"At a karaoke party on the final night of a marine-sciences conference in 2011, graduate student David Shiffman signed up to sing a song that another attendee had also requested. The event director asked the two to do a duet, and they agreed. Shiffman has since forgotten the tune – 'Take on Me' by A-ha or 'I Will Survive' by Gloria Gaynor, perhaps. But the two had a blast, and when they chatted afterwards, Shiffman learned that his singing partner was Chris Parsons, then-president of the marine section of the Society for Conservation Biology in Washington, DC."
In a recent Naturejobs article on conference networking, Emily Sohn describes how this experience led to many more professional doors being opened for Shiffman in his career as an ecologist. But even if the conferences you go to don't feature karaoke nights (relatedly, who can I talk to to make this a staple of every academic gathering?), it remains a fact that most people – and especially young scholars – put more thought into planning which sessions they will attend rather than planning which senior scholars they want to connect with in between those sessions. In her article, Sohn gives advice on how to be courageous yet courteous, how to not tweet like a twit, and overcoming senior scholar starstruck syndrome.
But conferences aren't the only place that crucial career contacts are forged. In another Naturejobs article, Julie Gould points out the many ways in which professional societies can hold the key to better networking and career advancement. By becoming an engaged member in a professional society, you gain access to prominent scholars, leadership opportunities, and insider knowledge on your field.