Grad student and postdoc guide to the annual meeting

Grad students and postdocs. How are you preparing for the exciting science and excellent professional-development opportunities at the 2016 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting? Do you know which events you will be attending? How you will make the most of the meeting while still remaining energetic enough to forge lasting connections and get home in one piece?

Here are some pointers that could help. 

Choose your events early

The ASBMB has numerous career-development events planned for grad students and postdocs. This year, we made it easy by listing them in one place. Here are a few new events to consider:

Career-development sessions. The Saturday afternoon career-development sessions take place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. and are free. Choose from three discussion sections: “Implementing your individual development plan,” “Pathway(s) to your own lab” and “Taking the industrial route.”

ASBMB game night. Join us Monday night for fun games (including science-themed trivia), prizes, snacks, drinks and antics in a photo booth. This event is only open to grad students and postdocs and will be a great opportunity to connect with your peers.

Career hour at the ASBMB booth. Drop by booth #516 during the lunch break on Sunday to talk with scientists who have taken a variety of career paths. Visit the website schedule above to see who is coming.

Know whom to meet

Identify people you want to meet and determine how to make a meeting happen. Are they giving talks or posters? Do you expect to see them at particular sessions? Can you reach out to them before the meeting and schedule sit-downs?

Make a plan

Create a written, day-by-day plan several weeks before the meeting and keep it organized and easily accessible so you stick to it. Build in rest, coffee and meal breaks.

Brush up on your networking skills

Bring business cards. If you cannot order them through your institution, cards are available online at Vistaprint for around $10.

Prepare a 15- to 30-second elevator pitch. Do you want people to come by your poster? Are you looking for a job? Practice your pitch with a friend or colleague until it is comfortable to say. You also can join our outreach team and perfect your pitch at their Saturday communication workshop. Pitches are also great ways to introduce yourself to new people.

Pre-write several questions for each person you would like to meet. Keep these handy so you can speak up when the time is right.

If you are on the job market, bring copies of your résumé on good quality paper. If you are presenting a poster, consider printing a simplified version of it on letter-size paper.

Look professional

Make sure you dress and act appropriately. Do not wear anything that is too worn out, too casual, too tight, too short or too low cut. This goes for men and women alike. Think about it this way: Will you be comfortable with how you are dressed if you unexpectedly meet someone for whom you would like to work?

Check the ASBMB meeting site for video tutorials on appropriate meeting attire. 

Gather info

While you are at the meeting, take good notes. This goes for scientific sessions, career-development events and one-on-one discussions. If you meet someone new, ask for a business card. Jot a note on the back about what you discussed. You will be exhausted by the end of the meeting, so do not rely on your memory.

Follow up

If you said you would reach out to someone after the meeting, do so. This is critical and will set you apart as someone who is organized and responsible.

Finally, come see me!

Make time to stop by the ASBMB booth, learn how to make the most of your membership and hear about several new professional-development benefits we will have for grad students and postdocs in 2016.

Erica Siebrasse Erica Siebrasse is the education and professional development manager for ASBMB. Follow her on Twitter.