Not actually an interlude, I just like how it rhymes with my last post. Back to our regularly scheduled programming! Job hunting, and more specifically, the Art of Shmoozing.
As many of you are undoubtedly aware, the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting is just a few days away, and with 25,000 attendees, it's a great opportunity for networking. Scientists have a reputation for being awkward, socially-inept misanthropes who prefer the company of a microscope or cell culture to that of another person, but the reality is that most of us are very friendly and cool and fun to be around. Are we a little nerdier than most? Sure. Are Lord of the Rings references thrown around at a higher frequency than in other groups? Probably. But the progress of our careers, science, and thus society as a whole can only be improved by us making friends, so get ready to CHAT IT UP!
A couple of things (literally, a couple) I've learned in my 10 years of attending meetings:
1. Graduate students (and post-docs), don't be afraid to talk to fancy PIs--you never know when you're going to find a real advocate. One year at SfN a pretty prominent dude came to my poster and fell in love with my research. We got along famously, and it led to me being invited to write a review, and later to speak at a conference where I was the only non-faculty-level person on the schedule. He also introduced me to one of my future (now past) post-doc collaborators, a very famous dude who's recommended me as a source to people writing layperson science books. Connections!
2. Speaking of PIs, never assume somebody isn't one. I remember at my very first poster presentation speaking with a young woman who had very similar interests. I asked her, "whose lab are you in?" after which there was an AWFUL pause, followed by an indignant "MINE." Of course, I did my best to be all, "Oh, it's just that you look so young!!!!" but I'm not sure how much good that did. This woman is pretty much my arch rival now. In science, not in Life, but still.
For further reference, DrDrA over at Blue Lab Coats has a good list of meeting etiquette tips that I highly recommend you check out.
I'm wondering how/whether I should track down people from the schools I've applied to. I obviously have no idea who's on the search committees, and I'd be surprised if many of them will have looked at my application before the meeting. I feel like it can't hurt to introduce myself to anyone I can find from the department, though, and help them put a face to the name when they do get around to it (especially when the face is as cute as mine!). I realize that on paper, no one gives a flying fuck about what a charming and fun person I am, but I can't help but think that in person, people do. Meaning that if I meet people at SfN and they like me, and that gives them even the tiniest of warm happy feelings when they sit down with my CV...well, it's got to be a good thing.
The Plight of the Post-Doc