Networking: A lot more than just shaking hands and exchanging business cards


Hi everyone,

I would like to congratulate everyone who participated in this year’s London Health Research Day and helped to make the event so incredible. I was especially pleased with the new apprpoach to poster presentations. The passports and dots seemed to add a new and engaging aspect to the event and it appeared that both the morning and afternoon poster sessions were incredibly busy from start to finish. The oral presentations were also top notch and certainly displayed the diverse areas of research strength we have at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and Lawson Health Research Institute. There is so much to be proud of and I think the day reinvigorates all of us to keep advancing knowledge in each area we work in.

I would like to highlight some of the discussions that occured in the Networking Workshop organized by the Graduate Student Council. The session presented many great ideas about how trainees can uncover new opportunities, whether they be academic or commercial in nature.

Delivering an informative presentation, Monica Giorgini of the Student Success Centre (SSC) provided insight and tips about career planning and job hunting. As the program coordinator of the SSC, Giorgini can help you enhance your job searching skills and provide one-on-one career counselling assistance. At LHRD, Giorgini gave a great presentation on the do’s and don’ts of networking. There were many important lessons, but I believe the most important was to always follow-up with your contacts. Many great opportunities fall by the wayside simply because people don’t follow-up.

During the session, which also included Savita Dhanvantari, PhD, Andrew Pruszynski, PhD, and me, I was surprised by how much time was spent discussing ‘introductory emails.’ It appears trainees are worried about saying too little or saying too much in an introductory email. The key lesson to remember when trying to network with new people is not to overthink it.

Discussing how to reach out to new people, Andrew Pruszynski said, “One must be sincere and represent themselves simply in the initial email.” A brief introduction about why you contacted the person you are reaching out to, what led you to them and why you are interested in learning more about them or their company is the type of information you should include in your introductory emails. It is a misstep to send a full CV and attempt to discuss pay or start dates with someone you do not have a connection with. The conversation should be organic.

Your aim in reaching out to new people should be to begin a discussion. If you have a mutual contact, such as a professor, certainly make mention of it in the email. If you don’t hear back right away from someone you have emailed, don’t be disappointed. Being proactive and following up with a potential new contact is your next course of action when this occurs.

If you don’t receive a response back within a week, simply send a follow-up email and say “I am hoping you may have had time to consider a face-to-face meeting. I would like to visit your lab or company if possible.” In this scenario, the chances are that you will get a reply—though it might be a rejection, there are many other places to look at and people to contact. Your network will keep growing throughout your life and it will be pruned and re-grown in many directions as your career grows. Without a doubt, it will always remain one of your best tools for uncovering new opportunities and keeping your career moving in the direction you want. After all, I began my career in Obstetrics and Gynecology because of an opportunity I was alerted to by one of my professors.  

Though am not an expert in networking, I believe exploring your career options and making an appointment to speak to the career experts in the SSC will help you to gain new insight and assist you with your career path.

Talk to you next month.

Andrew J. Watson, PhD
Associate Dean, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies