Training as a scientist in the academic system has many pluses. I delighted in my graduate school years for allowing me to focus wholly on the science I love. This immersive nature of academia often means that scientists-in-training rarely get the opportunity to learn about the myriad of diverse, nonacademic careers that will be available once they have a graduate degree in science. I find it ironic that we do all of our training as scientists (5-12 years worth!) with academic scientists who can’t help us learn about the nonacademic sphere where most of us will be working.
It should be no secret that one of the best things you can do during your training is meet interesting people doing interesting things. I call this building relationships because networking has gotten a bad reputation (as in…”I just hate networking”). Scientists enjoy learning new things. Building new relationships is all about learning new things from other scientists doing interesting work. Consider this to be like any other research project. You’ve met someone whose career interests you or you want to pursue someone doing a job you wish you knew more about – how do you make a connection? An Informational Interview is a great next step in your research.