By Marc Barowsky, BioSpace.com Contributor
The other day, I happened to overhear the best advice about making your way in the business world. A colleague, who had spoken at a graduating class of MBAs, offered this: “No one is going to manage your career for you, so you need to.”
Too many people don’t spend time thinking or doing much about their career.
Often people move from job to job in the life sciences with not much more thought than: “I deserve more money” or “I want a bigger job.”
There are a number of elements in managing your career—an important one is networking, which is what I’d like to focus on in this article.
Many people have a general idea of what networking is. Nowadays, people think of Linkedin as a networking site. It actually is not. A study many years ago by IBM consulting identified several traits required for true social networking. At its most basic, networking is simply using personal connections to obtain information. You might want to know about a specific person or what firm builds the best gizmo. But you can network to arrive at the answer.
For this to happen you need to know:
1. Who has the information you want (or who knows someone who knows it)?
2. How do you get in touch with that person?
3. Is that person willing to part with that information?
4. Can you trust (and act on) the information?
Your starting point will determine how quickly you can get to the information you need. The key to networking at the foundational level is—spoiler alert—people.
Developing good and productive relationships will require time, patience, an ability to initiate a dialogue, documentation, as well as a good memory. The keys to creating a dialogue are the abilities to listen actively and ask precise questions, and what I call a quid pro quo-ish mindset. “Quid pro Quo” is Latin for “this for that”. In cruder terms it is “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”
Let’s look at this in action. Say you’ve decided you want a new job to pick up specific skills. Now let’s say you’ve figured out that ABC Biotech Company is the best place for you to do that. You know you need information, and lots of it, about ABC Biotech.
As mentioned above, you need a list of the information you’d like to get (Who is the center of gravity for these skills within the company? How do they develop skills in their employees? What skills and experiences do people need to have to join ABC Biotech?).
Then you need to figure out who you know at ABC Biotech (or who formerly worked there) or at least someone who knows someone at ABC Biotech. Once you know who you’d like to speak with, you need to actually speak (not email) with them or be introduced to do so. The more time and access they grant you, the higher the odds you’ll learn at least some of what you seek.
Ok, so you’ve got a phone call or face-to-face scheduled and you’re ready to “collect” your info. This now becomes a hurry-up-and-wait situation. Before any talking takes place you need to do more work:
A. Research the person you’re speaking with (through mutual connections, LinkedIn, Facebook, ABC’s company website, etc.)
B. Find “prompts” to prime the discussion (prompts are things you have in common, such as interesting jobs or hobbies they’ve had, where they’ve lived, etc.)
C. Put on your active listening ears
D. Write down a few key things you’d like to learn (see above)
E. Be curious about the person you’ll be talking to
F. “Integrate” your questions into the dialogue
Now you’re ready for your conversation, in which the great unknowns are “Does this person have the information I want and are they willing to share it?”
In my next article, I’ll talk about how to make sure this conversation goes well.
Marc Barowsky is a business, consulting and recruiting professional based on the east coast. He has over 20 years recruiting, sales and business development experience. His work has crossed multiple industries including: Pharma/Biotech, Technology, Telecommunications, Digital Media, and Business and Professional services. The clients he has worked with range from pre-revenue to multi-billion dollar companies and he has recruited from mid-level to “C” suite professionals. He began his recruiting career at Russell Reynolds, a premier executive search firm, in their Boston office.