I am going to attend a meeting in a few days featuring all of the people I have ever cited in my proposals and papers. (Well, at least 99.9% of them!). Featuring. Sounds like a concert or a show. But that’s how it feels. When I first heard that I would have the privilege I was excited, nervous and daunted. And I don’t even have to talk, present or anything! I will just be in the same room with a lot of people that I admire and who do such important work. I know I will be star struck. This is where my dabbles in theatre will have to pull me through, I have to act cool 🙂
Anyway the show meeting is about new developments in measurement of maternal, new-born, and child health interventions. Public health researchers measure interventions so that governments and other stakeholders know if they are giving the right amount of coverage, to the right people, and if they are making a difference. So, this group of people is doing in the real world what I’m dreaming about in my thesis.
The meeting is truly an excellent opportunity for me to network with people who will be instrumental in me fulfilling some of my research objectives. And it’s a small meeting; so much nicer than those broader conference or networking forums where you are thrown into a room and told to “Go forth, find thee thy networks!” However, I can still mess it up…
Tips are all well and good, but they are not tailored to you. They don’t hold your hand and tell you who to talk to, and what to say; or how to get the most out of your network within your own unique situation. So I am realizing that networking is easier when you actually have something concrete to gain from the interaction. If, for instance, you are genuinely curious about someone’s work or have questions you think they can help you with — this works much better than attending a conference or meeting to “see how it goes” as far as networking is concerned (I have done this before). So the plan for this meeting is to NOT just get on everybody’s radar through random conversation. I’m going to “stalk” the participants ahead of time (I have a participants’ list!) and aim for very specific people. I feel more ready just knowing the exact people I want to talk to, because I know WHY as well.
And I think this will work — it MUST work. It is incredibly difficult for people from the Global South to crack the networks and cliques of the Global North. Our work is not ignored because the work sucks, but partly because we haven’t struck a chord or made ourselves stand out while socializing…
So, for me, I hope that changes. And there are other platforms out there. I recently found out about the Emerging Voices for Global Health where young researchers can participate in global symposia and get the training they need to successfully do so. It seems to be a mixture of self-driven effort (you have to get your symposium abstract accepted on your own) and just the right amount of support (with communication, networking, presentation training and coaching).
So I am looking forward to my meeting and many more similar opportunities. Let’s rub shoulders with our celebrities until we become them, ha ha. 🙂