APS Careers | Career navigator

Build a Strong Network

Experts estimate that over 80% of jobs are found through networking. While this might seem daunting, networking is about the human connection so it makes sense that an employer would hire someone they’ve met and known rather than trust a document (resume/CV). Therefore, it is crucial to start building your network early.

The good news is you already have a network which can be expanded. Your classmates, professors, and even friends and family members are part of your network. Some of these connections are your mentors who know you and can support you along your career trajectory. Others can offer insight into specific career paths or industries. Each connection could also introduce you to a new network member.

There are lots of additional tools to help you increase the size and diversity of your connections.

Avenues of networking

Alumni & mentor networks

Chances are that your school keeps track of alumni and your department may even have a list of past physics students (this applies to other disciplines too, of course!). Check out these lists and ask faculty or staff in your department for an introduction. You could also reach out to these folks yourself, just make sure you mention the point of connection, e.g. your school or department.

The APS Industry Mentoring for Physicists (IMPact) program connects you directly with industry physicists who have signed up to mentor students. As long as you’re an APS member, you can sign up and start connecting with mentors today!

Networking at professional meetings & career fairs

Another great venue for networking are professional society meetings (such as APS annual meetings). Of course, you can attend talks by individuals you are interested in connecting with, but you should also take advantage of other opportunities such as:

  • Attending career panels and networking events, which often feature physicists from industrial or other non-academic backgrounds
  • Attending the APS Career Fair, where you can meet with recruiters from companies and find out what they are looking for in a candidate
  • Visiting companies in the Exhibit Hall, many of which are technical companies hiring physicists, to learn about their organization and build contacts

The two most important goals you have when networking are to be able to tell people: Who you are and What you want.

Preparing a concise statement that encapsulates these—known as an “elevator pitch”—and practicing it before attending the meeting is really helpful! Try to develop a 15-second, a 60-second, and a five-minute pitch. For each of these, create a version appropriate for your scientific peers and another that could be understood by someone without a STEM background. You never know who you might be sitting next to on that plane, so being able to talk about what you do and want to non-scientists is also critical.

LinkedIn is your friend

LinkedIn is one of the most useful networking (and recruiting!) tools that exists today. Here are some ways you can use LinkedIn:

  • Search for and connect with your connections’ contacts!
  • Utilize the advanced search filters to find connections by company, school, sector.
  • Track the career development of your connections and stay up to date on companies of interest.

Using LinkedIn to build your network

Watch this clip from a webinar by Crystal Bailey, PhD, to gain an understanding of first and second degree contacts and for a quick tutorial on the LinkedIn search feature.

Not sure how to set up a good LinkedIn profile? Here is another clip from Crystal Bailey’s webinar on polishing your online presence.

Networking at conferences

For tips on networking at conferences or meetings, watch this clip from Peter Fiske's webinar Putting Your Science to WORK.

Download your personalized workbook

As you explore the Career Navigator, use this workbook to keep track of your goals, ideas, and any other thoughts you have.

Workbook prompts

Use these as a starting point for building your network.

Leverage your connections

Write down everyone who you consider to be part of your professional network right now. Could any of these people introduce you to someone working in the career paths of interest you identified previously?

Grow your network

Use LinkedIn search to find contacts to add to your network. Refer back to the Career Planning section to search for specific career paths you’re interested in. How many people came up in the search? Did you find any companies to follow?

Perfect your pitch

Write your 60 second elevator pitch. Describe where you are in your current career path, what career path you’re interested in exploring, and why.

Join your Society

If you embrace scientific discovery, truth and integrity, partnership, inclusion, and lifelong curiosity, this is your professional home.