BRITISH SCIENCE WEEK – make connections, power your career!

10th – 19th March marks British Science Week, which, according to their official website, ‘is a ten-day celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths’.

This week is for acknowledging and celebrating those who have dedicated their careers to science. It also serves as an important reminder that we must continue to encourage people of all ages to enter this noble and exciting career path.

Since the theme this year is ‘connections’, we thought we’d explore why building a professional network is so important for achieving career success in science.

In a modern world, connections matter!

Connection with others is an inherent aspect of our modern society, and it’s extremely beneficial for professional growth. As we progress in our careers, a strong network can present new opportunities for learning, mentorship and career development.

Pursuing a scientific career can be daunting, it’s highly competitive, intellectually challenging and there are obstacles to overcome at every stage. To be successful, typically scientists need to possess a long list of advanced skills, including critical thinking, problem solving, essay writing, inquisitiveness, research skills, collaboration and teamwork, project and data management, to name a few.

Scientists also face long working hours, frustrations around experiments gone wrong, and the battle to find a ‘steady’ job. There is a substantial amount of learning and development involved, ‘imposter syndrome’ can be a problem particularly for those new to the profession, and the process of securing funding is not always plain sailing. Moreover, the pressure of a demanding work culture can make it hard to achieve a healthy work life balance.

Building strong professional relationships is one of the best ways for scientists to gain career momentum and overcome these career hurdles. In fact, it could be the most important factor for their advancement. Building connections presents an opportunity to trade information with likeminded professionals, further their skills and discover new opportunities.

Strategies for building professional connections that will help you succeed 

Accelerating your career growth starts with increasing your visibility. You build your visibility by seeking the support of mentors, by taking on high visibility projects that expose you to powerful career influencers, and via the personal and professional networks that you build, both on and offline.

Find a mentor

The benefits of mentoring for professional growth are well documented. According to Guider, ‘Mentees are promoted 5 times more often than those without mentors.’ Essentially, a mentor is someone who guides you and ensures you remain focused by setting relevant goals.

The support of a mentor can help you to build confidence and self-awareness, improve your skills and explore new ideas and perspectives. They can also help you to grow your professional network. Mentors act as role models and offer constructive feedback with a focus on professional development. They can expose you to others who may be influential in your career progression and can help to ensure that you are considered for promotions and new opportunities.

Power up your networking skills

Many people feel ambivalent about networking, but it’s critical to career advancement. It gives you access to influencers in your field, enables you to stay abreast of the latest industry trends, and aids the development of long-term, mutually beneficial and career enhancing relationships. By attending relevant and carefully handpicked networking circles there’s a higher chance of you discovering someone with the expertise you need to learn from. Furthermore, networking can help you gain clarity about the value you have to offer and when members of your network speak positively about you to others, it amplifies your reputation.

As a rule, scientists are skilled at relationship building but may struggle to sufficiently leverage their professional networks to their full potential.

Here are our top networking tips for the savvy scientist:

  • Approach networking with a ‘how can I help?’ attitude
  • Listen to people carefully, express a genuine interest in what they have to offer
  • Ask, and you will receive! Asking for advice can flatter people as it shows you have trust in their expertise
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself and your achievements!
  • Stick at it! Networking can feel uncomfortable for many, but the more you do it, the more natural it will feel

Build a professional online presence

How you present yourself online can have a major impact on your professional reputation, your employability, and your success. Essentially, your online presence is your own form of professional branding, and you must optimise it to ensure that it works in your favour. Social media profiles can help you to build a network of valuable contacts who may become powerful career allies.

Platforms such as LinkedIn present a unique opportunity to spotlight your skills, expand your professional network, spark collaborations and elevate your personal brand.

Just being present online will not suffice, however. To leverage the power of social media, you need to invest time in establishing your profile, developing your network and be an ongoing active participant.

Top tips for using social media to boost your professional profile:

  • Make sure your profiles are up to date with correct contact information and links
  • Display a welcoming and professional photo
  • Be strategic about building your professional network, start by leveraging your own networks and then reach out to other relevant professionals in your industry
  • Harness the power of direct messaging tools to grow more personalised relationships
  • Remember that social media is a 2-way street! There MUST be reciprocity and engagement is key for increasing your visibility and forming deeper connections
  • Get your voice heard by participating in conversations online, provide value, be helpful and show your expertise
  • Engage, engage, engage! Spend time liking, sharing and commenting on other people’s posts (mainstream and in groups)
  • Follow industry related blogs and thought leaders
  • Where relevant, share your profiles and/or your professional website with others online

Join relevant institutions

Joining a professional body such as one on this list can help to further advance your professional network. Being proactive with your networking and attending various scientific conferences and events equates to more opportunities to being introduced to potential employers that could work in your desired field.

Partner with a professional scientific recruiter

The start to any good connection is a good introduction! To boost your professional profile even further, how about partnering with a scientific employment match maker such as CY Partners? We’ve worked hard to build well established relationships with top scientific organisations and can introduce you to suitable employers and give you access to the latest available jobs. And as industry specialists we can share many golden nuggets of advice on how to get ahead in the science industry, CV and cover letter writing, interview techniques, in addition to specialist advice for your chosen field.

Ready to take the plunge? Get in touch today!

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