Networking for Nerds, Alaina Levine, STEM

Review of Networking for Nerds by Alaina Levine

Why I Chose this Book

I went to my local library one day to do some work. It’s a nice calm environment free from distractions that I find at home. While walking to the back of the library to find more space and avoid the traffic, I noticed a book with an interesting cover accompanied by an interesting title, Networking for Nerds. Both the cover art and title were simple but effective in my opinion. This book was sitting in a display case. Although I was there for another purpose and was determined not to get off track, plus I didn’t really consider myself to be a socially awkward nerd, I took the bait.

Several weeks before this incident I had attended a talk by a recent STEM graduate who had earned her Ph.D. degree. During the talk, she discussed how she got a job offer before she graduated, how to prepare for a job search especially if you are thinking about working outside of academia, etc. One aspect that she emphasized was networking. At another talk maybe a month or so before that one, another speaker had, of course, emphasized networking. It was becoming increasingly clear that networking might be important for my career. The concept wasn’t foreign to me, but up until that very first talk, the discussion of networking only went so far as a few axioms. A few being “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”  “Who you know gets you in the door. What you know keeps you there.” Also, “Networking is not about what others can do for you, but what you can do for others.” That was the extent of my networking education.

Networking for Nerds

This book is about networking with an emphasis on STEM professionals, though much of it seems to be widely applicable. Levine begins by discussing the importance of networking. She emphasizes that many job opportunities are actually not promoted in public spaces and networking is one way to discover these hidden opportunities.

Part of networking is understanding your value and how to represent yourself. You should take some time to analyze what skills you have and what is your niche. Remember, networking is about what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. From there, you can begin to effectively network.

Typically, most people network to find a job or career. A job requires a significant amount of time and energy. It can also mean having to completely relocate. That’s why it is also important to understand what matters most to you. What type of work do you enjoy doing? What activities do you not enjoy? What are you skilled at/in what do you excel? In what type of environment do you like to live? What conditions are flexible and which are absolute? These questions and more should be analyzed before making a decision on a job or even pursuing potential leads. Don’t waste your time or that of others. Levine provides an analysis chart to help with this.

Ask questions. Seek mentors. Understand professional etiquette. Take advantage of opportunities. Promote yourself. Have an elevator pitch prepared. Failure itself can be an opportunity. Do not underestimate the power of a Thank You Note. Following up…I could go on and on…

What did I take Away from the Book

I thoroughly appreciate this book. It gives practical and executable advice for networking. Personally, when I contemplate on some of the tips, they almost seem like common sense, but I guess having someone say definitively that this is what you should do if you want to see these results gives confidence in what you’re doing. Not just confidence in that your strategy should work, but this is wha other people expect. This is how it is done. I think one of the biggest turn-offs of networking is that it can feel as if you are being manipulative or phony. This book alleviated some of that concern for me. Professionals understand the importance of networking and how it works, so when you utilize the strategies for networking, you won’t be seen as disingenuous. True networking does not require you to put on a false persona. You are looking to find opportunities in which you fit. Pretending to be someone other than who you are actually hurts you. Furthermore, you are looking for ways in which you can truly help someone else.

This is a great book. I plan on purchasing a copy to have as a reference. I mentioned to a friend that I was reading this book, and he told me that his boss was also reading it. If you’re in the job hunt and the STEM field, check it out. If you’re not in the STEM field and looking for a job, check it out. If you’re not looking for a job, check it out. There are always other potential opportunities that you might not think of. If you have friends, family members, contacts, tell them to check it out. I could go on and on about the advice given in the book, but for an idea of what is discussed in the book below are the chapter titles which can also be found here

Selected Table of Contents

1 The Importance of Networking and the Hidden Platter of Opportunities

2 Understanding and Articulating Your Value Proposition

3 Determining the Right Opportunities for Me

4 Establishing Your Brand and Reputation to Gain Access to the Hidden Platter of Opportunities

5 Developing Your Networking Strategy

6 Identifying People for Your Networks

7 Networking at an Event

8 Social Media Networking

9 The Networking Continuum

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