Ugh! Networking is such a dirty word. It puts me in mind of boring businessmen in suits being incredibly narcicissitc about their own abilities while sucking up to whoever they’re talking to in an attempt to gain favour. This favour might later lead to promotion or job contracts or a game of golf and influence on the board over the next round of mergers and acquisitions.
Even in slightly more realistic situations networking is still seen as a slightly dirty thing, and I, for one, hate it. For a start, I’m not much of a person to talk myself up and often I find contrived conversation tortuous and difficult. But it is a necessary evil, particularly at conferences, where getting to know your fellow geologists* is all important, for getting future postdoc positions or research insights with elder academics. Or getting to know your peers so that you can collaborate for years to come.
Luckily geologists have ways around some of these networking problems.
Firstly: beer (or drink of choice). As discussed before on this blog, a beer in hand is a common state for geologists to be in. And it helps. At conferences, the real stuff goes on after hours, in the city’s bars and pubs long into the evening. Real networking occurs long after conversations about science have finished, or relevant science at least. Real networking even continues after someone mentions the word “shots”. Although you might not remember it the day after.
Much of my time at the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference this year was spent in one of the many Les 3 Brasseurs in Montreal. Where I spent many an evening getting to know my fellow low-temperature geochemistry postgraduates, as well as some cool, still down with the kids, postdocs too.
Secondly: Science is fun! And much of geological networking involves talking about scientific ideas, so it is vastly more interesting than say, 5-year yields on Nicaraguan bonds.
Perhaps most importantly. Geologists are generally nice people and you don’t have to work with people you don’t like. I can understand how people of all disciplines network with alcohol, or might find their subject interesting (someone must find accountancy fun, right?). But in geology, we rarely, if ever, have to work with people we don’t get on with. Collaborations occur between friends. Or people who will become friends.
So while I still find networking annoying and difficult, I can at least be comforted by the fact that I have to network with geologists and talk about geology. And like a lot of things in life**, its a lot more fun with a beer and a geologist.
* yeah, yeah, or “earth scientists”. I’ve said my piece, deal with it.
** yes, including that.