It's Who You Know: A Guide to Networking in the Life Science Industry

Career networking is an essential skill to learn for growth.


For many people in the biopharma and biotech industry, the thought of career networking makes them uneasy. Some dismiss it as a superficial practice better suited to the corporate world. Others simply feel they’re too antisocial and awkward to be out shaking hands and looking for new jobs.    

Networking in the Life Science Industry

There’s a science to career networking as well, though. If you’re trying to meet professional connections, then you need to reframe the way you think of networking. Stop viewing networking as a transactional process and see it as a way of building and maintaining professional relationships. 

Even if you aren’t looking for a new role in biopharma right now, nurturing relationships will only benefit your current role and career. 

Four Key Tips to Expand Your Network

Networking is the best (and only) way to access the hidden job market.  According to statistics compiled by Finances Online, a whopping 70% of jobs are never advertised to the public.

Why? In every industry, including biopharma, managers prefer to hire people that have been recommended to them by colleagues. 85% of all jobs are filled thanks to networking. In other words: networking is crucial for advancing your career. To help you start making those vital connections, here are four easy ways to build your career networking skills.

1. Utilize Industry Events

The biotech and biopharma world may have more conferences than any other industry. Think of how many symposiums, product releases and summits take place in biopharma every year. If you’ve attended even just a handful of them, then you’ll know they almost always have career networking events in the evening.  

It can be tempting to skip these events after a long day. If you’re looking to meet more connections, though: don’t. What might seem like a superficial hour of shaking hands and small talk could lead to making key connections for your future. 

After all, everyone is there to relax and unwind. It could be your chance to meet with people outside a professional setting. Bring your business cards and be ready to talk about yourself. You may end up with the beginning of a very beneficial relationship. 

2. Build Relationships, Not Transactions

That brings us to your most important takeaway: when you’re networking, focus on building relationships, not making transactions.   

Many people see networking as a one-shot process: ask about a job, find out about a job, apply to the job, the end. It’s much more complicated than that.  

New connections won’t necessarily have a job just waiting for you. However, like you, they’re looking to meet like-minded people who can help them in their line of work. You’re both looking to find people you can trust, and who also benefit from a connection with you for years to come. 

The first time you meet someone, your focus needs to be on beginning a trustworthy relationship. Once you do that, leads to new jobs and other connections will gradually follow. 

3. Be Proactive Online

Your social media footprint can be your most valuable tool for growing new connections.  Especially once you’ve met someone and want an unobtrusive way of keeping in touch.  Of all social media platforms, LinkedIn is one of the best for career networking. 

It’s likely that you already have a LinkedIn profile. Now is the time to make the most of it. Post articles that will be of interest to people in your industry every few days. Join relevant LinkedIn groups and be active in them. It goes without saying that your personal profile should be up to date. If you have any work that’s been published online, make sure you link to it as well.  

Other social media platforms can be very useful as well. Twitter can be used to find useful industry news, and to find more industry connections. Even Facebook, Instagram and TikTok can help you network. Just be sure to use them in a professional manner and leave your personal life offline. 

If you haven’t done so already, include your LinkedIn URL on your business cards. 

4. Grow Your Connections

It bears repeating: career networking isn’t a quick transaction, it’s a long and sustained relationship. Like all relationships, you need to nurture and grow a connection you’ve made while networking. 

Ideally, a successful first connection ends with an exchange of business cards, or by following each other on LinkedIn (exactly why social media can be so important). Think of that as planting the seed of a new business relationship. A seed will never grow unless it receives water and sunlight.  Neither will a new connection if you forget to nurture it as well. 

Within 24 hours of making a connection, send a quick follow-up note. Say it was great to meet them, briefly touch on the things you spoke about, and then tell them you hope to speak more in the future. 

After that, make sure you actually do stay in touch. Engage with any content they post on LinkedIn. Share articles that you think they may find of interest. If you find out they’re going to be at the same upcoming event as you, make plans to meet up.  

Above all, have patience and allow things to grow organically. Never try to force the connection to be more than it should. You should also accept that some business leads will end up going nowhere. Others may lie stagnant for a while before becoming active again. Networking can be unpredictable, but every connection could lead to a new role for you. 

It's true that career networking can push some biopharma professionals out of their comfort zone.  If this is you, you just need to revisit the way you look at the networking process. Once you realize that networking is about building and growing a mutually beneficial relationship, you’ll find it easier to make more professional connections.  Best of all, you’ll be able to find links to jobs you never knew about, and build the biopharma career you’ve always wanted. 

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