We are sure you have heard about how important networking is during a job search. This is true for both students seeking careers within the academy and those seeking a career beyond the academy. We are also sure that many of you find networking to be a term that causes you anxiety, makes you think of awkward interactions, or that it takes too much time or feels uncomfortable because you are "using" someone. While networking mixers might not be something you feel comfortable with, there are ways you can network that are less awkward and are much more effective. But first, let's talk a little bit about what networking is and what it is not.
Networking is NOT:
- Having a series of superficial conversations with as many people as possible.
- Handing out your business card and giving a quick overview of who you are and what you do.
- Bragging about yourself.
- Only interacting with that person once and expecting them to contact you.
- Building relationships with others.
- For those seeking a career in academia this includes other graduate students and faculty in your area of interest
- For those seeking careers beyond academia this includes practitioners in career paths you are interested in
- Learning more about others - such as their research or current work project.
- Seeking information or advice about a a field or organization you want to work in, or about career advancement within the professoriate or an institution.
- Following up - either by email or LinkedIn, maintaining contact with that person.
Why networking is important:
- This could be an entire book chapter and we can't overstate how important networking is throughout your professional life regardless of career path.
- In academia: For those interested in a faculty career you may need letters of recommendation for a fellowship or for your tenure file - often these letters cannot come from your adviser or anyone within your current department. Thus, you need to cultivate a network of others that can write good letters of support for you and vouch for your work from other academic institutions. By networking, you might find your next collaborator. Often there might not be another grad student or faculty member at your institution in your area of research - networking is the best way to find people to collaborate with, share ideas with, and get feedback from when you're working on a new project.
- Beyond academia: For those interested in careers beyond the academy, networking is the most effective way to learn about job openings and entry points into many career paths that are often not immediately obvious. For instance, one of the best ways to enter certain fields is through interning or volunteering for an organization - regardless of your education level. Also, up to 80% of job openings in careers in the private sector are not publicly listed - establishing and maintaining a network is essential for learning about these openings and your ultimate career success.
Networking for careers within the academy:
- Why You Should Network
- The Four I's of Networking: Building Strong Connections
- Strategic NetWORKing
- Networking Tips for Grad Students
- Grad Student Advice: How to Network and Add Value to Yourself and Others
- The Importance of Academic Conferences to Grad Students
- Attending a Research Conference: Don't Waste This Golden Opportunity
- Twitter for Academics: Getting your work out there and networking beyond the conference
- How to Use Academic Twitter Effectively
Networking for careers beyond the academy:
- University Career Center Networking Resources
- Networking Beyond the Academy
- Building Professional Relationships: Pragmatic Advice for the Human Scientist (American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) Webinar (* note - audio begins at minute 19 of the video)
For those students who are interested or exploring career options beyond the academy, the most effective way to network is through informational interviewing and volunteering. Follow these links to learn more about how to conduct an informational interview and find volunteering resources and learn more about why these methods are so effective.