By Dr. Isaiah Hankel, the Cheeky Scientist
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1. Listen first, speak last.
People like to talk about themselves and their own interests.
The best way to build rapport is by asking open-ended questions and actively listening.
Be curious and genuinely interested in what they have to say.
You get more insight and deeper communication with open-ended questions.
Start your questions with “WHAT”, “HOW”, “WHEN” and “WHO”.
Questions such as, “Did you enjoy the conference?” will only receive a “yes” or “no” answer and will leave you fumbling for additional points of discussion.
Instead ask, “What did you think about the guest speaker?”
In this way, you will learn about their interests and point of view.
Pay attention to their responses so you can use them to personalize future communications with them.
Make a point to take notes after you part so you can follow up in meaningful ways with relevant information later.
2. Value their advice.
A room full of industry professionals can feel very intimidating.
To make up for their lack of industry experience, PhDs may feel the need to show off their own intellect.
It’s a good way to have your efforts backfire.
By pretending you know everything, you will come off as pretentious and will fail to build a strong relationship.
Instead, be interesting by being interested.
Acknowledge their experience and expertise by asking industry professionals for their advice.
Choose a topic that you know is near and dear to them and will bring them pride to discuss.
What is their opinion on the future of drug discovery?
What is the hottest trend in biotech at the moment?
What was their secret to success?
What advice would they give to young industry professionals who are looking to follow in their shoes?
Taking their opinion in high regards adds value to them while allowing you to gain from their experience.
This can be done at a networking event or you can set up an informational interview for a more personal approach.
3. Be authentically thankful.
“Thank you” is a magical word in networking.
It seems so simple, yet it is a huge differentiator.
Be appreciative of the time the person has made for you.
Not only does it show respect, it shows you acknowledge their busy schedule and the effort they took to chat with you.
Go that extra step further and write a handwritten thank you note (very few people do this, yet it’s commonly listed as the number one reason why a networking connection decided to refer a particular person for a job and the number one reason why an employer hired a particular job candidate).
Personalize it by mentioning a topic you discussed.
Thank them for any advice they gave you and tell them the outcome of their support.
If they mentioned they are traveling somewhere, Google a good coffee spot, local restaurant, or tourist attraction and advise them to check it out.
Be sincere in your thanks and never ask for any favors in return.
4. Introduce them to people in your network.
By listening to your contact, you will get to know their interests and what professional challenges they are facing.
From there, you can introduce them to people with common interests and goals, or simply expand their network in a new city or company.
In turn, you will strengthen your own network by making an introduction between two people who would benefit from knowing each other.
You are putting their needs ahead of their own.
Introduce them over email and be specific about who your contact is and how they will benefit from meeting one another.
Trumpet their achievements so they both feel like winners.
Show that you have a personal connection with your contact, making it more likely they will trust the other person and respond positively.
Demonstrate commonality and proactively suggest what the next steps should be: for example, to follow up over email.
The more you give to your network, the more you will receive back.
5. Share content and value their contributions.
Once the networking event is over and gratitude has been exchanged, you may struggle with how best to keep in contact without pestering.
You should send an email once every 1 or 2 months to maintain your relationship.
Add value in these emails by sending them a piece of content that could be of interest to them, either personally or professionally, based on your past discussions.
If they are working in a particular biotech sector and you see an article or breaking news story that is relevant to them, pass it along, stating you immediately thought this would be of interest.
FierceBiotech is one excellent resource for this strategy.
If they are on Twitter, you can easily share content with them and re-share content.
LinkedIn groups are also a valuable source of content and discussion forums where you can engage in conversation with industry professionals without filling their inbox with emails.
Endorse their skills and share their own content such as blogs or news items related to their company to show you value their contributions.
This all relates to building a rapport and staying within their radar for future job opportunities.
Referrals are the number one choice for job hires but obtaining these referrals takes time, and requires networking and adding value to industry professionals.
Don’t wait until after graduation to take this on.
Make the investment in networking and building industry relationships early and tend to them often.
Offering value to your industry connections will help build meaningful connections and increase your chances of getting a referral.
Adding value can be as simple as asking for advice, sharing interesting content online or creating a beneficial connection with someone else in your network.
PhDs are valuable industry commodities, so prove your worth by reaching out and adding value.