Thursday, 15 March 2012

Network or perish

Posted by Lynne Forrest

If you want to get on in academia you have to get published. That’s ok, I don’t have a problem with that. But there aren’t that many jobs available post-PhD and lots of people chasing them. So that means, as well as writing papers for journals, you’ve got to get out there and sell yourself - which translates as going to conferences and giving presentations. Even worse, you have to go to conference dinners and ‘network’. Just the thought of it is makes my heart sink. 

When I was growing up, ‘showing off’ was a bad thing so having to stand up and talk about how fabulous your research is, is a real trial. Plus I’m pale and Scottish so I go bright red. For those of us who’d really rather just sit at our desks and play with our data, this whole self-publicity thing is not fun. But I guess it is a necessary evil. You could be doing a brilliant job but if nobody knows about it then what’s the point?

I’m giving a presentation next week. Luckily it’s just an internal one but I’m stressing about it already. I’ve been on the training though. I know what I should be doing to give an effective presentation. But, by the time I’ve remembered to talk slowly and not look at my slides or stare fixedly at one person, I’ve forgotten what it was I was planning to say. Plus I’m presenting the results from my systematic review – I have a lot of data. There’s a danger of boring everyone to death with data overload. That’s a lot of things to stress about.

On the plus side, I am sharing the presentation slot with someone else. Is it wrong to hope that she’ll be rubbish to make me look better?

Actually it probably doesn’t really matter if it doesn’t go well as it’s just to give me some practice for the real thing. I’ve got a few conferences I need to attend this year. So I’ve drafted a couple of abstracts and submitted them. I’ve ticked the ‘poster or oral presentation’ box (because my supervisors made me) but you know that, really, I’m hoping it’ll be ‘poster’.

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