PhD ≠ Job. Networking = The Business of Science.

Some of the ‘Early Career Ecologists’ at the Ecological Society of America Conference in Portland. Clockwise from back row: Andrew, Bill, Mike, Sarah, Helen, and Kelly. What a great bunch!

By Sarah Bisbing

As early career scientists, we are busy, busy, busy. Our many tasks include (but are not limited to): teaching, fieldwork, lab work, coursework, studying for prelims, analyzing data, publishing papers, attending conferences . . . shall I go on? Man, we’re a busy bunch – a bunch so caught up in our own to-do lists that we fail to acknowledge that there are non-academic, un-sciencey things that will benefit us in the long run. What I’m about to say is no secret, but for some reason this crucial career move is often left unspoken amongst academics – NETWORKING IS KEY. The relationships you take the time to build now will truly benefit you AND your career in the long run.

Networking is all about making connections and building relationships with those outside of our immediate circles. Yes, ecologists, you are especially prone to falling into the comfort zones of your respective fields of study. But, you know what, this may hurt you more than help you in the end. I am not discrediting our science here. Science rocks. And, your science matters. In the end, though, your science cannot stand alone and take you all the way. Network, network, network. Take some time out of your crazy, busy schedules to put yourself out there and meet some new people.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s honestly less about who you know but rather more about who knows you. As early career ecologists, putting yourself out there can be the difference between your CV (curriculum vitae) making it to the top of the pile versus being buried amongst those of your peers (who might I add have equally fantastic CVs). The more recognizable your name, the better off you will be (well, of course, as long as you haven’t made a name for yourself that is steeped in bad science). Even the most powerful scientists are still just people, and people tend to hire those whom they know and like. Personal relationships and name recognition enable you to stand out and rise above the rest.

Beyond benefiting your career, networking gives you a platform for engaging in and being a part of the scientific community. Until very recently, I refrained from engaging in public discourse about science. In just mere months on Twitter (@SarahBisbing) and writing for this blog, I have become a part of an international science community. I even met some of these folks in person while at ESA 2012! The world is truly so much bigger than our science and our small, academic circles.

So, yes, although your science is a huge part of your success, I implore you to take some time out of your busy, early career schedules and build some relationships. And (discrediting everything I just said), putting yourself out there may not even guarantee that your CV makes it to the top of the pile, but I promise that you will meet some really incredible people. I promise, and I always keep my word.

So, about networking . . . how do we actually go about doing it?

Why not start by writing a blog post? Or tweeting? Or attending a conference function (tweet up, anyone?)? Or introducing yourself to the scientist(s) you admire most?

Get networking, people!

** A big shout-out to @Katie_PhD, @LouWoodley, and #sonyc for inspiring this title!


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