Working the Room(s)—Job Search Networking Tips for Professional Conferences
Picture this: You’ve come to the American Academy of Neurology’s Annual Meeting, or any other neurology conference, on a mission of sorts. You want to meet up with your colleagues, yes, and of course you want to learn about new developments in neurology. But in the back of your mind, there’s another thought brewing. What if you were to find a great job this week, or at least the lead for one? That’s not unrealistic at all, but it won’t just happen on its own. As Amy Schoch, Senior Manager, Career Services, says, “There are a lot of people in town for the Annual Meeting and there’s a lot of mutual interest. But candidates have to put in some work to make the connection.” As manager of the Academy’s Career Center—and a veteran of nearly two dozen AAN Annual Meetings and conferences—Schoch should know. She has been advising neurology candidates and employers on making job matches since 2001. Following are some of her best tips for job-seeking neurologists and junior members when attending an AAN-hosted event.
Three conference networking tips for job seekers
1 Use the AAN Career Center in advance of the conference. By reviewing active job postings, for example, a potential candidate can identify employers of interest and then make arrangements to meet up with someone from that organization during the event, says Schoch. Whether that contact is a hiring manager, a recruiter, or a fellow physician who currently works there, he or she could help the candidate make inroads while also providing information about the institution. To make the connection, Schoch suggests simply sending an email to the contact in the posting asking if they want to set up a meeting during the conference.
Does this work? Schoch affirms that it does, sharing this anecdote: “I spoke with someone at the Annual Meeting two years ago and gave him that suggestion. Last year, he came back to the Career Center booth to say that he had followed the advice and had already had an interview at that year’s Annual Meeting. That tip helped him make the connection that landed him the interview.”
Schoch also advises a careful reading of the postings to reveal upcoming openings. “When a recruitment ad makes note of a new center or building,” she says, “you can anticipate that the institution is growing. Even if you’re not ready to start interviewing, arranging to talk with someone from that employer at the conference can give you a leg up on future opportunities.”
2 Visit the main Career Center booth at the Annual Meeting. Job seekers will find several items of interest at the booth this year. One is the chance to set up your Job Alert, a simple process that directs relevant postings to your inbox based on the criteria you select. For example, if you want to be alerted to stroke opportunities, you can set the Alert to tell you when those positions are posted, saving you the effort of hunting for relevant ads on your own. Another feature of the booth is the live scroll of current job openings on a large screen, with a nearby kiosk to let you make a fast application for positions that catch your eye. Last but not least, you’ll find a well-stocked literature rack with excellent articles on job search and career paths for neurologists. Or, if you prefer your literature in digital form, you can take away a flash drive (while supplies last) with the entire set of Career Center articles available for viewing at your leisure.
3 Visit the recruiters in the Exhibit Hall. If you’ve been to the Annual Meeting Exhibit Hall before, then you know that it can be a very active place. With more than a hundred exhibitors from pharmaceutical companies, software vendors, equipment suppliers, and other organizations—many offering tempting coffee drinks and treats, along with an array of media displays—let’s just say it’s easy to be distracted while you’re there. Nevertheless, Schoch wants you to know there are always a couple dozen booths with recruiters and other representatives who are there to talk turkey on careers at a variety of organizations. It’s an excellent opportunity to pick up cards and literature that you can use to pursue a contact later.
Or, if you’re not pressed for time, you can have insightful conversations right there at the booths, learning about current and future openings. You also can drop off your CV or complete a contact form, if you’d like someone to make an outreach to you after the conference. All in all, it’s a very efficient way to connect with multiple organizations with relatively little effort.
Tips for AAN Junior members
For residents and fellows still in training, Schoch has this additional advice: Don’t think that your job search days are too far in the future to merit attention now. “It’s never too early to look,” she says. “While you’re completing training is the ideal time to connect with employers—that’s how you’ll know if you’re gaining the skills you’ll need in the workplace.” For example, Schoch notes, a resident or fellow who watches the job postings at the Career Center may notice a pattern of certain employers requesting EEG skills—a sure sign that those types of organizations would favor new graduates with EEG experience under their belts. By the same token, Junior members who network at the conference with doctors on staff at their target employers can gain insight into which procedures or patient experiences they should take extra care to learn while completing their training.
Swag to sweeten the pot
When you’re at the Annual Meeting this year, stop by the main Career Center booth to try for your chance at some useful gifts. T-shirts and other items are available—while supplies last—to any member who stops by the booth to set up a free Job Alert. The process only takes about 60 seconds, Schoch notes, making that one of the best bargains at the meeting.
Networking is for everyone
Swag notwithstanding, physicians who network know that the real gift of the Annual Meeting and other professional conferences is the opportunity to rub shoulders with colleagues and potential employers. Although it may seem as if jobs for neurologists are already plentiful, it’s networking that makes the difference when you want to break through the competition for a coveted role. As Schoch explains, if you take the time to meet recruiters in the Exhibit Hall, or to talk with employers directly after seeing their postings, you’ll have more opportunity to shape your next job to suit your goals and interests. And that doctor sitting next to you at the plenary session? He or she just might work at one of the places you’ve been considering. What better opportunity to learn firsthand what it would be like to work there or, better yet, to gain a referral for an upcoming opening? Whether you take Schoch’s advice and set up that meeting intentionally—or you tumble into the conversation by happenstance—you’ll find that professional conferences are just the ticket when it comes to job search networking.