Everyone has been through a lot this year. So many things have changed, and with a lack of clarity as to which way things could go, it’s no surprise that a number of people are trying to define their ‘new normal’. Whilst physical networking events are great, this ‘new normal’ may not accommodate for that in the near future but this shouldn't stop you from networking. Here at BWiS we are firm believers that a strong network is a key ingredient to success is not just your professional career, but also in life outside of work. So much so that we have created a networking guide in which we break down how to network online into 4 stages: connect, converse, invest, integrate. Following these four steps will allow you to make meaningful connections; the best, and most rewarding form of networking.
Connecting is an obvious first step but arguably the hardest one. This step requires you to reach out, likely in a way that may be out of your comfort zone. By ‘connecting’ we simply mean showing your hand and expressing your interest in making a new connection. This can be done in a number of ways whether it be publicising that you’re looking to connect with specific professionals or simply dropping somebody a message that says,
“Hi, I came across your profile and would love to talk about your work/experience in…”
Connecting for the sake of connecting is often futile. In order to make meaningful connections, it needs to be based in purpose. Decide on whether you want to connect to grow professionally, to find a comrade etc and set vague parameters in which you are likely to find these people. For example, if you were a junior doctor looking for a mentor to support you through your path to consultancy/specialisation, then you could advertise this honestly or seek out people with the capacity to mentor and reach out to them accordingly.
There are a number of platforms that you can use to find people to connect with; here are a few that are both free and great for making new connections.
LinkedIn is not a force to be reckoned with. Companies, networks and individuals post information on LinkedIn about recent promotion, new job, job openings, questions etc. LinkedIn is known for its use to make personal connections so don’t be shy to ‘Connect’ with any of its 675 million members across the globe to extend your network.
BYP Network App
BYP’s mission is to connect black young professionals with ‘each other, job opportunities, black businesses, events and freelancers’. They do this through their app that launched under a year ago but already hosts a vibrant community of black professionals from a range of fields. On their app you can scroll through your live feed, search for job opportunities and connect with other users. If you’re interested in what has been coined “the black LinkedIn”, the app is available for download now.
BWiS Network forum
Our forum is a safe space for the black women in the science industry; a space where black women can speak, ask and engage with each other without judgement or pressure for ‘outside’ voices. Our niche platform is perfect for those of you who want to filter out the background noise and connect with like-minded scientists. Take a sneak peek at some of our members by looking back through our Spotlight On… series. If you’re a black woman in science and looking to be part of these inspiring professionals then sign up to become a member of our network. Remember though, the power of a network lies in how you use it.
If these times are showing us anything, it’s that science is accessible to the general public. The use of social media in science, as a way of lay commentary, has been growing at a speedy rate. It’s exciting to be a part of. Follow some science communication accounts and engage with them. Whilst at first you may not be making personal connections with people on the timeline, you’ll be surprised at what doors a social media presence can open. Be part of the movement and share your science whilst engaging in the other friendly scientists online.
There are lots more platforms that you can use but the power of these platforms lies in the way that you use them. Read The Power of a Network for more information on this. Finding a connection is a is the first step but making the actual connection still needs to happen. We encourage you to challenge yourself to seek opportunities to network. Putting yourself out there is nerve-racking, so now that you glossed over the list we gave you as assumed that you don't have the chutzpah to do that, we’re going to ask you to go back and choose the platform that’s best for you.
Regardless of the platform(s) that you chose, there are only two things that you need to get started: a profile picture and a biography. We don’t subscribe to the idea that specific profile pictures are ‘better’ than others but think about the type of profile picture that you would respond to. For instance, between an egg vs a picture of you in the lab/in the field; who are you responding to? Don’t stifle your creativity to follow strict guidelines, have fun with it. Now for your biography. Biographies are usually limited to a few hundred characters so think big but write small. As long it's natural and representative of you, it’ll draw in the right people. Our best advice is to not focus much on selling yourself but rather be factual about yourself.
Here are a few examples for you...
We know it may not be the easiest for everyone to reach out to new people so we thought we’d help you out. Register your interest via this form and we'll do our best to connect you with someone who is also up to form a new connection.
Make sure you share this so that more people sign up and you have a better chance of connecting with someone new. Stay tuned for the next step: CONVERSE. We will take you through the best way to keep a conversation going once you’ve formed a connection.
By Tomi Akingbade, Founder