It can be intimidating for graduate students to network with professional toxicologists. Sending that first email can be a nerve-wracking experience. Our series is from a graduate student’s perspective and will try to make this process less intimidating by boiling down networking into a few simple steps.
Part 2: First Contact
Our second blog in the Steps to Networking at SOT series will cover how to make the first contact, once you have selected a potential professional contact. This section will cover the ubiquitous cold email.
Step 1: Quick background check. Get a brief background of the person you are going to contact: current employment, job title, and any mutually shared interests such as career paths, university, friends of friends, etc. This does not have to be too extensive, i.e., such as reading their papers, but just enough to confirm this is a useful contact for you.
Step 2: Decide on a reason for contact. Do you have questions about their company, work, and/or career path? Do you want to have a face-to-face informational interview, phone call, or just an email conversation?
Step 3: Get typing! Feeling uncertainty is fine but hesitating isn’t.
Subject line: Brief and to the point. Don’t get too fancy.
- “Graduate student interested in ________”
- “Informational meeting at SOT”
Introduction Statement: It is the equivalent to your name, rank, and serial number, the most pertinent information they need to know about you. This could include your class year, university, program name, field of study, and general intentions.
- “I am a fourth-year toxicology graduate student at the University of ________ working on ________ and I want to understand more about the ________ career path.”
- My name is _______ and I am third-year Toxicology PhD student at the University of _______ looking to speak with professional toxicologists in the field of ______.
Rationale Statement: A brief description describing why this person can help you. Establish a mutual interest, most likely a specific career path, between you and the contact. Remember as always to keep it concise. You can elaborate your specific interests through future contact.
- “I noticed that you are a toxicologist at ________ and I am very interested in pursuing a similar direction after graduation. I would like to learn more about your current role and your journey there, as well as any advice you might have for a graduate student seeking to enter ________.”
- “My goal is to cultivate a career in ________ and I can see myself following a path reminiscent of yours so I’d like to learn more.”
- “I noticed your current work focuses on ________ and following graduate school you have held multiple roles of increasing responsibility. I’m interested in pursuing a similar career pathway and I would love to hear your story.”
Conclusion Statement: What do you want from this person? If you wish to meet or talk, be direct and offer dates and times when you are available. This saves time as it allows the contact to quickly check their own schedules and see if a meeting or conversation is possible.
- “Would you have availability to get together at the 2019 SOT AM for a quick career chat, perhaps over coffee? I have availability on 3/13 in the afternoon or 3/14 in the afternoon.”
- “I will be attending the upcoming 2019 SOT AM in Baltimore, and if you are attending and have the time, I would like to meet with you to discuss your own career path and the work that you currently do. I am currently free Monday morning, 3/12 and Wednesday afternoon, 3/14. Would you be willing to meet for coffee?”
- “If you have the time, I would love to talk with you over the phone or on Skype. I am free anytime next week in the afternoon.”
Note: For the follow-up email after their response, offer your cell phone number and if planning to meet at SOT, a specific location to meet such as the registration desks, coffee stand, or Chat with an Expert poster board.
Don’t be too surprised if someone doesn’t get back to you. Sometimes these emails can get buried by a flood of other work emails (as we all know) and sometimes the person is waiting to figure out their schedule at SOT before getting back to you. So, if you are trying to meet up with them at SOT, it is best to start sending out these cold emails a few weeks, at most, before the meeting. This way you can get on their calendars and hopefully, they will have a general sense of what their meeting schedule will be like.
Our next blog post will cover the “Face-to-Face” portion with your prospective professional contact.