The word ‘networking’ is sometimes met with resistance from Early Career Researchers (ECR’s). It is often viewed as the process of asking people for favours and makes people uncomfortable. However, 2020/21 has brought about a shift to more online networking and to really take advantage of the opportunities this brings, ECR’s need to change their focus and view networking as a ‘mutually beneficial’ conversation. A chance meeting doesn’t get labelled as networking but can be a useful addition to your contacts.
In reality networking isn’t just about talking to people and walking away with lots of business cards to file. It’s about quality conversations with mutual benefit to both parties. Networking can come in many forms but you need to find the method that you are most comfortable with. For example, if you don’t enjoy larger group settings look to make connections and contacts on an individual basis or set yourself a goal that you want to develop at least two contacts in a specific area or at other institutions. Remember that networking can be informal and indirect, although this obviously depends upon the method used.
Tips for successful networking in person or at a formal event:
- Research who will be there
- Have business cards ready
- Treat everyone as a potential connection and don’t rule anyone out with snap decisions
- Be clear about what you are looking for and what you have to offer.
- How has the pandemic affected your networking potential? How many connections did you make in 2020/21? If you have been relying on face to face networking then online networking should be viewed as a bonus. The landscape has changed for everyone and even seasoned academics and networking pros are forced to network online at the moment.
- Online conferences can allow you to be flexible in some ways. For example, it’s possible to attend but multi task in the background answering emails. Attendance fees are often cheaper, and no travel required, which gives you scope to attend conferences in your wider research area, where useful connections and subject knowledge might be formed.
- In the current climate it’s crucial to have an online presence, which should be up to date and relevant. Examples include a LinkedIn profile, profile on your group/department page, presence on ResearchGate or create your own website separate to your University page.
- Keep your profile and your existing network up to date
- Do a regular check of interesting groups to join and participate in those that you are a member (this may allow you to act as a facilitator to collaboration or when inviting new contacts into the group)
- Ask colleagues to make recommendations/introductions to contacts in their networks
- Boost your social media presence by using other platforms and being visible such as Twitter and commenting on articles/work.
Eleanor Hennige is the IAD’s Research Staff Careers Consultant, supporting fixed-term research staff at the University with their career planning and options. Eleanor runs our 1:1 career development consultations, she delivers our suite of career workshops and works with Schools/Research Staff Societies on career specific events and workshops. Eleanor works on a part-time basis (4 mornings a week) and can be contacted at ResearchStaff.Careers@ed.ac.uk