A gadabout scientist in business suit and silk tie replaces yesterday's white-coated gent stuck in the lab. Today's life science researcher works in an interactive profession that requires enormous amounts of conversation, idea sharing, and plenty of social skills. "Science is politics," says Alexander Heyl, a genomics researcher at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, Germany. And networking is part of the politics. "Networking is important because it keeps you current in your field and makes you aware of what others are doing and what are the opportunities out there."

For most professions, networking has one and only one goal: finding a better job than the one you already have. While that might be a primary goal for graduate students and postdocs, anyone with a tenured position has other priorities. "Your peers are not just going to hire you later, they're also going to review your papers and your...

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