Thursday, October 1, 2009

CRA-W Workshops (Grad Student Track): Networking and Professional Development

Many grad students wonder what it takes to become a successful researcher. At the CRA-W career workshop at GHC 2009, Susanne Hambrusch shared her wisdom from over 25 years of experience as a computer science professor at Purdue University.

First and foremost, you absolutely need to do good work! Don’t doubt that for a second. But even the biggest research rock star needs to do something else to get ahead. In addition to all that great research, you absolutely need to grow a professional network extending beyond your grad student colleagues at your university.

But how do you get to know people at conferences? The phrase “professional networking” often brings to mind experiences that seem fake, unnatural, unpleasant, or even downright terrifying. But getting to know people isn’t as hard as you think.

Here are four pain-free ways you can grow your professional network when you’re at a conference:

1. Carry a power strip. Convention halls are notoriously short on available plugs for laptops and other gadgets. Whip out your power strip, and you’re guaranteed to make someone’s day.

2. Volunteer to work at the registration desk. Everyone has to register, so you’re guaranteed at least 30 seconds with the most famous faces in your field.

3. Have an up-to-date webpage. People can and do google stalk one another! Your webpage can do a lot of the talking for you, so make the most of this important resource. Some things you’ll want to include are information about your research, a RECENT, DECENT photo, and optionally, some G-rated personal info that could make for some easy small talk.

4. Lastly, if you really want to be memorable, try spilling your drink on someone. You’ll get their attention and won’t be forgotten…. Ok, I’m just kidding about that last one :-)

Good luck and happy networking!

Erika Shehan Poole, PhD Candidate, Georgia Tech

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