After spending an exciting internship at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin in 2010, I knew that my career-related future would lead into scientific research. Thus, the decision to attend the 48th Congress of the German Psychological Society in Bielefeld with the main topic “Fascination Research” was self-evident. Of course, things were quite overwhelming at first, but after spending a lot of time with psychological literature, to finally see some of the people behind it was pretty awesome!
Conferences offer the invaluable opportunity to broaden the professional network and meet the “big names” in the field in a relaxed atmosphere. Hence, such events provide access to information that you don’t find in books or journals and help you to get recognized by people who decide about jobs and/or grant money. Actually, I received several job offers at conferences while doing my master, PhD and postdoc. In addition, there might be the chance to exclusively visit sights and events with otherwise long waiting lists, so the time is definitely worth spend.
As a networking enthusiast, my advice is to take these important steps into the scientific community as early as possible. At best, this already happens as a bachelor or master student, for instance by volunteering during a relevant conference. Besides the suitability even for a low budget, being a volunteer provides the valuable experience of getting in personal contact with important people in a quite casual way. To provide some encouragement, I decided to share my personal “conference history” during my early career stages, before I got my current tenure-track faculty position at the University of Stuttgart. It's a sometimes wild ride that started in September 2012, when I almost finished my bachelor’s degree in Psychology and was about to start my master’s degree in Human Factors.