The success of any scientist or engineer is the result not only of hard work and technical excellence, but also of a combination of creativity, problem-solving abilities, and, perhaps most important, interactions with other people. In Networking for Nerds, Alaina G. Levine offers advice on how to define, maintain, advance, and communicate your “brand”—what makes you unique and valuable as a scientist—to potential employers and collaborators.
Levine begins by dispelling common myths about networking, including the ideas that it’s a waste of time, a sleazy salesman’s tactic, and that only job seekers need to network. She highlights how networking can open otherwise hidden opportunities, including ones that might not yet exist, and argues that it also benefits the entire science and engineering community (“you cannot have innovation without regular influx of a diversity of ideas”). Levine goes on to show readers how to think about and communicate the value of their particular skills and experience, what she calls a “brand statement.” Keep it simple and short, she advises: “a brand statement is not a thesis. It is not meant to take three hours to deliver.”
In Chapter 4, Levine walks the reader through the steps needed to establish, maintain, and grow a professional network, emphasizing things like the importance of asking questions (“successful people remain successful by being inquisitive”) and the value of a good mentor (“a mentor has access to networks you don’t have access to”). In later chapters, the reader learns how to make any situation a networking opportunity, as well as how to employ social media to increase one’s professional visibility.
The best advice comes from the practical pointers and real-life examples sprinkled throughout the book. These tips and vignettes help the reader think about how to incorporate similar strategies into one’s own networking activities and to visualize the potential benefits that will be derived from these efforts.
Networking for Nerds serves as a guide for developing skills that are almost never taught in a formal way to scientists and engineers. This excellent resource should be on the reading list of those in the early stages of their careers, as well as those who may be contemplating a career change or hoping to secure a promotion.