Brooke Paige, founder of 7ContinentsCollaboration, says she owes her career to a single letter she sent 18 years ago. With this letter, what seemed like a shot in the dark — an application for a research internship position at the National Institute of Health — quickly became a reality.
“Given my non-traditional background, I did not want my application to be overlooked,” says Paige, who was majoring in music at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts at the time. She was also minoring in neurochemistry. “I ended up writing a fan letter to the head of [a nerve growth factor] lab, telling him what I most admired about the work they were doing,” says Paige, “I was thrilled when I learned that I had successfully secured the internship, and after that first summer, they even renewed me for a second year.”
Paige’s success story illustrates a powerful idea; Networking can be a vital tool when it comes to jumpstarting a career. “It was probably pure naivety at the time, because who does that? Who sends a fan letter?” she says, “But it was very genuine, and I think that’s the key when you’re networking with people. Especially when reaching out to people you don’t know.”
Though it was only an internship, the time Paige spent at NIH has been invaluable to her career. “I graduated with a firm offer from Merck, my first choice, which at the time was ranked as America’s most admired company,” says Paige, “[And] the NIH experience in basic research continues to put absolutely everything I do in drug development and commercial partnering in context. It taught me how to speak fluently about science, and continues to pay dividends years later.”
Do you have a networking success story? JoVE encourages you to share how it happened in a comment below!