Meeting Friends and Colleagues: Networking at the Entomological Society of America Meeting
By Udari Wanigasekara and Jocelyn R. Holt
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series contributed by the ESA Student Affairs Committee. See other posts by and for entomology students here at Entomology Today.
An Introduction to Networking
Some of the most valuable takeaways from ESA conferences are the new relationships and contacts made through networking. Networking goes beyond exchanging e-mails, phone numbers, or handing out business cards to people you meet at the conference. Networking is about establishing and nurturing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with the people you meet. You do not need to attend every networking event to build up new relationships, because every single minute you spend at ESA, you will see that networking opportunities are all around you. Effective networking is more than who you know, but also who knows you!
Why Is Networking Important?
International conferences like the annual ESA meeting are great opportunities to connect with attendees from different countries, learn from them, make new relationships, and strengthen existing ones. You can use networking to:
Find a mentor/advisor. Conferences are one of the best places to find your MSc/Ph.D./postdoc advisor. You can meet many professors from different countries and universities who are actively working on projects related to your research interests. You will get ideas for talking points by attending sessions that potential mentors/advisors are presenting or organizing or by listening to their students’ presentations. If you are really interested in their research, make sure to talk with them.
Job search and develop your career. Building a strong network can help you find job opportunities or advance your career. Conferences offer opportunities to connect with people from academia, government, and industry. For an example, some companies have their product/information booths in the exhibit hall, and they interested in talking about their company values and job opportunities. If you are seeking a job, make sure to check out the job board and follow up promising conversations with an email.
How to Network at ESA
Many students, especially international students, may find networking scary or intimidating. In addition, your culture and personality can influence how easy or difficult you find it to talk with new people. But remember, all attendees at the ESA meeting are part of the larger entomological community and you likely have many things in common with them. When you are surrounded by people you do not know, rather than being nervous, take the initiative to introduce yourself and start a conversation. Introducing yourself to the person standing in front or in back of you in line and asking about their research is one great way to make new connections. Remember to stay calm, ask questions, and listen to others. You will be surprised at the relationships and opportunities that networking opens up to you.
Establish new collaborations. If there are specific speakers you want to talk with, do your research and prepare talking points ahead of time. This preparation can include reading about their latest research, preparing questions about their talk, and attending their presentation. Approaching a speaker after a talk to introduce yourself and mention what you found interesting about their presentation can leave a positive, memorable impression and allow for follow-up conversations or future collaborative projects.
Quick Tips for Networking
- Attend symposia and student competitions.
- Use social media to post positive comments about people, session topics, panels, and the conference itself.
- Volunteer at the meeting.
- Sit with someone different at morning coffee or lunch.
- Introduce yourself and have a conversation with the person next to you in line.
- Attend student mixers, conference dinners, and meet-ups.
- Participate in ESA workshops and offsite tours.
- Join with student networks at ESA.
We hope that these tips help you to get out and network during the 2019 ESA annual meeting in St. Louis. Find a method of networking that allows you to meet and converse with people, and follow up on productive professional conversations with an email message or connections with new friends on social media. And remember to take some time to recharge during the meeting so that you can make the most of your time there!
Udari Wanigasekara is a Ph.D. candidate in entomology at University of Manitoba and is a member of the ESA Student Affairs Committee (SAC). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Jocelyn R. Holt is a Ph.D. candidate in entomology at Texas A&M University and is the 2019 ESA SAC Chair. Twitter: @JocelynRHolt. Email: email@example.com.