Networking is your job. And like any other part of your job, success is elusive if you don’t have clear goals.
What is the point of the conference networking sessions?
Organizers want attendees to have the chance to build new relationships, begin new collaborations, and evolve new ideas. They especially want early career scientists to benefit as they are the ones who can gain most from meeting new people.
Unfortunately for the shy among us – the networking session is a nightmare. Here we are in a room full of people, all of whom already know each other and we are supposed to “build our network”, “sell ourselves,” and “share our research.”
One way to set the nightmarish aspect of meeting new people in an unstructured venue is to provide yourself with a structure.
Here’s a fun challenge for yourself, or (even better) your trusted group:
Make a list of the people WHO you think will be at the networking session whom you want to meet.
Articulate WHY you want to meet each person.
WHAT DO YOU WANT from the interaction?
- Do you want to inquire about a post-doc?
- Learn more about his or her research?
- Ask the person for a half-hour informational interview?
- Tell the person about your work?
- Begin a mentoring relationship?
Once you have a list of five to seven people you know you want to meet:
Decide how you will introduce yourself to each one and
What question will you ask each one?
- For example if I want an informational interview with someone who runs a professional development program, I would say something like, “Hi I’m Jenifer Alonzo with Acting for Scientists. I saw you run Innovative Professional Development Program. How did you get that started?”
- If I were meeting someone whom I might want to come work for me, I might say, “Hi I’m Jenifer Alonzo. I was intrigued by your abstract and I saw you are finishing your Ph.D this year. What are your plans after graduation?”
3. Write your questions down, giving yourself time to think about what you will say.
4. Rehearse it a couple of times. (rehearsal always makes things less scary.)
5. Now assign points for each person you want to meet:
- Give the most points to the scariest for you.
- Give the least points to the easiest person on your list.
- Also assign a point value for meeting people not on your list.
When I am playing by myself I write down three prizes:
- A small one for my minimum goal (special coffee),
- A medium one for meeting my goal half-way (a new mystery novel), and
- A big one for meeting my biggest goal (pedicure).
7. Now that you’ve set the game up, it’s time to level up your networking game. You now have a goal and a way to measure your success.
8. Once your networking session is over, immediately write emails to ALL of the people you met.
9. Then tally your points and award your prizes.
Follow this formula, and enjoy your NETWORKING success! You will increase the number of people you know, connect with future jobs, and discover valuable collaborations along the way. In the meantime, enjoy that pedicure!
Share your results in the comments below.
Jenifer & Adriénne
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