Networking leads to a career, but what leads to networking?

Welcome grad students and postdocs!

As a postdoc, one of the topics at the forefront of my mind right now is how on Earth I am going to find a job. And not just any job, but one that leads to a secure, enjoyable, and rewarding career. Am I asking too much? Maybe, but I sure hope not! I have loads and loads of student loans to pay off, not to mention a bit of an academic ego to uphold, and the hope that all my schooling wasn’t for nothing.

My unavoidable focus on my future career has led me down the career counselling path. I have attended numerous workshops, information sessions and personal counselling appointments to learn more about how to be successful in my quest for a career. And what is the number one recommended strategy to secure a job? Networking, networking, networking. It’s ‘who you know’ and ‘who knows you’.

Networking would be easy enough to do if I planned to stay in academia: I could just ask my supervisor for some contacts, or make sure to talk to colleagues at conferences who are in my area of study. But what if I want to leave academia, or change fields? How do I find people to network with then? And how do I just ‘casually’ saunter up and start a conversation with someone I don’t know?

The most valuable strategy I have found for just such a case is called Informational Interviewing. This is a way to go about setting up a meeting with someone you might not know, or who was referred to you as a potentially good contact. You connect with them using a professional email or phone call, meet with them to ask them about their current job, company, career paths and experiences, and the like. But here is the important part: you do NOT ask them for a job! Rather, this is an opportunity to make formal connections with individuals to start expanding your professional network.

I particularly found this strategy helpful as a quick job-shadowing experience. After informational interviews, I learned almost as much about the types of jobs that I DON’T want to do, as the ones I am very interested in doing. And I have developed contacts who have been happy to refer me to others.

Want to learn more about Informational Interviewing? Check out this workshop <> facilitated by Catherine Maybrey at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. You can also get much more information from the #GradProSkills module on Non-Academic Work Search.

I really hope the strategy of informational interviews helps you as much as it has helped me. Thanks for visiting, and make sure to come back soon to Find Your Future.


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