Science dinners, networking, and unwelcome non-advice
I just got back from dinner with some visiting scientists.
Ugh. How awkward.
Not only did I miss their seminars, but I haven't read any of their papers. I know just enough about what they do to know what it is, but not enough to ask any probing questions.
And they don't speak English all that well.
And the restaurant was really loud.
And I was the only female there.
Getting the picture?
Let me also add that we were seated at a high table in very tall chairs, so that my feet were swinging far above the ground.
Really does at lot for one's confidence, you know?
It was pretty pointless. Theoretically, this sort of thing should be 'useful', since it helps with 'networking', but as it turned out, I had just gotten annoyed with somebody about the very issue of networking, so I was in a pretty horrible mood when I got there. Hard to be really outgoing when you're privately seething and bitter.
I'm annoyed enough that I'm just going to reprint it.
Here is what happened (names deleted because I'm classy like that):
my original post:
I'm doing a 2nd postdoc on an interdisciplinary project of my own design. I'm currently in the nasty part of starting of the job search, publishing a paper and feeling overwhelmed by not having enough contacts in my field (my advisor doesn't have enough contacts to make up a whole network for me). Help!
male stranger's reply (please keep in mind that this was in a section with a specific field designated, and this guy does not work in this field. Also keep in mind, that this whole site is *supposed* to be for women to help mentor other women):
There's a quote in your message that troubles me: "my advisor doesn't have enough contacts to make up a whole network for me." That's not your advisor's job, that's YOUR job.
A network is like a weapon: you don't need it until you need it, and then you need it very badly indeed. :-)
There's a post in another forum that speaks about technical and professional society involvement as a way to develop leadership experience and contacts...a position with which I strongly agree.
My advice is to start building your personal network NOW (and there are lots of posts around here about how to do that...just remember to keep your links with network members "warm" with occasional communications...the only times they hear from you should NOT be when you need something. :-) )
I would also suggest that you reflect on contacts you've made during your two postdocs as well as your undergrad/grad studies. Perhaps there is someone there who would be a good member of your network. Anyone who was favorably impressed with your work, your demeanor, enthusiasm...whatever; even if they cannot help you directly they may be able to refer you to someone in their network.
Best of luck...and remember that you have two separate but connected issues here: your short-term needs (job, etc.) and long-term ones (building a network that will serve you for your entire life/career).
Best of luck!
-- male engineer
my reply to his reply:
Wow, that was pretty condescending, and not useful at all. Perhaps I should clarify.
Actually I'm *very* involved in national and local scientific groups. I have begun to meet people through those connections, and I am currently conducting a handful of very productive collaborations.
However, but I haven't met many people who are willing and able to actively help me get a job, even if they say they are impressed with my work. The most willing are usually the least connected, while the most connected ones can't seem to be bothered because they're too busy being rich and famous.
I have the strong impression that nobody wants to do much unless it benefits them, too. Hence the successful collaborations- scientifically, everyone wins. That part is easy. My getting a faculty position, however, doesn't do much to help people who are already faculty. For the most part, they could care less what happens to me, because it won't benefit them directly.
Most of the people in my field are men. As I've mentioned in posts in other forums, most men seem more interested in mentoring other men. That's one of the reasons MentorNet appeals to me. Most women faculty, in my experience, are much busier than their male counterparts. They're expected to serve on many more committees. Furthermore, many women faculty still do an unfair share of child-rearing, so they're often racing out of the lab in the evening and don't attend as many meetings as the men. For these reasons, it's much harder to meet female role models. Most of the male faculty I've met, much like yourself, tend to assume I'm an idiot without bothering to find out who I am or what I'm about.
It's all fine and good to talk about having a network, but it's a very vague concept. I have lots of contacts, I have made many acquaintances. I try to make specific requests when I contact people, and I try to do it in a friendly and respectful manner. However, I'm clearly missing some important aspect of networking and I'm not sure what it is. My impression, and the reason for my post, is that you need to have more 'nodes' to get good coverage, and nonlinear science supports this notion. If you don't have the *right* contacts, it takes a lot *more* contacts to get the same coverage. For the well-connected, and by that I mean the lucky person who chose a famous advisor and got along with them swimmingly, a job may be only one or two contacts away. They essentially had a network handed to them. For those of us who worked - albeit successfully- in relative obscurity in grad school, and in my case, had a sexist schmuck for a first postdoc advisor, we are still six degrees of separation away from a job.
-- still pissed off