One of the most important skills to develop and use as a professional scientist is networking. It is valuable for making important connections related to your research, learning about job opportunities or gathering information about graduate school applications. This summer, the OITE will be holding several opportunities for you to meet the diverse group of trainees and fellows from across the NIH such as Get Cool and Get Connected (Popsicles!) and Think, Ink and Network events. You can also use your skills during the Graduate and Professional School fair, and Summer Poster Day programs.
For some, the act of approaching a stranger and starting a conversation is easy. For others, especially those who are quiet or do not speak the language fluently, it can be stressful. Networking is about developing professional relationships with colleagues. Therefore, you can use many of the same strategies as you would when making a new professional friend. Here are some additional tips to help you when you are meeting new colleagues at receptions, poster sessions, conferences, job interviews, career or graduate school fairs, and meet ups.
Find something in common: Two things that you have in common with most people at NIH is that you are interested in science and conducting research. In addition, most of you will be in college or graduating soon. These are all conversation starters.
Maximize your personal style: Think about your personal style and use skills that maximize your strengths. As mentioned, extroverted types may be comfortable initiating conversations. However, introverts and ambiverts have many strengths and areas for improvement during networking. If you prefer to meet people as part of a group or at a quieter place, then do that.
Memorize a list of highlights: Once you have a list, it will be easy to recall your highlights in each situation. Here are some suggested topics to use when you want to strike up a conversation.
- Current Job? What are you working on?
- What is a current issue in science, the media, or the conference that interests you?
- Goal or reason for introducing yourself?
- How can they help you?
Review the 2012 Networking Maps blog: Using the strategy of mapping will help you to develop a strategy to determine in what sphere the connection is in so you can plan how you want to start a conversation.
Connect with people who you already know first. They will introduce you to others. To become comfortable, begin chatting with someone that you already know. Often, they will know others and can introduce you.
Keep the relationship alive: Obtain their contact information before the event is over. Bring business cards or your resume with you. Offer to connect with them through LinkedIn, use your cell phone to collect their information. Next, drop a thank you note within the next 24-48 hours with a request to set up another opportunity to talk in person or electronically.