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How to Advance Your Academic Career with One Decision

Understanding your objectives when going to a conference can help you establish your professional image and reputation.



As a young academic, you'll have opportunities to attend research conferences. These scientific meetings give you the chance to show your research, see friends in the field and, catch-up with old acquaintances.


You'll have the chance to hear the latest science and theories from the researchers who have been in the business for years. If you're fortunate, you might even meet the authors of books that you love and use in your research!


One of the most significant benefits of a scientific meeting is that it's one of the best places to advance your career.


"If you are ready to launch your career, there's one easy step that you can take, and it's all up to you and the decisions you make"


The decision is pretty simple. Here it is. Decide to attend the conference and never forget why you are there! Yes, this may sound a bit elementary, but you would be amazed at what we have seen over the years.


When you go to a conference, you have to ask yourself why you're attending. Is it to party, have a mini-vacation, check out the cities offerings, or advance your career?


As fabulous as it is to take a mini-vacation, a conference gives you the chance to make new academic acquaintances, meet scientists whose lab you'd like to work in for your post-doc or first job, and hear research that may help you with your research agenda.


If you party so hard that you can't wake up for morning sessions or if you're out seeing the sights rather than being in meetings, you are not only cheating yourself, but you are cheating those who paid for your trip (your University or PI). There's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy your conference trip, but you have to remember that you are there to learn, participate, and network.


You also have to remember that in today's world, there are cameras everywhere with pictures that get posted around the world with just a few taps on the phone. There is no chance that "what happens at the conference will stay at the conference." The reality is that "what happens at the conference will be known worldwide by morning." As noted in Finding the Best Faculty Job for You, often the first step for search committees – especially when deciding who will be interviewed on-campus – is to look through social media. I'm sure that the image you want the search committee to have of you is NOT one of you partying at the most recent conference.


One last thing to remember is that most academic disciplines are small communities. Just a few acquaintances are separating most academics. It is probable that if you party extensively, the community will notice and remember. If you are looking for a job (or will be), would you rather your reputation be that you are there for the science and to learn or that you are there for the party?


So, the next time you pack your bags and head for a conference, think about why you're attending, and your career! Have a good time, and enjoy your friends, but remember that your community is small so why take the chance?

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