Attending conferences as a graduate studentChen Wan Lim
One of the perks of being a postgraduate student is the opportunity to attend conferences organised by professional governing bodies, industry leaders and academia. Attending as a student has its additional benefits too as you will be viewed by industry professionals as being an inquisitor of knowledge keen on meeting everyone and anyone. Also, people are generally more receptive to questions posed by students as their intentions are most often knowledge seeking and enhancing in nature. There is however some conference decorum to observe when you are attending as a graduate student. These are some tips to abide by when attending conferences as a graduate student:
Tip 1: Dress appropriately
Conferences are typically a gathering of professionals and like-minded people interested to share and to learn about a specific area of interest. Men are expected to be in business suits and women are expected to don a blouse, blazer and trousers or skirts. You do not want to be in your jeans and t-shirt in the sea of black suits.
Tip 2: Attending a conference which is right for you
Be choosy about the conference you are attending as well. Conduct some background research on the conference such as the organisers, speakers and exhibitors. Not only do you not want to be wasting your time attending an event which is out of your area of interests, you will feel awkward having little understanding about the area which is being discussed – especially if you were to bump into someone and having a conversation about an area which you have no clue about.
Tip 3: Do thorough research before attending
Before attending a conference, be sure to conduct an adequate amount of research on the companies attending and the topics of discussions. This will allow you to prepare questions to ask and to look more confident during tea breaks when you are having conversations with industry professionals. Chances are, you might meet a person with the authority to recruit you after you graduate.
Tip 4: Target who you want to meet
Conferences usually attract thousands of people, some of which are directly related to the industry in focus and others, barely. Before the conference, make a list of companies or people you want to meet and target them directly. Either go to their booth to meet up in person or attend talks where you will be able to ask questions directly.
Tip 5: Look for peers
If you happen to attend an academic conference, it would be advisable to look up on peers who are within the same area of specialisation with you – for example human resources or organisational performance management. You will want to have a friendly conversation with them asking questions such as the area of research they are conducting and also new findings which they have discovered during the course of their research. This will give you new ideas (not to plagiarise) but to expand your knowledge base and to know the general trend of research that is being conducted.
Tip 6: Have a name card ready at all times
As a postgraduate student, you would most probably have some sort of working experience and if you are a part-time student, chances are you are still employed full time by an organisation. Bring your name card to conferences and be sure to pass them around to everyone that you meet. You might be pleasantly surprised that the next person you meet is your new employer who happens to be keen on the area of research that you are conducting.
Tip 7: Follow-up
After the conference, be sure to send people whom you would want to stay connected to by dropping them an email reintroducing yourself and keeping the line of communication open. Keeping in touch with these people could prove beneficial when you are conducting your research for your Masters’ thesis or when you decide on a career change.