“Putting Yourself Out There”—DPC Reframes Networking to Empower Students

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Contact Info: ehoh@mednet.ucla.edu

By Hansook Oh


The Diversity Program Consortium hosted "Reframing Networking: Building strong professional relationships as a scientist," on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. The event’s goal was to increase current and former BUILD students’ confidence and enthusiasm for networking. 

The event began with a pre-recorded talk by Dr. Farah Alibay, Systems Engineer at NASA JPL, discussing her experiences building a network of colleagues and strategies for career advancement. Alibay spoke about the importance of practice and persistence when it comes to networking.

“Putting myself out there over and over again is how I learned to do it better,” Alibay said. “I can’t tell you how many internship denials I got, but you only need one person to say yes.” 

Attendees then enjoyed small group discussions facilitated by staff, faculty and professional researchers from BUILD sites, the National Research Mentoring Network, Coordination & Evaluation Center and National Institutes of Health. Discussions focused on identifying strengths, building self-confidence and sharing practical steps for approaching networking.

The event concluded with a live panel of BUILD alumni, featuring Steven Lomeli Gonzalez (SF BUILD), Cecilia Hinojosa (UTEP BUILDing SCHOLARS), and Chelsea Kelland (XULA Project Pathways). Arjun Viray, PSU BUILD EXITO, moderated the panel as they discussed their experiences in networking, dealing with rejection, and the impacts of the pandemic on their networking strategies. 

“My personal motto to live by is that nobody is perfect and you are just human,” Kelland said. “I have to reiterate that to myself multiple times, especially when I’m in situations such as a failure, rejection or lack of response.” 

Panelists were asked if they were introverted or extraverted, and how their personality type might affect their style of networking. While Gonzalez and Kelland described themselves as extraverts, Hinojosa identified as an “extreme introvert” and shared how she manages networking challenges. 

“I will never be a person to come up to someone and just begin a conversation. There have been times where I found [that] because I'm an introvert, it’s difficult to network,” Hinojosa said. “But some ways I kind of go around that is, because I get shy when I'm in front of people, I'll instead send them emails to be able to set up a conversation in that way.”

Hinojosa also shared how she found her current work as a postdoc researcher. She attended a conference for traumatic stress studies and afterwards, emailed her poster to a faculty member in attendance whose work she had been following. Hinojosa ended up asking the faculty member to be on her dissertation committee and eventually joined the faculty member’s lab as a postdoc.

“So that was a really good connection that I made, and I'm glad I was able to kind of let go of the introvert and kind of reach out and be able to make that connection,” Hinojosa said. 

Gonzalez gave some parting words of wisdom to BUILD students in attendance. 

“I understand that it’s kind of difficult to speak to someone, whether it's a professor or researcher or someone you've read,” Gonzalez said. “But just do it—just like Nike—just do it. It’s uncomfortable, it's just like working out, but you feel so much better afterwards. More often than not, it ends up working out.”

Attendees were invited to connect with the panelists and other DPC community members through the Diversity Program Consortium’s LinkedIn profile.

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
Need Assistance? Please contact our support team: info@diversityprogramconsortium.org .