It can be intimidating for graduate students to network with professional toxicologists. Sending out that first email can be nerve-wracking. 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. Hopefully, this will provide a basic plan from which anyone can quickly jump off.
Part 3: Face-to-Face
Our third blog in the Steps to Networking at SOT Series will cover how to prepare for and convey yourself when you finally meet and chat with your contact.
It is very important to be prepared for your face-to-face meeting or when you talk by phone with your contact. Everybody’s time is precious, so it is best to prepare questions in advance and learn about the person’s background prior to the meeting. Visit their LinkedIn account or do a Google search to find the person’s company profile. Find keywords or topics that can lead to questions:
Example Contact Profile
Compiles risk assessments, collects safety data, and builds global safety dossiers for ingredients and formulas for products developed for marketing worldwide.
—Toxicologist, Product Safety
Compiles risk assessments: How do you determine risk? What are the ways I can learn more about the risk assessments you do?
Collects safety data: Do you design experiments in-house? Does it get sent to a contract research organization?
Global safety dossiers: Who utilizes these safety dossiers? How does it inform the industry?
Toxicologist, Product Safety: What are your day-to-day responsibilities? How is your company’s work environment?
Just before your meeting, review the questions you formulated to help guide your conversation. This way you will have them in mind without necessarily having a print-out document in front of you.
Building a rapport: Start off the conversation by showing appreciation for them taking the time to meet with you. After thanking them, this is where your starter questions can get the conversation moving. Let the conversation flow, it shouldn’t be a Q&A, let it be a two-way street so they can learn about you too! Don’t just rattle off questions, ask follow-up questions if they bring up new items of discussion.
If the conversation is dying down, refer to your starter questions. Show interest through body language, eye contact, have an open and attentive posture (arms relaxed not crossed, don’t slouch, be turned towards them).
Don’t talk poorly about ANYONE. That includes any PI, company, or state. Not even in agreement with something they said. Don’t be arrogant. When describing your work, be modest but confident at the same time. Don’t worship, be a colleague. It’s okay to admire their work but don’t act as if they are celebrities. You want them to think of you as a potential colleague.
Wrapping up the conversation: Don’t end the conversation abruptly. Thank them again for their time, shake their hand, and keep your goodbyes open to future contact or conversation. i.e., Thank you for your time, it was nice meeting you. I’ll be sure to email you as I get closer to graduating or if I have any other questions.
Follow-up: After the SOT Annual Meeting has ended, it can be useful to send an email thanking your contact for their time, remind them about what you learned, and include any follow-up questions.
I’d like to thank you again for lunch and it was a pleasure meeting you! Based on my meeting with you, the field of ______ is certainly looking like a career I want to pursue. I am a still a year from graduating so I have time to read about risk assessment and become even more familiar with the field. If I have specific questions or want to hear more stories, I hope I can reach out and contact you again.
Include a concluding statement.
Our next blog post Steps to Networking at SOT Series: Part 4 will cover “Other Networking Opportunities at SOT.”