Now that you’ve gone to the March and April Meetings, you’re probably wondering what to do with the contacts you acquired and conversations you had. The business cards you amassed will seem like an inconvenience if they sit on your desk for the next five years, accumulating muons, but take heed: There is value to be extracted from those chats and cards.
After all, networking is not a one-time deal—it’s about crafting mutually beneficial partnerships over time and investing in the relationship for the long haul. The first point of contact—meeting someone at a mixer, chatting after their presentation, or introducing yourself while in line for coffee—sets the tone for the relationship, but it doesn’t end there. Here are a few ideas to engage in mindful, strategic post-conference networking to grow your newfound alliances into a long-term win-win:
Follow up as soon as you can. Based on what you discussed at the conference, send an email to thank the person for meeting with you. If they had a request, like sharing with them your CV or a recent paper, do so.
Request a follow-up Zoom or phone appointment “to continue the conversation.” Ask for 15 or 20 minutes to discuss X further and “explore the potential to collaborate.” The key is to keep the dialogue going, flowing, and growing to nurture the relationship.
Organize your contacts. If you haven’t used a formal system to manage your contacts, now is the time to do it. You don’t need a fancy piece of software—a Google Doc might be right up your alley—as long as the system you choose aligns with how you collect and process information. Include the basics, like a person’s name, position, organization, and email, but also include contextual reminders you might forget later, like the event at which you met, what you discussed, or the research they’re conducting that’s relevant to your interests.
Connect on LinkedIn, which is specifically designed for networking and appropriate self-promotion. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, create one! Start by pasting parts of your CV, such as education and experience, and expand from there. Consider posting a copy of your paper or poster to showcase your work and help others.
Check in within the year. Rather than waiting until 2023, touch base with your new contacts a few months from now and perhaps again before the end of the year. Check-ins are easy: Email them with new information about you (“I am so honored I won the Nobel Prize”), new information about them (“Congrats on your paper in Phys Rev A”), something of value to them (“I wanted to share this paper I read about leptons”), and/or a yes or no question (“Your talk on analyzing magnetic behavior in X materials was so interesting. Have you ever utilized the Z method?”).
Attend your next March and April Meeting with even more confidence and joy—after all, you’ll know people attending. Put a note in your calendar, about a month before the next event, to check in with your contacts, and invite them for lunch or coffee at the 2023 Meetings and beyond.
Alaina G. Levine is a professional speaker, writer, and STEM career coach. This article builds on content that has appeared in her other work, including her columns, speeches, and book, Networking for Nerds (Wiley, 2015).