In a recent post, I talked about the importance of developing your network, even while you are still at uni. Your network is more likely to turn up a job opportunity than any job ad.
There are lots of opportunities to network. The RACI has some sort of event a couple of times a month in general – perfect opportunities for young chemists to get out there and start growing their network.
But how do you walk into a room full of strangers and start making quality connections? For most of us, the idea is daunting. For the inexperienced, the idea can be simply terrifying.
The best way I find: break the task down.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that most of the people came to the event with the same goal as you: to network. They want to talk to you. At RACI events, our members recognise the importance of supporting the next generation of young scientists, and they’re going to make every effort to make you feel welcome.
Secondly, it’s also important to remember that everyone in that room is a person, just like you. They have the same foibles, the same insecurities as you do. Many of us in the scientific community aren’t ‘alpha’ personalities. Plenty of us are shy, or just a little unsure of ourselves. So if you walk into a room feeling those same feelings, you aren’t alone. We’re all in this together, and we’re all going to get through it together.
So, difficult as it might be, the first secret is: ‘Just take a deep breath, and GO’. Like any chemical reaction, it’s just a matter of overcoming the activation energy, and then the reaction will proceed for itself.
The next big tip is choosing who to talk to. An easy first choice is to talk to the event organiser. They will know most of the people in the room, and they want you to have a great event (so that you keep coming back). So you can ask them who you should be speaking to. They’ll probably even introduce you.
If there are exhibitors, they are another really good choice. They actively want to talk to you, and as salespeople they have substantive networks. When you build your relationship with salespeople, you get access to a huge ‘grapevine’ of information about job opportunities, and they get assurance that there will be a willing ear next time they want to spruik their wares. For the bonus points, don’t approach the exhibitors during the breaks when they’re busy, skip the sessions and circulate among the exhibitors when they’re bored, with all the time in the world to talk.
Next time: What to talk about, and making the most of your new contacts.
Over the course of this year, I will be publishing a regular column on the DCS Technical website and facebook page, the RACI NSW newsletter and various social media. Supporting this, the RACI Young Chemists group has recently created a YouTube channel for career advice videos.