As Dave Jensen pointed out in a 2009 Tooling Up column, "networking is about information exchange -- providing information about yourself and collecting information about other professionals, professional opportunities, and so on." Thus, even if you are not in the immediate job market, learning about developments in your organization can give you an advantage in finding and competing for career advancement opportunities where you're now working.
Many scientists work in academic, industrial, or government settings where the workforce consists of collections of teams organized into departments. But most of your work takes place in one lab or department, which makes it easy to become isolated from the rest of the organization. Even small companies and organizations often collaborate with others; for example, a small biotech company may work closely on projects with a larger pharmaceutical firm, or with one or more academic institutions. To take Colon's networking test you may need to define "organization" broadly.
Some of Colon's test items look into how well you know people in your organization and how well they know you ...
- Do you know people at all levels of the organization? Do they know your name and what you do?
- Do you know all the people whose work intersects yours in any way?
- Do you know and talk with others about tools to get the job done today and trends that will impact your job in the future?
Several of Colón's questions stress participation in face-to-face encounters with colleagues, for example ...
- Do you take every opportunity to meet in order to define and discuss complex problems, shifting priorities, areas of responsibility?
- Are you involved in any cross-functional efforts or interdepartmental activities (e.g., temporary assignments, committees, task forces, special projects, volunteer activities)?
- Do you drop by to see people even when you don't need anything?
And some of Colón's suggestions require bureaucratic survival skills that often come in handy in any organization ...
- Are you plugged into the grapevine? Do you find out what's up before your boss tells you?
- Do you know people who have jobs you might like to have some day?