A robust professional network is the most important tool to advance your career. Real connections with your colleagues, maintained over time, are a valuable resource that can provide information, ideas, and introductions to others.
The more people, and the more different kinds of people, that you know, the more information you will have access to. It often turns out that the most valuable connections are not from your family and close friends, but your acquaintances, because they know different people and different things from you. (see “The Strength of Weak Ties)
Build relationships by taking a sincere interest in others. Learn what their interests are – both inside and outside of work. Keep notes of how you met, their profession, hobbies, and so on, and be on the lookout for things of interest to them that you can share.
As you start to become known as someone with useful information, more people will come to you with questions and problems. Do your best to never send them away empty-handed. If you can’t provide an actual answer, help them figure out how to find the answer, or refer them to someone else more knowledgeable on that topic.
I often say that I don’t know anything, but I know who to refer to for everything – and that is even better.
Dr. Lisa M. Balbes earned a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and undergraduate degrees in chemistry and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis. Since 1992, she has provided technical writing and editing services as Balbes Consultants, LLC, and her clients include Washington University Medical School, Bausch and Lomb Surgical, SigmaAldrich, and the US FDA. Prior to that, she was a computational chemist at Research Triangle Institute, conducting protein and small molecule modeling experiments in support of drug discovery.
She is the author of the book “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists: New Formulas in Chemistry” and more than 300 published articles. She is an internationally invited speaker on various career topics, with over 300 presentations to date, and she has been an ACS Career Consultant since 1993.
Lisa is a fellow of both the Royal Society of Chemistry (2013), and of ACS (2017), and currently on the ACS Board of Directors (2022 - 24). She has served her local ACS section as chair (2002, Outstanding Local Section and has been a Councilor for 15 years. Her committee work includes Committee on Committees (2020 - 21), Committee on Nominations and Elections (2014-19), and Committee on Economic and Professional affairs (2007–13, chair 2011-2013).
Accolades that she has received from ACS over the years include the E. Ann Nalley Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service, the Howard and Sally Peters Award, and the St. Louis section’s Volunteer of the Year.
Lisa and her husband, Mark, have two sons, both Eagle Scouts. Lisa is active with the Boy Scouts of America.
She shares her office with Olivia, the house rabbit, and volunteers weekly at the local house rabbit shelter. Lisa has also won state and national awards for her needlework.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.