Making Connections

Making connections whether it’s with industry or other academics is beneficial whatever your career goals are. Making connections allows you to broaden your network, which can lead to further opportunities. Most people think about making professional connections when they wish to broaden their network of contacts. For example, researchers thinking of moving over to work in industry need to develop industry networks in order to further understand the sector and the types of roles available and also to find out about possible opportunities and job openings.

If you are considering an alternative sector the first step is to try and find out more about it. Read industry publications to improve your market awareness. For those of you intending to stay within academia it’s still important to keep up-to-date with sector news (reading publications such as The Times Higher Education can provide a good overview). Once you have a solid understanding of the sector and the types of roles available the best way to find out more is to speak to those already working in the sector, to find out what their work involves. This approach allows you to gain insights through informal conversations.

Many people feel awkward about trying to connect with those that they don’t know but most people are very happy to talk about what they do and help provide some insights into their employer and sector more generally. Make sure that you thank people for their time and don’t ask obvious questions that you could have found the answer to online. It is also important not to ask for “a job”. The focus is on building your knowledge and network. Your new-found connections are more likely to share opportunities with you if they feel a connection has been established – people are happy to give up their time to help and support others with their career choices but not to “find” them jobs! For more insight into the types of questions that you could typically ask see the tips on Informational Interviewing here.

When thinking about who to approach consider who you can contact easily. For example, if you are interested in teaching do you already know anyone that works as a teacher? If you don’t then ask friends and colleagues if they have any teachers in their networks. A mutual introduction ensures a much easier connection than contacting someone directly with no prior contact.

Using social media can also help you to identify potential contacts. For example, using Linked In is a good way to identify possible contacts by looking at individual’s job titles (as well as looking at the previous positions that they have held as this gives an overall view of their career progression). Making use of Platform One is another good way to identify those in relevant fields and you already have the University of Edinburgh as the inbuilt connection. For more information on how to make a positive impression using social media visit the social media pages on the University of Edinburgh Careers Service webpages.

Finally, whether your connection conversations happen in person or online it is key to maintain a positive attitude, display open and positive body language and aim to build rapport with the other person. Remember that connections can come through shared hobbies or activities – you don’t have to keep the conversation completely work based. For more information on Networking see the Networking Blog post from August 2021 on the IAD Researchers Blog.


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 (5 mornings a week) and can be contacted at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.