Working the Conference: A Letter from a Client

I have a series of blog posts called How To Work the Conference Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.  Here is a story from last week that shows why you should do what they say.


Dear Karen,

I just attended the annual meeting for XXXX Association. I followed the advice I have read on your blogs, as well as your advice during the interview bootcamp webinar, and it was my most successful conference yet in terms of networking and promoting myself.

Before the meeting, I scrolled through the list of presenters and emailed the people with whom I wanted to meet for coffee. I also prepared an elevator speech, as well as answers to questions I might receive during an interview.

I also did something other graduate students did not– I did not cling to other graduate students, even if it meant walking around by myself from time to time. (And I must say I felt confident standing by myself because I was wearing brand new clothes I purchased for the conference.)

The payoff was huge. I met the biggest names at the conference, some of whom quickly became my biggest advocates. Two senior scholars took me to the business meeting, where they introduced me to everyone, told them I was on the job market, and asked them if they were doing any hiring. After that meeting, I decided to go to the business luncheon. Instead of sitting in the back with graduate students, I marched up to the front of the room. When I noticed there was an open seat at the table reserved for the most prestigious scholars, I asked if the seat was taken–it was not–and sat down. I tend to be shy, but I knew that I had to act like an equal, not as a submissive grad student.

One of my coffee dates led to a dinner with the current chair of the xxx  department of my alma matter. I received the following email [inquiring about her availability for a possible temporary position] the next day, and when I did it made A LOT more sense why he was asking me questions about publication trajectory and teaching pedagogy.

In short, please keep doing what you’re doing. I wouldn’t have had such a successful conference had I not read your blog, participated in the bootcamp webinar, and put your advice into practice.


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