Reaching Your Networking Peak: A Guided Networking Session at JSM

Sally Morton, dean of dean of the college of science at Virginia Tech and a former ASA president, shares networking tips with a packed room of volunteers and participants at JSM 2019 in Denver.

A packed room of participants practice networking with volunteer seasoned networkers during a JSM 2019 session led by Sally Morton, dean of the college of science at Virginia Tech and a former ASA president. Morton also provided a number of networking tips.

Claire McKay Bowen is the lead data scientist for privacy and data security at the Urban Institute. She is a member of the ASA Committee on Career Development, secretary/treasurer for the Statistical Computing Section, and program chair for the Physical and Engineering Sciences Section.

Elizabeth MannshardtElizabeth Mannshardt is a statistician at the US Environmental Protection Agency. She is active in the ASA, currently serving as past chair of the Government Statistics Section and recently as 2018 president of the North Carolina Chapter. She is also an adjunct associate professor in the department of statistics at North Carolina State University.

The Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM) and other conferences are great venues to network with people from around the world. However, for many students and early-career professionals, networking can be extremely intimidating. Additionally, although networking is an essential skill at all stages of a professional’s career, courses and/or training on how to network may be hard to find. With the goal of helping students and early-career statisticians, the ASA Committee on Career Development (ASA CCD) hosted the guided networking session, “Reaching Your Networking Peak,” at JSM 2019 in Denver and will host the same event at JSM 2020 in Philadelphia.

In Denver, pro-networker Sally Morton, dean of the college of science at Virginia Tech and an ASA former president, discussed topics such as introducing yourself confidently. Each topic discussion was followed by three five-minute practice sessions during which participants had the opportunity to interact with more experienced members of the ASA community. Color-coded tags indicated whether the seasoned networkers were from industry, government, or academia, so participants could connect with professionals in the career area they plan to pursue.

These volunteers were invaluable, as they provided both constructive feedback and a friendly networking environment in which participants could practice their own networking skills. The engagement, encouragement, and active learning between the attendees and volunteers was energizing,” said Morton. “We all left the session with practical tips and increased confidence—thanks to the Committee on Career Development and Claire for the impactful session!”

Morton also solicited networking tips from the seasoned networking volunteers. Tips included how to exit a conversation gracefully and the importance of eye contact.

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive from both participants and volunteers:

“As a shy person with little networking experience, meeting people at a large conference like JSM was really daunting. The session gave me the confidence boost that I needed to network with potential employers and interview well at the Career Service.” – Kara Martinez, North Carolina State University graduate student

“Sally helped me beef up my one-liner game for the next time I’m stuck alone at a JSM mixer.” – Eva Tourangeau, University of Washington graduate student

“It was great to have such a well-organized and focused event to start JSM. As a mentor, I enjoyed listening to Sally Morton and thinking about ways to help our students learn how to network at conferences.” – Emily Griffith, SAMSI deputy director and North Carolina State University associate professor

“The students from NCSU who attended gained a lot of confidence. We were so inspired by this that we are organizing a smaller version of this at NCSU before ENAR using ASA CCD materials.” – Kara Martinez, 2019 ASA CCD guided networking participant

“It was great to interact with young professionals and students. They were excited to ask about insights on how to navigate JSM and benefit from networking at conferences and other professional events.” – Elizabeth Mannshardt, US EPA

Looking Forward to JSM 2020

ASA President-elect and Vice President and Chief Methodologist Director at the Urban Institute Rob Santos will lead the 2020 JSM guided networking session in Philadelphia as the pro-networker. ASA CCD will also welcome seasoned networkers as volunteers. Based on feedback from 2019, the ASA CCD plans to have an area for networking and an area for sitting, as well as water drinking stations.

Organizer Takeaways

The ASA CCD received overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants, volunteers, and Morton. Given the success of the session, the organizers encourage academic institutions to consider hosting similar events locally to help their students become networking pros. Full session details and tips for organizers can be found on the ASA CCD blog. Visit the ASA CCD Upcoming Events page for details about the 2020 schedule and additional CCD offerings such as office hours and professional development webinars, including “A Beginner’s Guide to Navigating JSM.”