Networking is the art of establishing and maintaining job-related relationships. Although most often discussed as a tool in job-seeking, networking in the molecular biology field goes far beyond the job search. In research, you are never working alone. Networking with colleagues is an important tool in advancing your professional knowledge and scientific work.
One of the best networking opportunities is the professional conference, such as organized by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Conferences offer the opportunity to catch up on the latest in your field and to meet new colleagues. Conferences frequently post job openings as well, and may offer opportunities for on-site job interviews. Meeting face-to-face is one of the most effective ways to initiate and build long-lasting professional relationships.
Conferences provide the opportunity to see what others in your field are doing and to compare notes with colleagues who are pursuing similar lines of research. It is not unusual for colleagues to identify opportunities for joint projects. Even though their labs may be half a world away, they can continue to work together to pursue a common objective. Networking helps to create the connections---and the collaborative projects---that can result in real scientific progress.
It is also very important to network with your colleagues within your organization. Attending internal project-sharing sessions may spark ideas for collaboration. Good internal communication helps to assure the effective use of resources such as equipment and personnel. Internal networking allows you keep up with office politics and your organization's priorities and needs.
In the molecular biology research field, your career growth depends on the quality and impact of your work. The best way for your work to become known is to present your data at professional conferences. By presenting a paper or hosting a poster session, you and your work can be recognized by others in your line of research. Since advancement in an academic career depends upon recommendations from colleagues outside of your university, this exposure can make the difference between a successful career and a dead end. Conferences also provide a place to identify potential future job opportunities---or future employees.
Just as in other fields, molecular biologists are increasingly going online for their communication and networking needs. These include online forums, blogs and social networking sites such as LinkedIn. These are growing in popularity with the younger generation; however, the traditional scientists still rely heavily on the face-to-face opportunities for relationship building.
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European Molecular Biology Network
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Cell and Molecular Biology Online