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Developing your network of employer partners

Whether you already have a strong network of employer partners or are developing your employer engagement from scratch, the sections below should help you identifying potential partners. 

Using your institutional network to engage employer partners 

Expand your pool by harnessing the networks and relationships already held within your institution.  

We recommend the following three step approach:

Identify the functions within your institution that have an element of external relationship-building within their scope. Every institution is different and structures and names of teams will vary, but the following are a good place to start:  

Using your broader professional network to engage employer partners

Beyond your institution, your broader professional network is also likely to have useful contacts and the ability and willingness to make introductions. 

Consider the following:  

Training and development events – when attending these, especially if they are cross institutional, it’s always good to have a short description of your project aims in mind so you can share it if the opportunity arises. 

Researcher development communities are you engaged with any cross institutional initiatives regarding researcher development? Consider asking for introductions from colleagues working in the same field at different institutions. You might even consider working on an initiative together that will be open to postdocs from both institutions.   

‘Cold’ contacts for employer partner engagement

If you identify gaps in engagement or wish to develop relationships in a particular field, you can identify contacts and build relationships from scratch. Bear in mind that so-called ‘cold’ contacts typically have a lower conversion rate than those with whom you have some degree of existing relationship.  Targeting your search in the right way can nevertheless be an effective means of identifying possible employer partners. We provide some tips here. 

Professional associations and membership organisations If you are targeting a particular field or industry, these are a great port of call. They bring organisations and individuals of the same profession together and most list their key members and their contact details on their websites. 

Science and Innovation campuses – If you are looking for employers in science and innovation then it’s worth approaching some of the sites across the UK where multiple companies in similar fields are collocated. Alderley Park and Sci Tech Daresbury in the North West were Prosper partners, but there are comparable sites across the UK. Most list the organisations based onsite along with their contact details.

Use your Linked In network – LinkedIn is an excellent resource for promoting your work and finding new contacts. You can share a post to your immediate network to spread the word about what you’re doing and the type of contacts you’re looking for. You can also request to connect with people you’d like to engage and accompany your invitation with a short (300 character limit) introduction. This offers an excellent opportunity to practise being concise in your ask! We’ve provided an example below.  

Hi [name], I work at [institution] on postdoc career development and wondered if you’d be interested in speaking to our postdoc community about [specify their area of expertise]. It would be great to connect to let you know more about this. Thanks! 

Top tip: if you’re new to LinkedIn, there are a plenty of resources on the postdoc section of the portal about getting started and developing your network. [link] 

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