by: Padmanabhan (Paddy) Eangoor
“Networking”—the word sounded weird to me a few years ago. As a student, I wondered if the sole purpose of networking was to ask for a job, and I dismissed the idea of networking because I wasn’t ready for a job. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered I had been networking quite well and the meaning of networking is not what I thought it was. Professionals network to earn more business, to gain more knowledge about their field, or to strengthen their position in a community. Students, on the other hand, are learners and may not feel as though they have much to contribute in discussions with professionals.
Students need to learn about the technical and soft skills required for their dream job and the preparation they have to do for their long-term career path. As learners, we have a greater need to network and, therefore, seize the opportunity to network whenever it is made available to us. It can be challenging to network with professionals who don’t have enough time for students. Yes, it is hard to get a hold of professionals, but not impossible. I would like to share with you a few opportunities that AAPS provided me (directly or indirectly) to network with some of its leaders:
Marilyn E. Morris, Ph.D., past president of AAPS, visited Mercer University in 2014 as an invited speaker through a PPDM education initiation award. I had a chance to interact directly with Dr. Morris during lunch and learned about how she manages all her responsibilities with effective time management so that she can give each responsibility her full effort.
Andrew M. Vick, Ph.D., candidate for 2016 AAPS President-Elect, was invited as a keynote speaker for the GRASP 2015 conference. I utilized the opportunity to talk to Dr. Vick during breakfast at the conference and was surprised to see how humble he is despite his high position. His down-to-earth attitude helped the students communicate with him freely and learn about his experiences in the early days of his career.
Jack Andraka is a teen prodigy who invented a new type of sensor for early-stage pancreatic cancer screening and was the keynote speaker at the AAPS 2015 Annual Meeting. As a student representative of the APQ section, I was given the opportunity to dine with Jack and other AAPS members. I jumped at the opportunity and found it exciting to talk to a fellow researcher who has great passion for science.
Binodh DeSilva, Ph.D., was recognized as the “International Mentor of the Year” in 2015 by the Mentor Resources organization and is currently the president-elect of AAPS. I had the opportunity to interact with Dr. DeSilva during the mentoring breakfast at the 2015 AAPS Annual Meeting. It was great to learn about bioanalytical research in pharmaceutical companies and contract research organizations from her.
Networking with professionals has helped me to figure out exactly what I want to do when I graduate and what I need to do to effectively achieve my goals. Talking to (networking with) successful individuals also gave me insight into their personality characteristics that aided in their success, which I think will aide in my success. My choices have evolved as I explored the opportunities at AAPS. My advice to those who are new to networking is: you surely have a lot of questions and the person whom you want to talk to not only has the answers for it but also has been through the same phase as you, so just start your conversation by introducing yourself, let them know what you up to, ask relevant and timely questions and the rest would go smoothly.