By Pamela E. Harris and Abbe Herzig
In addition to sharing our mathematical work, the Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM) provide a valuable opportunity to network with other mathematicians. Networking allows you to learn about other people and what they are doing, meet them, help them know who you are, and generally share ideas about mathematics, education, the profession, or any other topics that you might want to talk about.
This year with JMM being held virtually you might wonder about options for networking and how to make good use of them in this new format. As you prepare to embark on some virtual networking during JMM you should check out the advice provided in this eMentoring blog Networking Basics for Math Undergrads. Although the advice provided is targeted for in-person events, much of it continues to hold for a virtual conference. In particular, we suggest the following for virtual networking events.
Prepare for a networking event in advance:
- Create a virtual business card. This can be a google document with a sharable link where you can provide your name and contact information. You can also include where you are in your mathematical journey (Undergraduate/graduate student/on the job market, etc.) and any specific mathematical interests (“interested in algebraic topology”). Bonus points: turn your long sharable link into a tiny url to get a personalized short link with your name on it. Remember to make this document available to the public! You could also share your LinkedIn profile or personal webpage, if you have them.
- Have a second document ready so you can keep track of contact information of people you meet, or that they share in a chat. This might be a document you save to your desktop, or you could also have a link to share where folks could write their contact information as well. This will be a helpful resource to you later, so you can follow up and build professional relationships.
- Upload a photo to your AMS profile and also in the Zoom platform, so that when your camera is off a picture of you is still displayed. This will help people remember you.
- Update your name as you would like it to appear and so that people can see it displayed in the Zoom window. Feel free to add your pronouns.
- If there is an individual or a group of mathematicians you’d like to meet, look at the JMM Virtual Program to see where you can find them (the JMM program is posted on Mountain Time). You can also attend some general networking events, which will be announced in the program email you will receive each morning of the meeting.
While in a networking session:
- Turn on your camera, even if only briefly. We understand everyone’s bandwidth (literal and metaphorical) is different. So this could be just initially to say hello and then explain your bandwidth limits and turn it off. If possible, display your photo as mentioned in item #3 above.
- Introduce yourself. Prepare a brief introduction in advance, and consider posting the link to your virtual business card, LinkedIn page, or personal webpage in the chat (see #1 above). If you are in a breakout room or talking with different people, feel free to share it again if you meet others you want to connect with.
- An online gathering is different from an in-person one in several ways. Online, if you do not show yourself or speak up, others may not know you’re there. Find ways to make your presence known–make a comment, ask a question. Don’t know what to ask? Try “Can you tell me more about that?” or “How can I find out more?” or “Can you recommend something I can read to learn more about this?”
- Step out of your comfort zone. You do not have to talk to everyone or enter every conversation. It can help to prepare some questions or comments in advance. Most people enjoy talking about their own work, so a question about their research can be a good ice-breaker.
- Stay in contact with the individual after the conference. A simple email the day after, where you remind them of your name, institution, and the topic of your conversation, can go a long way in building a new professional relationship. Asking a question about their work in the email can keep the conversation going.
You will find other helpful ideas at these posts from the eMentoring blogs:
- Bank of REU/Grad Fair Questions
- Learning During the Pandemic: What we wish our professors and mentors knew
You will have the opportunity to use these skills by joining the eMentoring Network and the AMS Department of Education for the informal networking session Networking for better mentoring on Friday, January 8th from 12:00-1:00 pm Mountain Time. This informal discussion will address questions like: What is mentoring? Who is a mentor? What can students expect from a mentor? Can good mentoring practices be taught? How do people find mentors? How can we adapt our mentoring to be better advocates for those most marginalized within the mathematical sciences? What lessons have we learned about mentoring in the past year, especially with the move to virtual platforms? These and other questions like these will guide our session, whose goal is to network for better mentoring.
Anyone registered for JMM can join Networking for better mentoring through the JMM Virtual Program.
We hope to see you there!