Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Importance of Networking

Update at bottom

If this ordeal with my PhD studies has taught me anything, it is the importance of networking. I can not say it enough. Regardless of the stage of your studies, get out and NETWORK. Get to know labs, start collaborations, join organizations. I have a huge history of networking outside of the lab, in alternative science environments. I have a huge lack of history of networking in science. Getting out and working with other labs, going to talks and seminars. Had I done that, it probably would've been much easier to move labs. People would know who I am and would count on my reputation, that I had worked at developing. Instead (I think), they go by the reputation of GradAdvisor who is known to be very nice. If I can't work with him, what is wrong with me. That could be totally off base and I am sure it is, but the truth of the matter is that unless I am out there and developing those relationships and demonstrating my abilities, I am no one to other PI's.
Contrast this with what is happening in the alternative science environments, where I have developed relationship and a reputation. A job was posted in an area that I have been interested in as a career path. Although, I may not be the perfect candidate for it, I know women who have work(ed) in the field. Yesterday I was struggling with writing a cover letter, as its not something I have done in long time. I emailed my very very rough cover letter to, a very good friend, whom I met while volunteering on the Board of the our Women in Science Organization. She looked at the job posting and sent me back a cover letter with some edits, advise on how to lay it out, what skills / experience to highlight. She also suggested I contact a former Board member who works at the University in an area that is similar to the posted job. I worked on the cover letter some more, incorporating the edits and advise that was given to me, then sent it to the former board member and the current President of our Women in Science organization. The president emailed me back with an example of one of her cover letters and advise on what to put into a letter when applying for a job that you have little to no experience for. Former Board member emailed, asking me to call her at work and the spent over 45 minutes "hinting" on exactly what the hiring committee is looking for. She also told me who is on the hiring committee. I have met one of the ladies through my work with the Women in Science organization. Former Board member knows the other individual quite well. Once I submit my application, I am to email her so that she can put in a good word and recommend that the individual meet with me regardless of whether he thinks I am a good fit for this job.
Lesson learned:
I have developed great relationships with people in a variety of alternative science career path who can open doors and point me in the right direction.
I can not apply for this job and ask for those doors to be opened unless I am going to walk through them. To do otherwise, would be harming the relationship and reputation I have worked so hard to build.
If I am able to join the newLab, I will have to get out there in terms of science networking.
I can not make any moves until the door on the other lab is shut.

Action: I called PI, left a message on her voicemail indicating that I need to know her decision so that I can make my decisions about pursuing other opportunities. I will wait until 12 pm tomorrow to hear from her.

This is a hard decision to make, but I can not sit in limbo. I am getting depressed sitting at home with no where to focus my energies. VWXYNot suggested re-emailing the PI's that did not respond. I could do that, but then I think that I will be passing up on this alternative career path opportunity. I also think that I would be sitting in limbo again waiting for others to make decisions. Of the PIs that did not respond, only 1 is someone who has a solid publication record, combined with a reputation for good science and good mentoring. If I email her, I will have to put on hold the job application. I think I will wait for the first PI to repond. If there is no response, I will submit the application and see what happens with the meetings and interviews. I have been trying to mend my heart and my soul about leaving grad school. I don't think I am able to open the door to it, only to have to close it again. My heart and soul could not deal. Its barely dealing now.

My emotions are slowly moving from sad to mad. Just tell me already. Don't not reply. Just fucking say yes or NO!!!!! URGH! I keep fucking checking my email and nothing! I get nervous when the phone ring. grumble grumble grumble.


Now I am fully angry. I am trying to make myself feel ok about this situation because of the monatary reward. I will get that later as well. I am going to make an appointment with Program Advisor before making any rash decisions. I can open the doors, as long as I am honest about my situation. Honesty is the best policy even if it gets me stuck in crappy situations like I am right now. Integrity and respect aren't easy to earn, and it usually earned for choosing the harder, more ethical road.


Mrs. Spit said...

I'm sorry. That's a hard place to be in. And there's nothing worse than waiting on word that may or may not come through.


Martini in a test tube?

Mimi said...

You should give her a limit. You don't need to be on the fence about this. Worrying when you could be doing. I am glad, however that you mentioned the power of networking. I really hope it all works out for you.

EcoGeoFemme said...

I'm impressed by your networking. It can be so scary to call people you don't know personally or well to ask for help. Good for you.

Hang in there with the waiting. sounds like the situation blows.

Melanie said...

Wow - I'm very impressed with your networking skills. And I sure wish I'd gotten more involved with that particular women in science group way back when.

I think that having a chat with the grad advisor (he's the guy we chatted about before, yes?) is a good idea. He can be very realistic and problem-solving, in a "well, duh," kind of way, if you know what I mean.

Personally, I do think that you should 1) contact that one particular PI again. She's that good. And 2) apply for that job. Yep, both. Assume these women are professional - they're assisting you in a phenomenal way yes, but you're still 'feeling out' the position yourself.

But I know, it's a tough decision to put it mildly. Hang in there. You'll not only get through it, I'm sure, you'll find in the end that exactly what needed to happen happened. I was raised in a home where it was believed that everything happens for a reason, but even more so, that everything turns out for the best in the end. Sometimes you just have to adjust your definition of the best in unexpected ways.

Amanda said...

I'm sorry about all the crap you're going through. I'm just in awe of your networking skills. I'm always terrified to call people (in the sense of a friend telling me to contact their friend). So, I think you're amazing. I'm still hoping that the PI contacts you soon with good news.