You may have seen some of the different websites around for networking. I’m not talking about Facebook or Myspace, which are for social networking. Facebook and Myspace are great for keeping up with friends and sharing more personal details about your non-work life.
For scientific networking, you want to be able to connect with people on a professional level. Networking is critical because biotech and bioscience in general are very small worlds.
The people you are meeting and working with today may very well be the ones that help you get a job 10 years from now. The sales rep that you pissed off yesterday because he interrupted you at your bench might be the vice president of a company you would die to work for years later. Believe me, it does happen.
So start building your network of associates and colleagues now and you will reap the benefits when you need it the most.
Ok, so which site to use? We’ve given an overview of social networking sites for scientists here before. But I’d like to focus on the two networking sites I currently use for keeping in touch with my contacts and helping me to build my network.
On LinkedIn, your profile is professional and is basically your CV or resume. You can embellish on your profile to highlight your achievements and advertise your marketability, if you are looking for a job.
There are a very large number of recruiters using LinkedIn so you can almost guarantee that you will be contacted by potential employers if you are looking for work.
A nice feature specific to LinkedIn is that you can leave a recommendation on a colleagues profile and they can recommend you. This is especially great to have unsolicited reviews about you if you are looking for employment and also it’s just nice to receive positive feedback.
Another unique feature of LinkedIn is that once you have entered your information on your graduate schools and former companies, it alerts you when people from your previous schools or companies are registered. It proactively helps you to re-connect with old friends and colleagues. And LinkedIn also gives you updates on your network’s network so you can check out new people and see if you have common interests.
What I love about this site is that there are a huge number of professional using it. Their website says that over 30 million professionals are members of LinkedIn. That may be an underestimate.
Virtually everyone in the biotech industry can be found on LinkedIn and I am noticing more and more that academic researchers are using it too.
But it is not strictly for biotech and scientists, in fact it is not career specific at all so every industry is represented on LinkedIn.
I highly recommend this site to everyone because of it’s depth of members and the ability to easily build a network for your current or future career.
Labroots is a brand new networking site specifically for the scientist. It was started by Greg Cruikshank in March of 2008.
At first I was skeptical about whether or not I really needed another site besides linkedin.com for networking. But after playing on the site and with my profile for the last few weeks, I have to say it is a really cool.
The profile information is also similar to a CV or resume except unlike linkedin.com, it is basically the dates and places where you studied or worked and doesn’t have the option to go into major detail about your skills or experience. It seems to be more focused toward the academic researcher because they providing space to list posters, papers, grants, presentations, and honors and awards.
The difference between LinkedIn and Labroots is that the profile information is just the facts without the fluff.
The features I like best about the site are the news articles, events, and publications and the ability to personalize your homepage with widgets such as an RSS feed, the weather, the encyclopedia, a dictionary, a calculator, a clock, and a language translator.
It makes the page more your own and something you might want to keep open all day long. You get the latest scientific news headlines and publications along with the fun stuff you selected for your front page. This makes the site more unique and more customized so its more than just a networking site but it is also a great resource for information.
Because this site is new, membership is still ramping up so although there are many interesting discussion groups to join (I started two myself), there is not much discussion at the moment. I hope this changes as people find out about labroots.com and register.
I think as scientists we sometimes become very introverted because of the depth of focus required in our projects and the intense singularity of lab life. Networking sites provide a way for scientists to connect and meet people that you would normally never interact with and all from the safety of a computer. No actual human physical interaction is necessary.
Now all we need is for these networking sites to send us free t-shirts and we’ll be all set!