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Many academic departments have a limited number of connections to non-academic institutions. As a result, most academic advisors have primarily academic physicists in their network—and unless you cultivate a network outside of that of your academic advisor, you will too! Fortunately there are lots of tools to help you increase the size, and diversity, of your connections.
Informational Interviews as Networking Tools
Another great benefit of going through the process of informational interviewing is that every person you interview is a potential new member of your network. Stay in touch with them and reach out when you begin your job search in earnest—they may be able to connect you to someone, or provide an "insider" perspective which could be invaluable.
Social Media Tools Such as LinkedIn
Though many students may be reluctant to add to their social media plates, LinkedIn is actually one of the most useful networking tools that exists today. One great feature of it is that it will show you how many "degrees of separation" exist between you and any company/person. If that degree is two or less, you can ask your mutual connection for an introduction—and having that shared personal connection can make a big difference over just cold calling.
One other great feature of LinkedIn is that you can easily track the career developments of your friends and colleagues over time. So, one day you might receive a notification your classmate just landed a new job at a company you have your eye on, and just like that, you have an "in."
For some great tips on using social media and informational interviews as networking tools, please watch the following webinette with Peter Fiske's webinar Putting Your Science to Work.
APS Webinette: Putting Your Science to Work - Successful Networking Strategies
For more perspective on networking, please see the following clip from Megan Anzelc's webinar Career Self-Advocacy: How I Got My Six-Figure Job in the Private Sector.
APS Webinette: Career Self-Advocacy - Networking through Informational Interviews
So, preparing a concise statement that encapsulates these—known as an “elevator pitch”—and practicing it before attending the meeting is really helpful!
APS Webinette: Networking at APS Meetings - Developing Your Pitch