Dec. 10, 2018

NEW: Networking Skills for the Professional Scientist

From posing like Wonder Woman to practicing open-ended questions, the Networking Etiquette Workshop (NEW) was a fresh approach to professional networking. Organised by Malcolm Eaton and Lisa Deliu this workshop was designed to help science student’s network in a corporate context. Tania Jamault and Kimberly Dart from the Haskayne School of Business Career Centre joined us on the Foothills campus and taught students how to mingle like professionals. The workshop covered topics that ranged from the basics on how to shake hands to more nuanced discussions on how to read social situations and insert yourself graciously into a conversation. This interactive session allowed students to ask for advice on social etiquette and how to handle awkward social interactions. There was a large emphasis on both pre and post networking habits to guarantee success.

Before the networking event. Research who you would like to talk to before the event, this can often help you come up with conversation starters that lead to productive discussions.  Plan the event, set goals for yourself such as the number of people you want to talk to and connect with. Stick to the plan. Once you have reached your goal you don’t have to force yourself to stay at an event. Your time is precious so manage it effectively. Prepare business cards . . . but I’m a student? Business cards are useful because they make swapping contact information easy. They can also distinguish you from everyone else in the room depending on how unique your card is. Print shops around campus will print business cards and companies such as Moo, Vistaprint and Canva are also great ways to make personal business cards that showcase your style and flare. Even staples will print them.

 During the networking event. We’ve all been there, you’ve built yourself up to go to the dreaded networking event, you enter the room and there is a sea of people. . . now what? How do I join a conversation or introduce myself without seeming uncomfortable? Luckily, Tania had invaluable advice for dealing with these situations. Power posing was perhaps the least well known strategy (at least to me). Before the event, take a couple of minutes to go through a power pose whether it’s standing like Wonder Woman (my personal favourite), Superman or Captain Morgan these poses have been shown to improve self-esteem. This may give you the boost you need to come across as confident. This gave way to a discussion on body language. Don’t slouch and try to relax (as difficult as that may be) throughout the event.  Okay great, so I’ve got my confidence up and am ready to approach someone, how do I enter a conversation? Well, there are many ways to do this. If you are early and the event is just starting, it is expected that you walk up to the person you planned on meeting and introduce yourself. Questions like “What brought you to this event?” or “Have you been to this event before?” are great for getting started.  What if I arrive late or want to approach someone midway through the event? How do I join a conversation that has already started? This can be a bit trickier but perhaps the best plan is simply to ask if you can join. “Hi I’m (insert name here) may I join you?” is a perfectly valid approach to entering a conversation. I’m now involved in a conversation but how do I keep it going? As the students at NEW found out, open-ended questions are the best approach and having these questions ready just takes a bit of practice.

To help the students ask open-ended questions, they played a game during the workshop. Students would ask each other open-ended questions until they couldn’t think up any more or until they accidentally asked a question with a one-word answer. This meant they were knocked out of the hot seat. It became obvious that there is a knack to asking these types of questions and it really does get easier the more you rehearse them.  

Post-Networking. The networking event went well, the night is over and you were successful. You have a stack of business cards, mission accomplished, job done . . . right? Wrong. Now it’s time for the post networking follow up. This is often neglected but key to cementing a good relationship with the connections you made at an event. Make sure to send follow up emails 24 to 48 hours after the event and keep them short. Three sentences per email is the maximum. Alternatively, you can connect using LinkedIn and follow up from there. Use the business cards you get on the night as cheat sheets, write down memory prompts such as what the person looked like and what you discussed on the back of the cards. This way you can include it in a follow up email or LinkedIn message to help jog your contact’s memory and remind them of who you are.

The students who attended the NEW workshop now have the opportunity to put their skills to the test. They have preferential access to the Career Connection, the biggest networking event to be held for students at the Cumming School of Medicine. The Career Connection will introduce 50 students to 50 professionals at a sit-down dinner in January of next year. Interested in going to the Career Connection? I didn’t get the chance to attend NEW? No worries, if you attend the “What Can I Be With My Graduate Degree” workshop on the 13th of December and you will also get preferential access to the Career Connection. Professional development workshops have never had such tangible rewards, don’t miss out on the opportunity to kick-start your career.