I’m tempted to start keeping a file of advice like this. Am I missing something obvious, or is it not incredibly creepy to identify people in advance, research their life history, write a script for an encounter and then practice it?
Research and assess
Research the guest professionals, their job descriptions and their current and past affiliations before you arrive at the conference. Most are on Google, PubMed, Linkedin, ResearchGate and even Twitter. Select those who really pique your interest, whether it’s their career, company or life story. Be strategic.
Prepare a few questions pertaining to their work or career path that is relevant to your pursuits and goals. Write them down, even practise with another mentor, and bring them to the event.
Even if you don’t find it as creepy as I do, does it actually work? The ‘sample questions’ offered come across as really stilted:
“How did you land your first job?”
“What was your biggest challenge in your career path and how did/do you address it?”
“Does your company promote independent research projects? And how do they work into the business model?”
“If I want to transition into (whatever your interest is), what would be the best way to do so?”
“What do you like best about your current position?”
“What advice would you give a student like me?”
Does advice like this thrive online? Or is it just more conspicuous? I could see this as the WikiHow-ification of academic career advice: the imperatives of building an audience at low cost leading to advice that is overly general and hastily written. Somewhat unfair to University Affairs but I increasingly suspect there’s a general trend here. In the academic context, I think a particular orientation towards ‘professional development’ is intersecting with the imperatives of the social web to produce something that’s very problematic.