Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Introducing yourself to important people at meetings

I am a shy person in a group setting, maybe even extremely so.  I feel absolutely comfortable meeting with even the most famous professors one-on-one in my office.  But, throw me in a crowded room during the coffee break at a conference and I'm useless. 

This past week I was at an international meeting with some of the most well-known people in my field.  I had one main goal for the week, and that was to introduce myself to the chair of the NIH study section that I primarily submit to.  And I did it!!!  I just sat myself one chair away from him at one of the sessions, made eye contact, and introduced myself.  We made 30 seconds of small talk, and it was actually pretty easy.  Turns out he has a postdoc starting a position at a different institution in my city.  Now hopefully he'll at least vaguely remember me when my application comes up for review this summer. 

The other thing that I'm pretty happy about was that I made a point of also trying to meet all of the other new PIs who were at the meeting.  The organizers seemed to pick a lot of us early-stage faculty members to speak at the afternoon sessions (when most of the people were off sightseeing), so it was pretty easy to identify them.  I figure that we'll be the famous big shots at these meetings in 20 years, and these things might actually become enjoyable if I make friends while we're young.