The AAAS meeting in Boston, really brought up networking and how important it is for a scientific career (and a career in general). It seemed especially important in the Washington DC atmosphere that dominates AAAS meetings. As an introvert, the idea of networking is intimidating, but I also realized at this meeting the varying ways networking can be defined and that I can network in my own way.
The DC way of networking is going to a reception, or party (at a bar or in a ballroom) where most people don’t know each other and schmoozing. This was the most uncomfortable type of networking for me. There was a smaller group reception at a bar, which was ok for me (especially because I saw some friends from my previous career as a teacher) – though I did wonder how many people who gave me their business card and who asked for mine were actually interested. What was most challenging, though, was the large evening reception in a hotel ballroom for the AAAS fellows ( http://fellowships.aaas.org/). I was late, since I fell asleep after a long day before the next event. I have never particularly enjoyed large parties where I don’t now people, and everyone is already in small groups. Even with the food and beverages provided, I didn’t feel as if many of the conversations I had there were that productive. However, I also realized at the meeting that this type of networking wasn’t the only type of networking possible.
I went to many interesting and great talks (more to come on that front), and when there were people there with research or stories that interested me, I introduced myself and talked with them about their talk, or what they had done. I also tried to use some of the techniques from Marketing for Scientists book including offering a lesson plan or idea to the professors who spoke. I also went to the Societal Impacts of Science and Engineering Section meeting where I just started talking to people around me, after having brought my sack dinner (a way to save money) as a conversation piece, and a way to connect to others, though nobody took me up on my offer of hummus and carrots. It was interesting seeing the politics behind a section meeting, and I enjoyed hearing other perspectives; I want to continue to attend these meetings and stay involved in this section. Part of networking is showing up, letting people know you are there, being actually interested in what they do, and connecting over shared passions. I found some great connections through a shared interest in K-12 education and working with city kids (and I’ve already been in email conversation with people I’ve met this way). This is the Networking I prefer – deep rather than wide I realized at this meeting that while I should still try to become more comfortable at large “party” type situations, I can still network through smaller groups. Though it may not be the “Washington DC” way, in some ways, it is my “Seattle way”
I apologize for getting this posted so late after the meeting- I got a cold at the meeting that developed into losing my voice and then bronchitis