Networking conjures up all kinds of images in the minds of people who hear the word. For some networking is a sleazy exercise in greasing the career pole. But others seem to be passionate about it, seeing it as a way to meet new people. The latter seem to have loads of energy to do this as well. That raises the question: is networking just for gregarious extroverts?
Yesterday, I went to a workshop run by the charismatic Steve Hutchinson. Steve explained that although he is a misanthrope and likes nothing better than being in his own company, he has learnt the art of networking and that he is running the workshop to impart his skills to others. Inspired by his workshop, I have put below the 3 key (and quick) insights that you can implement into your networking strategy.
The incestuous organism called academia
According to some research cited by Steve, as many as 90% of appointments in Higher Education (including academia) are internal. That is a shockingly high number, and Steve suggested that chances are that if you are a PhD student aiming to be a post-doctoral researcher you already know your future employer.
This makes it all the more important for PhD students and those in academia to embrace networking, because if you don’t, you are shooting yourself in the foot.
So, hotshot researcher, off to a conference soon? Do make sure you note these tips so that you are prepared to make networking a key skill in your portfolio.
The 3 tips to effective networking, especially at conferences are:
- Having a positive attitude: as cliche as this is, it is vital that you embrace networking as a skill. Most people think of networking as “what can I get from the other person?”. This is a flawed way of viewing networking. Instead flip this question around to “what can I offer the other person?“. Next time you are in a conversation, think about the benefit you could bring to the other person. What insight can you add to this conversation?
- Be Prepared: before going to a networking event, prepare yourself by asking these key questions:
- Who do you want to meet?
- Why do you want to meet them?
- What can you offer them? What benefit are you bringing them?
- How can you prepare your conversation and approach to best have this conversation.
- Where might be the best time to catch this person? Perhaps they are a busy “in demand” academic, so “ambushing” them over a coffee break might be a better bet than the post-conference dinner.
- Know your research: Can you explain your research in one sentence? Might be useful over a quick coffee or see if someone “bites the hook”. Can you explain your research in one paragraph? If you are sitting next to a person while waiting for a talk to start, you can offer this paragraph. Can you explain your research in one page? When you catch that person you wanted to chat with at a dinner, take the time to explain your research. Don’t be caught waffling about Marx and Heidegger, get straight to your point.