By Anastassia Pogoutse
In networking, one of the biggest hurdles is finding people with the time and willingness to talk. LSCDS’s annual Networking Reception, which took place this year on Thursday, February 23, offers an opportunity to meet with industry professionals, all of whom are there with the purpose of sharing their experiences and helping trainees. The reception consists of both sit-down discussions as well as open networking sessions that allow participants to mingle.
The Networking Reception is structured to encourage trainees to do some research in advance on the people they’ll be meeting. During on-line event registration, participants select four professionals they would like to meet. At the event, each industry guest is assigned a table. Groups of up to nine trainees have twenty minutes to talk to the guest and ask him or her questions. After the time limit is up, participants move to another table to talk to the next guest they selected at registration. There are also two open networking sessions, one in the middle of the evening and one at the end. During this time, attendees can continue the conversation at their respective table or seek out someone they haven’t had a chance to talk to yet. The dress code for the event is business casual and everyone is encouraged to bring business cards. Bringing resumes is discouraged.
This year’s guest list covered a large diversity of professional backgrounds. It included medical writers, consultants, and research scientists in addition to professionals working in other fields, such as regulatory affairs, IP law, and business development. A total of twenty-six industry professionals attended.
For those who don’t plan on looking for a job anytime soon, the Networking Reception can still serve as an opportunity to ask questions that a Google search will never adequately answer. It can be seen as a series of informational interviews. For example, at the reception I met with Geula Bernstein, a senior medical writer; Melissa Kim, an industry scientist; Youssef Hayek, an analyst; and Dan Riskin, a host and producer at Discovery Canada. These choices were based both on career paths I’m likely to pursue as well as professions about which I wanted to learn more. Some key pieces of advice that came out from the table discussions were to be open to learning and opportunities, and to develop a unique skill set that will help you to stand out. Another topic that was mentioned more than once was the importance of cold-calling and taking the initiative in pursuing your goals. As Melissa Kim put it, “you have to go for it…no one’s going to do it for you”.
The open networking portion of the evening is as much a chance to talk to the invited guests as it is to meet other trainees. One attendee I spoke to, Nohemie Mawaka, a recent MSc graduate from Simon Fraser University, mentioned that she was impressed by the networks of some of the people she had met at the event. “I’m saddened that my school didn’t have this,” she added.