful insights and increase your chances to find the perfect position – which may not ever be advertised. Do you ever hear a phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? It fully applies here. Employers have incentives to hire candidates that have been referred by a trusted source. According to Matt Youngquist, the president of Career Horizons, at least 70 percent, if not 80 percent, of jobs are not published.

Networking is an ongoing process that takes time and nurturing, and not something you do just when you are looking for a job!

This was my question: as a graduate student at the University of California Davis how could I build up a new network if these skills and connections are not being offered in grad classes?

For me, the simple answer was to join the UC Davis FUTURE program. This decision helped me grow professionally and taught me vital networking skills such as cultivating a LinkedIn account and informational interviewing. I still remember the day after a LinkedIn workshop a lot of participants mentioned how they loved this workshop. I was surprised to hear fellow participants say this workshop established their very first professional LinkedIn account – don’t forget the majority of the FUTURE participants are graduate students and Post-Docs!

Prepared with these networking tools, we were ready to meet the FUTURE partner network – a group of 100+ Ph.D. professionals from a variety of career sectors who were ready and excited to talk about their work and their journeys. We had a ready-made, friendly community with which to practice growing professional relationships.

As an early career scientist, you need motivation and the support of people who believe in you so that you can land your first real Job. Finding the first job itself feels like a full-time job.  The FUTURE program and its community make the full-time job hunting less stressful by offering a ready-made professional network to learn with.

After attending FUTURE workshops, I decided to use the learned knowledge practically. I am currently serving on the executive board of the UC Davis Graduate Student Association. In that role, I set up an informational interview with a head of one of the famous multinational companies in the area. During an interview, I not only found a chance to learn more about the company and its culture but I also initiated a potential partnership with the GSA that would provide graduate students short internships.

I love what Robert Ingersoll said: “You will rise by lifting others.” This is so true about networking. On one side, a strong network helps you rise in your career aspirations; on the other side, it provides you a power to bring a good positive change for others.

I am delighted that I found a chance to join the FUTURE program as it taught me a life-changing lesson that everyone in grad school or looking for their first job needs to remember:

“If you’re not Networking, you’re not Working!!”

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