Conferences are ever-changing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are now bringing communities back to reconnect in person. It’s exciting to see old friends, mentors, and colleagues in beautiful locations. For me, and for many others, getting out from behind the computer screen highlights the importance of connecting in-person for professional and career growth. However, networking can be awkward for students and residents (and even physicians). Nevertheless, networking is an invaluable skill that can change career trajectories despite its challenges.
While networking particularly at significant events may seem daunting, there are simple ways to reach out to make connections:
1. Send an email introducing yourself. Keep the email short but informative. Include your name, institution, and career level. Explain why you are interested in meeting with this person and ask if they have 15 minutes to meet with you.
2. Use the conference app to find presenters that you are interested in meeting. Attend their presentations and respectfully approach them after the session to introduce yourself and ask questions about their work. If they are busy, ask if they may have a moment to meet at another time.
3. Take to Twitter. Twitter is a powerful networking tool, particularly in the field of urology. For example, Twitter will allow you to see posts about possible networking events (like a medical student or resident forum) that you could attend.
Once you have set up a meeting with someone, make sure you are prepared and on time. Have a short (30 seconds or less) introductory pitch so they can understand why you are interested in meeting with them and where you are in your career. Additionally, make sure you have a list of specific questions prepared. These questions will differ depending on your career stage but may include questions about the institution/residency they work for, their career path, or their current practice model. After the conference, be sure to close the loop. Send a follow-up email thanking the person you met for their time and perspective. This email is important for two reasons: first, it shows appreciation, and second, it establishes a connection for the future if you would like to reach out again.
Remember: networking can be awkward, intimidating, and even scary. But it is also essential. Be willing to put yourself out there, and most of the time, people will be happy to meet with you.
Dr. Ramasamy and Ms. Dullea have no conflicts of interest to report.
Illustration by Diana Connolly