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I am in my first year of PhD studies within science in Europe, and my interest and goal in the future is to to pursue an academic career, where I can find a permanent position in Europe. I am wondering if (and if yes, how much does) attending physically (international -) conferences, workshops, schools etc affect the application of a candidate searching for a post-doc position in Europe? Do you have a feeling for how many attended conferences etc are considered sufficiently low to be not invited for an interview of a post-doc position?

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    To summarize the good answers so far: quality (/fit) is far more important than quantity. Feb 16, 2023 at 16:55

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Just being physically present doesn't do anything.

Networking and meeting people who can hire you or speak well of you to others is valuable.

There's no magic "number of conferences", you aren't earning points that you later trade in. If you never attend a conference and conference attendance is typical in your field, it might look odd on a CV. If you never attend a conference and conference papers are the primary research dissemination mechanism in your field, not attending basically means not producing any research, so that's surely going to sink your chances.

For networking, though, it's going to be somewhat stochastic. You could meet the person that eventually hires you at the first conference you attend, or it could be that no one you meet is hiring when you are ready to apply.

Your PhD advisor should help you decide which conferences to attend and hopefully you can attend some together and they can assist with introductions.

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Attendance alone means little. But attendance is an opportunity to start to build a network that can serve you well later. If you, and your work, are known to many people and you are seen as a helpful contributor to the field, then your prospects improve.

So, it isn't the number that is so important, but how much you take advantage of the opportunity. You can and should follow up with people you meet and interact with.

The time between sessions is just as important as the sessions themselves as you get to meet people informally and chat over ideas.

So, zero is a bad number, and ten may be a good number or not. If you are invisible you gain little in the networking area, though you may learn something in the sessions.

At some point, going to the next conference lets you reinforce connections that you've already made. This can get you into a circle of collaboration, meeting friends/colleagues of those you met in the past. So, in that sense, more is better than less. But you have to work at it.

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    In my view, the time between sessions is significantly more important than the sessions themselves Feb 15, 2023 at 17:50
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For your own professional and personal development, I think it's good to attend at least one conference each year (in Europe that could mean one national and one international every other year or depending on your funds it could be a European one one year and an intercontinental one the other year. Always apply for any travel fellowship you can too, to start building a funding record - even when your lab has money to send you somewhere!

But attending/sitting in a conference isn't going to do anything. Always submit an abstract, try to present a poster or, of possible and if your project is at that stage, select that you also want to be considered for a talk selected from the abstracts. This ensures that you are developing your academic/scientific skills and get feedback on your work - which will improve your science. Plus you get to see other people's posters and get new ideas as well - it's a lot easier to interact with others when you are presenting work yourself - posters are THE academic conversation starter).

Talk to people at breakfast, lunch, coffee breaks, social hours, dinners, poster sessions (yes conferences are exhausting), so you naturally start building a network in your area/field. Of course, if you want to change fields at some point, or scope out adjacent fields for your postdoc, you can also see (and discuss with your advisor) if you can attend a conference in your "new"/desired field. But make sure you then have some conference experience under your belt, so you feel a bit more comfortable talking to strangers and senior scientists.

I remember that I found it intimidating for the first couple of years (I think everyone does), but everything becomes easier and better with practice and when you know a few faces (and yes, people do get offered postdoc positions or at least invitations or hints to apply).

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