You have probably been advised that it is important to ‘network' for your career, your research and even for your general happiness. However, it is often difficult to see exactly what it means to network. This section of the website will explain what networking is, why it is worth doing it and give you some ideas about how to be effective.
What is networking?
Networking is increasing the number of people you know and who know you. By expanding your network you will be able to turn to more people for help and advice and find out about more opportunities. Networking is based on the principle of reciprocity, which means that just as you draw opportunities and support from your networks you are expected to put something back in. This means that the larger your networks the more people will look to you for advice and support.
As a postgraduate researcher you are likely to spend a lot of time either on your own or with a fairly small group of people involved directly in your research. Make the most of opportunities to attend academic conferences. You are likely to have to be more pro-active in your networking than senior academics.
Iindividuals who have large numbers of friends and contacts and who maintain relationships with colleagues and former colleagues tend to succeed in their careers. People tend to prefer to collaborate with people who they know and like. Therefore, effective networkers are likely to be offered more opportunities. Because academic communities are small you are likely to find yourself being examined, peer reviewed or interviewed by people who you have met before.
How to network?
There is no one way to build a professional network. Generally, it is a good idea to remember that the idea of reciprocity is central to networking. Think about what you can do for others as much as what they can do for you. Being friendly and helpful and not talking about work all the time can help to build lasting relationships. Making an effort to remember people's names always helps. More specifically, you might want to think about:
- finding a specialism
- being useful. Volunteer to do things that your networks need
- networking at conferences
- online networking
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