In a perfect world, simply going to school or an internship and working would enable you to meet everyone you need to meet and open up doors to opportunity; unfortunately, that’s not reality, and active networking is necessary. We know, we know. Many people groan internally or cringe when they hear the word “networking.” But it’s a valuable skill and if you reframe it as building relationships with colleagues and potential colleagues, it sounds better and sets a better tone.
Networking has evolved over the years, thanks to email and social media, but there are always things to keep in mind. If you’re drawing a blank for ways to better network in your field, here are some suggestions.
First, create a business card. Some schools offer this through the school print shop, but there are several online card companies as well. Your name, your degree candidacy (ie, PhD candidate), your field of study and specialty, and your pertinent contact information should all go on the card. Bring cards with you to every talk or event you attend, every conference – have some on you at all times. This is a great way to exchange information with someone, and now they have all of your information.
Develop an online footprint. If you already have an online presence with social media or networking sites, go through everything and make sure it’s professional. Google yourself, because people you meet will Google you, and see what comes up. Create a LinkedIn profile (check out our blog post here on that). Join some LinkedIn groups related to your field and comment on blogs. If you’re on Twitter, follow relevant accounts and retweet research you find interesting.
Contact authors. This might sound weird, and might feel passé, but those peer-reviewed articles you read? Researchers love hearing that their work is being read and enjoyed. If you have questions about a paper or article you read, email the researcher. If you learned something new, email them and tell them. Making connections is a part of networking, and this is an easy and genuine way to do so. (We hope it goes without saying, but just in case, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all).
Get to know your professors and supervisors. Talk with them about your career goals and professional and research interests. They often know various people in the field and can introduce you to them, as well as letting you know about internships, fellowships, research opportunities, and jobs.
Join professional groups or the leading association in your field. Many of these groups have student discount memberships to make it more affordable, and becoming a member can introduce you to mentors in your field, local networking events, and listservs or chat groups.
Attend conferences, career fairs, and lectures in your field. Get yourself out there! Not only will you learn a lot and get valuable information, but being out amongst your peers and colleagues will naturally enable you to meet others and develop connections.
What’s worked for you, in terms of networking?
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