Recently, we invited readers to ask us anything. Here’s our answer to the next question. Question has been paraphrased for brevity, click the link for the original.
How do you network as a postdoc, not just at conferences? In particular, what if you want to contact someone for learning? (from Carlos Aguilar-Trigueros)
Brian: Once you’re a postdoc, act like you’re a faculty member. That is how you are broadly perceived in the somewhat egalitarian academic world. If you’ve got a PhD finished you’re a potential collaborator. You can think of it as your multi-year PhD just got you a license to email any ecologist in the world if you want. Of course they are busy, so they may not want to collaborate (and they might not want to collaborate even if you were a member of the National Academy so don’t take it personally), but it would be unusual for them to be rude. So how exactly would I approach a faculty member I didn’t know? Here’s several I have used (all with happy outcomes, some with collaborations resulting):
- Email them and say I’m giving a talk at ESA and would appreciate your thoughts and feedback.
- Email them and say I really enjoyed your paper X. Its changed my thinking about my own work Y. I wonder if we might talk about potential synergies?
- Invite them to be a participant in a working group (or RCN) you are organizing.
- Email them and say I am going to be at ESA and find your work very interesting. I wondered if you’d have time to meet me for a copy of coffee.
- Email them and just say I just read paper X and its a really great paper (with no ask or followup implied).
- Invite them to come give a seminar at your department (most departments let postdocs invite people – or ask your postdoc mentor to formally invite but let you co-host).
- Lead a grant and email them asking if they would be interested in participating because they bring special skill X that would really add to the grant.
But more than anything else – just go for it!
Jeremy: What Brian said. I’d only add:
8. Email them to say I read your paper with interest, I have a question about it.