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having coffee with your own advisor at conference


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The other day my advisor and I were having coffee and talking about an important monograph in our field. Then out of the blue he said "Oh I remember something I was going to ask you: Let me know if you want to meet up for coffee while we're at" upcoming-huge-conference  -in-our-field-next-month. I hadn't dared to ask him if he wanted to, assuming he would be busy meeting important longtime colleagues, being a superstar in our field himself. I mean, he can talk to me whenever he wants...why waste time with me when he could hang out with people he only gets to see once or twice a year? Granted, the conference will take place in the middle of our winter break so it's not like we will have just seen each other the week before or anything, but I still feel guilty for taking up time he could be spending with an important big-name friend. Part of me thinks he was just asking to be polite, but then again, he was the one to bring it up unprompted. I'm not trying to overthink a half-hour or 45 minute coffee meeting. Of course, this is also assuming that we would each spend the rest of the conference talking to other people, not each other. This sounds like a dumb question but I'm just curious for opinions on whether this would be a waste of time for my advisor and whether or not it's ok to take him up on his offer to get together? 

Edited by silver summer
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Definitely take your advisor up on it. If they really are a big shot, it's likely that a bunch of people will stop to say hi and you'll be able to meet them. You might also get tips on navigating the conference you otherwise wouldn't get. I wouldn't even hesitate but would totally jump at this offer.

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Agree with the above! Some advisors will spend a decent chunk of time with their students during big conferences actually (typically during the social events like coffee breaks and receptions). They'll "take" their student along as they meet up with old friends and introduce you to them. Also, like rising_star said, sometimes the change in environment helps prompt the conversation/advising towards a different direction than your typical research meeting. And, it's a good idea to talk to your advisor about the presentations you're seeing, especially if you have questions! 

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Take them up on it! Not necessarily at conferences but going to talks/grabbing coffee with my mentor has opened so many doors for me. I was able to network and gain a lot of experience that I know for a fact that has helped me get jobs and into grad school. You have nothing to lose. Plus its coffee, if your advisor wants to keep it short they will.

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  • 1 month later...

I know I'm late on this, but I can't sleep and decided to look at some threads.

The answer is good lord, yes. In fact, I would specifically ask your advisor if you can tag around with them at some point ("oh, I'm going to panel X, would you like to have coffee before and then go?"). I followed my advisor around like we were on our honeymoon at my first conference, which meant I got to meet a ton of people I wouldn't have otherwise been able to. Now I'm established enough (1st year PhD, but have met folks a few times and connect with them on social media) that I set up my own coffees with big names. There's a prof that wrote one of my favorite texts that I now have breakfast with whenever we go to the same conference (and basically let her introduce me to everyone).

At big field conferences there are often a lot of private/semi-private parties taking place in the evening. I've gotten two panels put together from folks I met over drinks in a hotel room.

A good advisor will do this sort of thing for you. My department chair once said that she will introduce us to anyone we want, but we better not shy away when the opportunities come up.

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