#APHEvents – Networking; A Powerful Tool for Professional Success

The Aspiring Professionals Hub (APH) recently convened a workshop on networking with delegates comprising, students, University staff, members of public and diplomats who were in attendance at the Educational Forum which formed part of the activities marking the Inaugural Africa Week programme at the University of the West of England, Bristol.

We chose the area of networking as we realise how important it has been in shaping our career journey and is one of our mantras in the Hub.Our goal is simple – to demystify networking and to make it “real” for our audience especially those in the early stages of their career who might not have had the chance to network and for those who have, how to do so effectively.

The key to effective networking is to know what it is and what it isn’t– which we defined previously as ‘the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business’ We took this a step further by defining it as ‘the process of knitting together ideas, people and situations to create opportunity.’ 

Networking is about building relationships. We discussed the importance of networking and offered some tips to get our participants started.

Preparation – you should always be prepared to network and prior to attending an event it is important to ask yourself some questions such as;

o   Who will be at the event and who/what organisation(s) do they represent?

o   Is it a formal or an informal event and if so, how should you cater for your appearance – would you need to wear a suit? Would dressing informally affect your ability to engage with any high profile delegates?

o   What would you consider as personal success for you at the end of the event?

We also stressed the importance of having business cards. These are very cheap to purchase these days and having your role i.e. what you do and what you can offer, your contact details including a phone number and email address which you can be reached on is what you need to begin your networking journey.

 

Finally, we highlighted the importance of follow up. This can be arduous and often easier not to do but when done correctly it is generally seen as a polite gesture and more often than not, people do respond when you follow up after discussing and exchanging contact details with them at events.

So next time, how about a “Hello……, it was nice to meet you at…..”

We had a really interactive audience and enjoyed the activities where our delegates got the chance to plan their next networking activity. Hopefully we have met our mission of ‘engaging and equipping’ a few more professionals who will utilise the knowledge they have learnt for their development.

You can see some pictures from the event here

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Photo credit – Olivia Dixon

To find our more or read our previous articles on networking click here.

If you would like the Aspiring Professionals Hub (APH) to run a similar workshop for your organisation, please contact us – info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com.

Finally don’t forget to join the conversation by leaving a comment, also feel free to share and subscribe to our network

#UniAdvice – How I got my first graduate role!

Jobs
Image – Geralt

You’ve worked so hard to graduate with a good degree. You can recite your CV and personal statement verbatim. Yet, getting into your first graduate position seems like getting a camel through the eye of a needle! Worse still, you seem to be caught in the ‘Catch 22’ of ‘No work without experience and no experience without work’. In today’s article, Zohra shares her journey to landing her first graduate position with one of the world’s top pharmaceutical firms.

APH: Congratulations on getting first graduate role, please can you share your educational background?

ZA: Thank you. I recently achieved a first class BSc (Hons) degree in Pharmacology from Kingston University. Prior to this, I studied Biology, Chemistry and Maths at college.

You shared with the Aspiring Professionals Hub about how a lack of experience seemed to be a giant hurdle towards getting employed. How were you able to break through this barrier?

New Year’s Resolutions 2016: Time to get on the scales or simply just eat it?

It is yet only a few days into the New Year and as usual the “lists” are probably getting longer or even shorter with each passing day or perhaps floating around in your wallet, ironed out by your fridge magnet or like myself, on my little “whiteboard”. I’m sure you know what I’m on about, the fated ANNUAL New Year’s Resolutions conlist!!

New year
New Year’s Resolution – A fantasy or fallacy.               Source: happydiwali2015cards.com

So what exactly have you decided to do? Are your plans or lists achievable or are they the usual 2-3 week strong effort and 11 months and 1 week grumble and regret for even bothering to think you’d do what you wrote?

I’ll tell you mine, well the first and main one!

Projections NOT resolutions – My (Emmanuel) 2015 went as fast as a bullet and my 2015 resolutions list became a distant memory long before spring. So after lamenting on my failures of 2015  my little eureka was to cheat a little ahem! simply change the wording (very easy right?). So, no resolution this year but achievable, meaningful, valuable yet exciting projections that I can quantify or evaluate at the end of the year. This, as a starting point, I was forced to set realistic targets! At least with  target i can have a focus and it trumps an unrealistic resolution which is akin to you dreaming of marrying the queen and becoming King of England…it’ll never happen and you know it 🙂

What else?

Reflections – My Parliamentary Internship Experience

Daniel AmundFinding a placement can often be challenging however the opportunity to embark on a placement is one we always recommend. In our opinion, if you are a student or early career graduate seeking that dream job, if you get the chance to embark on a placement, grab it with both hands! In today’s post, Dr Daniel Amund, Academic Mentor at London Metropolitan University, London, UK shares his internship experience at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) highlighting the benefits of an internship.

During the third year of my PhD, I applied for and was awarded a POST fellowship. The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) is the UK Parliament’s in-house source of scientific advice, providing parliamentarians with balanced and accessible analysis of policy issues related to science and technology. POST runs several fellowship schemes funded by various Research Councils, charities and learned societies, which allow PhD students to spend three months working as POST fellows. Most fellows research, write and publish POSTnotes, which are four-page briefing papers summarising public policy issues, based on reviews of literature and interviews with academic, government and industry stakeholders.

My experience of working in Parliament during my PhD was very enjoyable and rewarding. It was refreshing to be able to take a step back from my PhD research, and focus on researching a different topic, using different methods in a different environment. That ‘break’ was beneficial because when I went back to writing my thesis, I had a fresh perspective and was able to utilise the skills I had developed to improve my thesis. Having to condense a lot of information into a four-page document that had to be accessible to non-scientists helped me develop my writing and communication skills, which helped in communicating my ideas better in my doctoral thesis.

Aside from the renewed vigour, clarity and focus that can be derived from an internship, there are added benefits such as CV development and networking opportunities. These may sound like a cliché, but they are rather important. My fellowship at POST was the most significant piece of work experience I had on my CV while I was a student, as the other jobs on my CV had been mainly casual student jobs at University, as well as some voluntary work. I should mention that these were by no means a waste of time, as my interview for the POST fellowship demonstrated as some of the questions were focused around my casual and voluntary roles.

However, having the POST fellowship on my CV has meant that I can use the range of transferable skills I gained in demonstrating how I meet the person specification when applying for jobs. Furthermore, the POSTnote counts for me as a publication which is not only satisfying and something to be pleased about, it is also a good career plus! Keep in mind that internships also serve as a point of discussion in job interviews as my experience shows.

During my fellowship, I interacted with various people, including other POST fellows and staff, and got to take part in various events within and outside Parliament, all of which served to broaden my horizons and expand my networks. As a POST alumnus, I have been invited to attend POST events, and I get informed of job opportunities within the field of science policy. My experience at POST has also directly or indirectly availed me of opportunities to attend other events in Parliament, such as Parliamentary Links Day, Voice of the Future, and SET for Britain. Networking at one of such events has led to me being involved in an annual international youth science conference, as a speaker and as a poster judge!

The networks built during internships could turn out to be the most significant networks for the early stages of your career after graduation. Employers often write references for interns in support of job applications, or may inform interns of vacancies within their companies or in other companies. Networking is definitely not just about who you know, but about who knows you.

Internships provide opportunities for students to put themselves out there, in professional environments, so that they get noticed by those who matter, in addition to gaining valuable knowledge and experience. Doing an internship could also inform students of the various career options available to them in their subject disciplines. In my case, the POST fellowship revealed other career options for scientists, outside of academia and industry.

Internships and work placements are a great way to enhance employability upon graduation. I highly recommend students to take up such opportunities, be they short-term or year-long (sandwich) placements.

Finally, how did I find out about my internship? I got to know about the POST fellowship as a result of being a member of the society that sponsored my fellowship! Thus, membership of relevant professional bodies or learned societies can be useful in securing an internship or placement. This I highly recommend as professional bodies and learned societies are a great source of incredibly useful resources, information and support.

If you would like to find out more about internships and how to take advantage of them, please contact us. In addition, if you have questions for Dr Amund about the POST fellowship, you can email us for details or better still, find him on LinkedIn. If you enjoyed reading this article, please share and follow! We would love to share your stories in The Hub as well so do get in touch – info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com.  

Why you should join a professional society!!

Societies IIOne of the first questions I (Emmanuel) ask when approached by anyone seeking any form of career advice is whether they are members of any professional societies or professional bodies in their subject areas or career interest areas. Just for reference, the terms “professional societies” or “professional bodies” are often used interchangeably.

I have to admit, at times I get a blank look like errrr…and often it tends to be a NO answer and a funny look like my question is a silly one.

Reflecting back a few years, when I worked in industry, I was not an active member of any professional societies thus, I never got involved in any professional activities with my peers outside the work place. This changed when I embarked on a PhD and advice from my wonderful mentors.  Having attended many conferences and society organised events to date, it is clear that society membership and society events are not limited or restricted to professionals from any individual field i.e. it is not only for people in academia or research hence, it is imperative for any student, early career or mid-career professional to take joining societies as a very key element in career development and positioning.

As with everything else, there are usual challenges and sometimes grumbles when people talk about joining societies. In this post, we talk about thing to be aware of when joining a society and the opportunities you can get from being a member.

But there are many societies,  how do I know which to join? – this is often the comment that I get in the discussions about joining societies. Yes! There are indeed several societies in the different subject areas which does create some confusion. In an ideal world, many would be happy getting involved with the different societies, however the reality is different. This is because membership of the societies come at a cost (annual membership or joining fees). This sometimes serves as a deterrent for some to join professional societies however in our experience, the benefits far outweigh the cost implications of membership.

However, think about it like joining a gym, we’d all obviously like gym memberships to be free, but to use the facilities, to have the social interactions and to be part of a group with a common goal of fitness and health you had to pay a membership fee didn’t you? The professional societies obviously do not work like gyms (maybe the worst analogy!!) but they provide helpful and very useful activities and opportunities that members greatly benefit from.

Before you join – to help you decide on what society to join, the first thing we’d advise you to do is look through the pages of the society website. Where there are no functional websites for the society (not a good indicator!!), find someone who is an active member of the society and enquire about the activities and benefits of the society generally and also what the individual has benefited from the group. Keep in mind the interests of people joining these societies are not always the same and tend to be for different reasons. Thus, try and identify what would you would like from the society before forking out membership fees to join any society.

Once you join – now this is the important part, the easiest part is joining the society, the harder part is navigating through the society and having real benefit from your membership. It is important you have an understanding of how the society functions and the different activities as well as opportunities that you can take advantage of as a member.

We will now briefly highlight some of these opportunities……

Conferences and workshops – every functional professional society runs at least one conference annually or two years (dependent on the size of the society as well). Some societies run an annual conference for all members and smaller local meetings and workshops which are open to members in different regions. This is a good place to take advantage of things like discounts on books, new and existing technologies and freebies. For many, this is a chance to unwind whilst interacting with other professionals in their field of expertise. I (Emmanuel) love attending conferences as it not only offers me a chance to showcase my research, I also get to listen to and see new and ground breaking research in my field whilst developing new networks, collaborators and many new friends.

CPD – the added advantage of joining professional societies is the ability to have some level of professional development. These could be in the form of courses or attendance at seminars and conferences and is useful for professional progression or career development.

Career and mentor events – this is fast becoming a key part of the activities of many big professional societies. For example, the American Society for Microbiology at the annual general meetings hold career workshops for students, PhD and Post-doctoral members. At these events, different employers especially those from major organisations including Biopharma, National institutes, Universities, Marketing and Commercial speak to the delegates and offer free advice on careers and offer mentoring which the delegates find incredibly useful.

Collaboration – this is a key part of society activities and active membership. If you are already a member of a professional society then ask yourself this question. How many functional collaborations have you made as a member and how many of those are active? Being part of a professional society means you have better access to different sectors within your field and you should make use of this. If you are a student and seeking opportunities for the next phase of your career then you are in a good position where you also have access to key employers in your field who are always seeking great talents and in our experience comment on the enthusiasm and zest of young individuals who make the effort to attend conferences or engage with them at society sponsored events.

Grants and awards – I tend to refer to this as a “mini lotto”. You pay £2 with the hope of winning millions or at least more than £2 if you have that magical pen. Well professional societies offer grants and awards which enable members attend events, conferences and support members who have ideas or initiatives that are a beneficial and of relevance to other people in that field. Memberships grants could be anything from support for travel costs to thousands of pounds/dollars to attend major events or for international capacity develop activities. Both Amara and I have benefited from some of these grants such as the Society for Applied Microbiology (SfAM) conference studentships which enabled us attend the annual summer conference in different cities in the UK and Ireland for many years.

Committee activities – want to bolster your CV?  Join a committee!! Within the societies, there are usually several committees such as student committees, organising committees for conferences, editorial groups etc. where possible, get involved with a committee within your professional society after you join. This is not only beneficial, it is rewarding and you can develop yourself a lot more than as a by-standing member.

Networking & Friends – We have discussed networking in some detail and would suggest you read our previous posts. Joining professional societies would undoubtedly enlarge your scope for networking and as we mentioned before, the aspiring professionals’ hub was a child of networking at a professional society event from many years ago. Also, in these professional societies, you will find many people like you, looking to interact and engage with others. We have had many contacts that have become friends and we have shared many great times and memories as a result.

So what are you waiting for? Join a society today and reap the benefits that are widely available to you in your field and area of expertise or go make a friend or two.

Would you like to share or discuss your experience with professional societies, please  leave your comments or sending in your reflective pieces to be published here. Please contact us via info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com or@AspProfHub. If you enjoyed reading this article, please share and follow! 

Reflections – Attending my first international conference

I have always loved attending conferences because they provide opportunities to network with other scholars, publicise my research activities, as well as build my research profile. I have attended some conferences in the UK and when I got the email that my paper has been accepted for presentation at the American Marketing Association (AMA) Winter Education Conference, I was excited and started looking forward to it.

Attending an international conference requires good preparation. The conference organiser was very helpful with providing travel information, especially regarding obtaining a visa. All that was required by the American Embassy was my invitation letter in addition to a student confirmation letter from my University. I was amazed at how simple the process was.

Before I knew it, I was off to San Antonio, Texas. The immigration officials seemed surprised that I was only visiting for a few days for a conference. The Conference had a very different atmosphere to conferences I had attended in the UK – this could be due to the fact that Americans were by far the biggest nationality present!

There are some things I found particularly interesting:

Early Riser – I am used to the first session of each day starting between 9:00 and 10:00 in the morning but sessions started as early as 8:00 am! Each day was fully packed with events but it was great to have the opportunity to explore different sessions and meet lots of people.

Networking – Though I was quite reserved in my networking approach, I used every opportunity to network. I chatted to people I sat with in sessions or met during lunch. In relaxed atmospheres, it is easier to start conversations and get to know people. Interestingly too, I was able to network with people I had met on Twitter before the conference.

The PhD Process: US vs. UK – I learnt about the differences between how PhDs are structured in the US and the UK. In the US, PhD candidates can spend at least 5 years working towards their PhD. A lot of work (and time) is spent grooming candidates for research and academia, which I find to be very different from how the PhD process occurs in the UK. There were also indications that a large proportion of American Marketing research is quantitative – developing and testing models – this means researchers heavily rely on statistical packages and tools. Candidates are taught to use these tools as an integral part of their PhD.

The Job market – I learnt that you can use ‘one stone to kill two birds’ while attending the AMA Conference.  Apart from presenting your research and networking, you could probably leave with a new job and start preparing for life as an Assistant Professor! This requires a lot of planning though as you would need to have applied long before the conference. The point to note however, is the fact that it has been incorporated into the conference. Universities know they can recruit at the conference and students are well prepared for the fact that they could be interviewed during the conference.

The Socials – Unfortunately, there was no social event as I would have expected. Typically, UK conferences are for three days; Wednesday to Friday; with socials being held on the penultimate night. Socials provide a good opportunity for conference delegates to ‘let their hair down’ and socialise in an informal atmosphere. I decided to entertain myself by visiting some key landmark sites in San Antonio.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience, I did enjoy myself, meet nice people and develop some productive relationships. Most importantly, it was a challenging, thought provoking opportunity to see how I could best improve myself, in terms of developing my research skills, publications and getting ready for the job market. I plan to attend the Summer AMA in 2016 as I will be more than ready to explore opportunities USA has got to offer.

Emmanuel Mogaji is a member of the Centre for Advances in Marketing, Business and Management Research Institute at the University of Bedfordshire Business School. His research interests are on the design and development of marketing communication for service providers, universities and charity organisations. He is currently working on his PhD, focusing on advertising strategies by UK financial service providers. He tweets @e_mogaji.

Please share your stories with us, we would love to hear from you. Contact us @ aspiringprofessionalshub@gmail.com or @AspProfHub

Your Job Search – Who you know matters but who knows you matters even more!

Looking for a job can be challenging and an arduous process. It is easy to feel discouraged when things are not working out but please hang in there! In today’s post,  Dr Genevieve Regan, Laboratory Coordinator at the University of the Sciences, Philadelphia,USA shares some strategies for job seekers focusing on the importance of networking.

I should start this with the disclaimer that ‘I am no expert in job searching, career planning, or ladder climbing.’ I am just a person who, after a year of serious searching, has successfully gotten a new position that is better than my previous position and will hopefully lead to better and better things. I can also say that prior to getting my new job,  those qualifications would be all I needed in an author because job searching is gruelling and having gotten a job means something went right for the writer so I would love to hear what they had to say.

In the last 4 months, I applied to 26 jobs, followed up on my application when I could, went to 4 interviews, and got 0 of the jobs I had applied for. My current job came from being in the right person’s mind when a good opportunity became available. Hence my title, “Who you know matters, and who knows you matters even more”.

There are three main points to my networking strategy that I think worked to my advantage. The first is to have a network. You have to think about who you know. I know I lamented, “But I don’t know anyone” but it wasn’t true. I had former classmates and professors, co-workers, and family.

The second point is to have real relationships with these people. I needed to know them but they also needed to know me. Don’t just cold call people and announce you need a job, connect with them. If they are doing the kind of work you are interested in, find out how they got there, find out what interests them about the work, and find out what you can do to help them. Let them know you are looking for work but don’t be demanding about it, give a good picture of your interests and what is going on with yourself. A good relationship needs sharing between both parties.

This leads to the last point; be memorable. People remember people who help them. It doesn’t have to be helping them out with big things, just be a friend or good colleague. Things like sharing an article you think they would like, volunteering to help out on a project or event, or being a sounding board when they need one all can help your relationships.The overriding theme to the strategy would be not to treat it like strategy.  Be the kind of person you would legitimately help to find a job and people will want to help you find a job. They will think of you when they hear of an opportunity the same way you might think of someone else you know when you hear of one. There is an added benefit to my non-strategy strategy. You are connecting with people, and that should be fun. Going for coffee, meeting up at a happy hour, having discussions about topics you both are interested in, these should be fun. In all the job search stress you need fun, so consider it to be part of the process.

If you find networking challenging, you are not alone. Please check out our articles on Networking here and here. If you would like to share an article in The Hub, feel free to contact us @ aspiringprofessionalshub@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter @AspProfHub.