Tuesday, November 18, 2014

SfN14 blogging: Successful Career Advancement Through Networking: Is it Who You Know?

Organizer/ Moderator: Dr. Mark Baxter and Dr. Rebecca Shansky

What Networking is Not and What it is
Dr. Rebecca Shansky, Assistant Professor at Northeastern University

Dr. Shansky started the session off by explaining what networking is NOT. She says “Networking is not meeting famous people just to meet them.” Instead, networking is about meeting people who will help your career. Dr. Shansky shared some specific ideas for how to network. Meal time at SfN or smaller conferences provides an opportunity to plop yourself down with some random people at a table and strike up a conversation. It’s a conference so this conversation isn’t as awkward as you would think because you already have something in common: you’re both scientists, work on either broadly or specifically the same topic, and you’re both hungry and eating conference food.

Networking doesn't have to be awkward.

Another great tip was to seize opportunities to utilize the network you already have. Dr. Shansky told a story about when she was looking for a postdoc position. She was at a poster session and the PI she wanted to work with was supposed to stop by but hadn’t yet. She saw the father of one of her undergraduate students who knew the person with whom she wanted to work. She took a chance: she introduced herself and asked if he could remind the PI to stop by her poster. Lo and behold, 20 min later there he was and she ended up doing a postdoc with him!

Don’t forget to network with other grad students, postdocs, and assistant professors. They are and will be your colleagues as you move along in your career. It’s often less intimidating to walk up and talk to them at a social or on the poster floor so if you’re new to networking, you can start there.

Dr. Shansky also emphasized the use of social media calling Twitter “a bar that you can pop in or out of”. From my experience, using Twitter for science has been a HUGE networking boost and several of the other speakers in the Networking session recommended it.

Finally, she said not to forget to follow-up with the people you met once you get home. Just a short email reminding them of how you met and that it was nice to meet you is fine.

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