Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Networking 101: Why follow-up emails matter

Now more than ever with horrible job prospects and abysmal funding rates your network can make you or break you in academia. People in your network will mention jobs that could be a good fit, will provide collaborators and co-PIs for grants, will give a second opinion on grants and papers, will invite you for seminars and pick your for talks at conferences, and overall will make your life much easier. I have discussed why networking in important and how to network here, but going to back to back meetings the past two weeks reminded me of a time honored tradition, the "nice to see you" email.

Johannes Vermeer - Lady with her maidservant
holding a letter
After I received a couple of lovely notes, including one from the senior PI who had prompted the
meltdown chronicled in my last post, I took half an hour to send my own. It doesn't take long, since "It was great to see you, I enjoyed catching up" or "I enjoyed your talk/poster" or "Thank you for taking the time to ..." followed by similar pleasantries is all it takes. Maybe you had brief discussions over coffee about possible collaborations you'd like to consolidate, and you can mention the specifics. If it's someone you just met and they have a LinkedIn profile, it also makes sense to connect on LinkedIn, so that you are permanently in their gravitational circle.

There is really no downside of this, as long as your correspondence is brief and pleasant, AND it is directed to someone with whom you made a connection. Do not email the keynote speaker or everyone at the meeting, unless you have had a meaningful 5-10 min conversation about their work or your work. Some people will reply and consolidate the relationship, other won't, but in any case you have planted a seed to grow your network.
I have never been particularly good at remembering to follow up, but whenever I get one of these notes, it always reminds me of how important it is. As humans we want to feel connected and appreciated, and with all the rejection of grants and papers going around these days, it's good practice to be sociable and polite...good karma may follow.

Photo credit: Johannes Vermeer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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