Networking (one introvert’s recent experience).

This last conference I summed up in my last post I think I did more networking in 4 days than I’ve done than in probably the in last 10 years. I just don’t tend to go out and meet people which I feel is a problem and one I’m trying to correct since networking is how things get done, how you progress. No one succeeds in a vacuum.

My working definition of networking is authentically connecting with other people (not schmoozing- barf).  and I certainly have tried to do that this last year or two.

Twitter helps. I have made a habit of contacting bloggers, authors, podcasters and others whose work I have enjoyed/been inspired by- often via twitter, but also by email and sometimes even in comment sections. I’d consider this to be pretty passive networking. I don’t expect a reply (I actually almost never do to for any correspondence). If I do get a response, I’m elated! It’s really cool hearing back from people who you’re inspired by.

This conference was the first time I extensively used Twitter to tweet about the various sessions I attended. I let people know I was standing by my poster. I tweeted about plant products I was using that day (that most of us use day to day). I tweeted about my mood as well. And through all of this, I got connected to several people, and some of them in person, some mostly via Twitter. I wrote a list of everyone I spoke to and am slowly emailing them back as I get the chance. I’ve even heard back from a few of them.

Again, I still feel like this is pretty passive networking; I’m more interested in seeing if there’s something I can do for them rather than asking for something they might be able to help me with (this is my natural tendency to please others- one I’m trying to get away from a bit; and go after what I need) too).

So I’ve done a better job networking, though I’m still not sure about how well I’m doing it, whether it will lead to bigger and better things (i.e. new opportunities). My hope is that I’ll learn new things, have new and better ideas I can run past people in my network and hopefully help them in some tangible way too. Maybe connect them to something/someone I know about. If you read through this blog, you may see I have quite the repository of posts on dealing with depression, anxiety, the impostor syndrome and figuring out how to survive- and hopefully thrive as a postdoc. As well as my struggles to kind of figure out what’s next.

Which is where I’ll end this post. I love podcasts. I listen to a lot of them. A lot of comedy ones too. One of my favorites is ‘Girl on Guy’, Aisha Tyler’s podcast. This week, she interviewed Levar Burton (of “Roots”, “Reading Rainbow” and “Star Trek:The Next Generation”- 3 pretty big things, the latter two for me- I was born the year “Roots” aired). One of the things he said was that life is a controlled fall. It’s like walking. If you don’t take the next step, you’ll fall on your face, so you take the next step to keep moving forward and not fall down. Just do the next thing that’s in front of you (I would say that depression is like standing still & not walking at all; in the song that opens “Orange is the New Black” Regina Spektor sings ‘Taking steps is easy, standing still is hard’- as an adult, I’d agree with that). Of all of his big projects, when he started them, he had no idea if they’d work out to be huge successes or not- they seemed like the thing to do at the time. Networking at conferences just seems like the next step to take for me. So I’m trying not to worry about the far future, but just do what I can in the immediate term.

Socializing is still exhausting to me; I have fun, but I really do need time to recharge afterwards. And really connecting with just one person is a big accomplishment for me, so at the Plant Bio meeting, I did better than that.

So I’d encourage connecting, relating stories/ideas and following up…because who knows where they’ll lead.

The End (of 2012).

 

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Author: Ian Street

Ian is a plant scientist and science writer relating stories of plant science and scientists on his blog, The Quiet Branches as well as other outlets. You can find him on Twitter @IHStreet.

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