Conferences are more than a venue to learn about the new and latest research and/or topics in the field. If used correctly, it can be the place where you secure your next step after graduate school. I have never formally applied for a job, yet I had four job offers which were all secured at one single conference. In my field, the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society aka TMS is the largest professional society and the annual conference is where all the famous and well-known people from industry, academia, national labs, etc. attend. In my fifth year I knew that I still needed some time to decide if academia would be the best thing for me and to give myself more time to decide, I decided that a post-doc position at a national lab would be the next best step. After a conversation with my PhD advisor, he gave me the contact to four of his colleagues at various national labs. After introducing myself through email, I set-up meetings with them at TMS and the rest is history. Here are the important steps I used to secure my post-doc position.
Introduce Yourself Before The Conference
Conferences are busy especially for important people. Between meetings, talks, and other commitments every minute of the day is accounted for. It will be in your best interest to secure a meeting day/time before the conference begins and don’t be surprised if that time changes a few times. Be patient. I have found that most people have an extra 20-30 minutes in their day, therefore don’t ask for a meeting over 30 minutes. In most cases, people don’t organize their schedules until they arrive at the conference, which means you’ll have to be the flexible one.
Invite Them To Your Talk, Seminar, or Poster Presentation
This is really an informal job talk! It gives the person the opportunity to learn more about your skillset and technical background which will be important factors when deciding to offer you a position.
Discuss Your Personal & Professional Goals
You need to make sure the group, division, department, company, etc. will be the best fit for you and that your goals align with their mission. For example, since academia is a strong contender for me, I made sure to ask if assisting with grant writing, attending NSF review panels as well as other things would be skills I would gain during my post doc tenure.
Attend Talks, Seminars, and/or Poster Presentations By The Prospective Supervisor or Other Group Members
Not only does this give you more insight into current projects, initiatives, and activities occurring in the group, but it also gives you a chance to meet current members of the department or group and learn more about their experiences. As I said in my previous blog no one knows more than the people who currently work there.
Follow Up After The Conference
In my experience, during the meeting I was asked out for an on-site interview. If this is not the case, send an email about a week after the conference has ended so that they know you are still interested and also to determine what the next steps are for securing an interview, if you are still interested. Since they are probably catching up on emails and other things, don’t be surprised if it takes some time for them to get back to you.
If you have any more questions about my interview experience or questions about networking at conferences, please leave a comment.
From Aeriel, With Love