Creating Professional Networks for Successful Career Enhancement
T. Douglas Beard, Jr.
Professional networks are a critical component of a successful career. Creating a professional network is an important task for emerging fishery professionals to accomplish. Professional networks not only lead to possible career advancement, but also create lifelong friendships that make working in the fisheries profession rewarding. I can point to multiple career opportunities (jobs, leadership in international organizations, research projects, and leading study abroad courses) that have been a result of growing a strong professional network. A key role for mentors is to help emerging professionals develop and nurture professional networks. One of the most rewarding approaches to ensuring a successful career is to join and become involved in your professional society by volunteering for work group activities; attending local, regional, and national meetings; developing and presenting symposia and papers; and serving as an elected official for various components of the society. Professional service has contributed greatly to my career success, and many of my closest friends and colleagues have resulted from my volunteer contributions to the American Fisheries Society (AFS).
My first AFS meeting was with the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of AFS. I had the good fortune of working on my M.S. degree with Dr. Bob Carline at Pennsylvania State University, and he was responsible for my initial involvement in these meetings. He encouraged me, very early on as a student, to develop a poster for the local chapter, outlining my proposed thesis project and using the chapter meeting as a way to solicit feedback on the research and, probably more importantly, to start building a local network that I could call on to help implement my project. My master’s project required the involvement of multiple volunteers to help locate and identify trout redds though the entire length of a stream, something I could not have done on my own. By presenting a poster and participating in local chapter activities, I was able to explain my project in detail, find others interested in my research, and find volunteers to help on my project, allowing me to complete my degree in short order.