Building Your Network
Successful individuals have many overlapping networks in life - professional colleagues, friends with shared hobbies, fellow volunteers in community activities, fellow students, and many others. Your network includes all the people you know - even those you only know casually - and the people they know.
Who's in Your Network?
People in your network include:
People who are your advocates
They know you and your competencies very well and will recommend you to anyone. They are always looking out for opportunities for you. They are your strongest allies, and you should be especially conscious to build and nurture these relationships.
People you see regularly
Examples include colleagues, supervisors, clients, professors, classmates, instrument vendors, service and repair people, neighbors, and relatives. Any of these can be a great source of information, especially if you have nurtured the relationship by providing information for them on a regular basis. Make sure you have multiple ways to contact them, in case they suddenly change jobs.
Someone you know "in passing"
You know that person you see at every ACS National Meeting? Maybe you chat with them at sessions and social events? Is this person a resource for you? Would they know who you were if you emailed them? If not, you'll want to develop that relationship.
People you could find again because you both know someone in common
For example, your neighbor's brother-in-law works for an instrument vendor who sells a microscope you're interested in. This person may be a resource later on if you decide to change careers.
People you meet randomly
For example, someone you meet on an airplane. If they're reading something that looks interesting to you, strike up a conversation. At the end of the flight, ask for their business card. You'll likely never see this person again unless you exchange contact information.
Any of these individuals might have information or ideas you can use in your job search, but your professional contacts will normally be the most useful. They can often provide introductions to others in your field.
How to Grow Your Professional Network
Become active in professional associations!
Join one or more that represent your fields of interest. But don't just join; become active! Volunteer to help out with activities, and serve on committees. With ACS, for example, you can get involved by participating in Local Section activities and joining committees.
If you don't advertise yourself, no one else will. But, to grow your network, you need to express sincere interest in others, and look for ways to help them with their needs. Building long-term relationships based on mutual respect will be the very best thing you can do to ensure your long-term professional success.
At meetings, you might talk to speakers or other audience members after the presentation or during breaks. Express interest in their work and ask for suggestions for your own career development. Have business cards to hand out as you meet and talk to people. In conversations, be prepared to tell people about your job search, your background, and your desired position, when appropriate.
Participate in ACS activities!
You can also participate in Technical Division activities, or submit an oral presentation or poster at a Regional Meeting or National Meeting. Anything you can do to make yourself and your abilities visible will help in developing personal relationships and adding contacts to your network.