At the upcoming 244th ACS National Meeting, professionals working in industry and academia will be attending the Undergraduate Speed Networking with Chemistry Professionals event on August 20 from 9:45 am to 11:15 am in Freedom Ballroom F at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center. And they want to meet you! This is a great chance to meet people working in chemistry and develop future contacts who could potentially guide you as you grow in your career. So get out there and engage in some networking!
“Networking.” You probably hear your parents and professors talk about it endlessly. But why is networking so important and what does it really mean?
Generally speaking, “networking” refers to the act of exchanging information, contacts, and experience for social or professional purposes. It’s a great way to learn about careers, develop your interviewing skills, and simply meet more people. In turn, you make yourself available as a future contact to someone who may want an undergraduate’s perspective, a contact at your school, or a fellow chemist who brings new focus to the table.
So, how does one “network?” The following is a list of foolproof networking tips. If you follow these steps, I can guarantee you a successful speed networking experience:
1.Dress Professionally. Business casual is fine. A professional conference is not the place for jeans, flip flops, T-shirts, extra short dresses or skirts or low cut tops
2. Relax. Networking is supposed to be an enjoyable activity—it’s not like you’re undergoing root canal or being forced to become “bffls” with your new connections.
3. Smile and stand up straight (maybe try practicing this in the mirror beforehand).
4. Walk up to the person, say “Hello, my name is…” and shake their hand firmly. Try to couple this move with good eye contact.
5. Exchange business cards – If you don’t have business cards, get some at Staples or a similar business supply store. If you’re reading this on the morning of the event, you can write down your name and email on several pieces of paper. Its not pretty, but it will do if nothing else is available.
6. Ask the person who they are and what they do.
7. Whip out your elevator speech. The elevator speech is basically a 30-second overview of your knowledge, skills, accomplishments, and goals.
8. Engage in a conversation. It’s also a good idea to ask questions. They can be related to:
- How the chemical professional got started in their career
- If they could offer any advice for you
- Whom you could contact to learn more about career possibilities.
9. Jot down notes on the back of the person’s business card as they speak.
10. Follow-up. When you get back in front of your computer, add them to your LinkedIn contacts and shoot them an email thanking them for their time. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, now is a great time to start one!
It’s probably also worth mentioning that there are a few networking “don’ts” that counter proper networking etiquette. Whatever you do, do NOT attempt the following:
- DO NOT ASK FOR A JOB, NO MATTER HOW DESPERATE YOU ARE.
- Do not talk just about business matters. Be creative and add personality to the conversation! Find a common interest—books, movies, and sports are great starting points.
- Do not mention politics, religion, or other controversial or personal issues. Try to keep the conversation light.
- Do not simply hand out business cards or shake hands. You want to connect with people and develop sound relationships, not just get your name out there.
- Do not interrupt others’ conversations. It’s uncouth and you probably wouldn’t want someone doing the same to you.
- Do not be shy.“But I’m so awkward!” you may argue. Oh, please. We all are. Embrace it and be brave.
And there you have it. Try to utilize the above steps while speed networking to obtain maximum results. You’ll make professional connections and learn more about careers in chemistry in no time. Now, go and get ‘em!