I'm learning a lot of things about networking these days. I'm trying to be clear about what I need (a job, preferably on the West Coast) and what I have to offer (great technical background, and a Ph.D. in molecular biology) to all kinds of people: people who can help, people I don't think can help but let me practice my spiel, people I don't know- ALL kinds of people. Very rarely (um, not yet once?) has anyone said, OMG, really? Because we've been totally looking for a molecular virologist/blogger to start ASAP! And that's ok, I'm really not expecting job offers to show up at cocktail parties.
That being said, there is something to getting out there and mingling. This fantastic networking story came while I was visiting my brother in Austin TX. Austin is about the only place in Texas I would consider living, it's fun and my brother is there, but... it is crazy hot, and us Alaskans melt. When he dragged me out to a Roller Derby Party, I was certainly not thinking too hard about launching a career there. But he mentioned to the stylish group of girls that I was here because I'm free for employment! Anyone need a newly minted Ph.D.? Which of course prompted our host to ask, what is your Ph.D. in? And I said, sheepishly, because these grrls are all tough and I am clearly bringing the dork to the party scene, "Oh, molecular virology. I've been doing drug discovery, so I thought I'd find a job in pharma..." Which prompted this Betty Paige look alike across the room to say, "You want a lab job? Let me give you my card, Life Technologies is hiring..." AND THEN later, when we were laughing about Roller Derby was the key to the Austin Biotech market, the girl I was sitting next to said, "Actually, I work for a firm that does educational science publications..." And of course they hire occasional freelance/contractors. Brilliant! (I should probably mention that although my sister-in-law considers most of these girls to be friends, she knows them all by pseudonym, so it isn't surprising to not know what their day jobs are.)
If nothing else, this just proves that it was a good idea to get myself some business cards printed.