he word networking can often fill people with dread. Academics, researchers, and students at all levels are no different. Given the competitive nature of the working environment and political hierarchy, networking can often be perceived as intimidating and highly pressured social situations.
But that’s not what networking really is.
Those conferences you attend with mediocre buffets, or formal dinners with awkward drinks receptions, yes, they have elements of networking to them and can provide excellent networking opportunities, but they are not what networking is all about.
Having delivered networking training in the world of academia from a few years now, I have the absolute pleasure of meeting lots of incredibly talented, super intelligent people. Many of whom miss out on valuable opportunities or hold themselves back from sharing their skills due to a fear of what they perceive networking to be.
I wanted to share some of my top tips for networking in academia based on my own observations, and from the experiences shared by people who are in it, in the hope they will help empower others to connect, develop and share knowledge through networking.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but you’re already networking. You have been since you were little, it just wasn’t called ‘networking’ then, it was called ‘making friends’. Networking is not the act of going to an event: it is the ongoing nurturing of professional relationships. Just like friendships, professional relationship take time to develop and need nurturing and commitment. We need to know, like and trust someone before we’ll recommend them to others, put them forward for opportunities, or want to work with them ourselves. Building trust takes time so be sure to nurture your professional relationships and put the time in to really get to know people.
2. Connection Marketing
An incredibly powerful networking tool is something I call ‘connection marketing’, which is all about building your personal brand, by being nice! Being nice to the people we encounter, no matter what their job title is or what pay grade they are on and adding value to those in our network is a fantastic way of growing your professional network. Adding value to the people you know makes you someone who is valuable to know and will open doors and create new opportunities for you and your work. So, be kind to everyone you meet – you never know where they might be someday and if you might need their help.
Read more about connection marketing HERE.
3. Career Progression
Building an effective network can have a huge impact on your career progression. The Centre of the Universe Study, 2006 by UCLA and Boardex revealed that, following 5-year period individuals with a strong personal network were far more advanced in their careers with higher pay and better job securing, yet were less productive in their day jobs than their less well networked counterparts. This really highlights the value employers put on having a strong network, as well as the career advancement it can lead to.
Being able to build effective relationships with colleagues is a skill that is transferable across any job role, sector, or profession. It is a skill that is valued by employers, but also one that opens new doors and opportunities through the relationships you create.
4. Network Diversity
Creating a diverse network for knowledge is an amazing way of generating new ideas, sharing cross-sector solutions, and learning from your peers. If you only speak to people who know what you know, you’ll never learn anything new! Make sure you’re engaging with, and learning from, people outside your area of expertise. Their solutions could spark ideas of your own, and you can never underestimate the power of networking for knowledge.
For more on networking for innovation and creating a diverse network, take a look at our free 10 min (okay, it’s 11 minutes 19 seconds) video HERE.
It’s okay to be yourself.
Let me say that again: it is okay for you to be yourself.
I know there’s a lot of pressure to fit a certain mould or adhere to certain stereotypes within the world of academia, but you need to know that being your true authentic self is without a doubt the most wonderful, powerful thing that you can be.
Going back to the importance of building trust in our personal and professional relationships – unless you’re being your true self, how can people ever really get to know you? For there to be trust you need to be honest, and open, and authentic, and that means being yourself no matter how scary it might be. You are the future of academia, so you have the ability and the power to make it whatever you want it to be. Find likeminded people who you can network with, build relationships with and share ideas with. They will be your tribe and together you can change the world.
I hope this helps and if I can ever do anything to support you on your journey please get in touch any time!
For more on all things networking be sure to sign up to our newsletter, and check out some more Blog posts, library of 2 Min Networking Tips, and of course our wonderful online (learn in your own time) Networking Courses! Or, simply get in touch and say ‘Hello’ and we can have a good old-fashioned chinwag. (Can’t believe I just used the word ‘chinwag’ in a blog post written for academics. I like it though so it’s staying.)