The power of networking

  • Introduction to networking
  • Networking in practice

You've probably come across people who seem to know everyone. These same people tend to receive more opportunities and progress quicker in their careers. There is no coincidence here. Networking is extremely powerful and the connections you make can take you a long way. Here, we discuss why networking is so effective and how you can begin to use it to your advantage.

An introduction to networking

When reduced to its core, networking is simply the exchange of information between people. But it is often viewed negatively and many people are uncomfortable with it. If that resonates with you, perhaps its time to challenge some of your thoughts and feelings.

Here, we give an overview of networking, focussing in on what it is, the evidence for why it works and its core components.

We introduce Jeni Smith who is a networking strategist and founder of NetKno. Jeni talks us through the importance of confidence and trust when it comes to networking.

Download the accompanying worksheets on confidence (reflecting on achievements and setting goals) and trust, as well as additional networking resources referred to in the video.

‘Approaching networking situations with the intention of adding value to others is a positive mindset that can really help you to engage. When you think that youre only there for people to help you, this can make you feel inferior or a burden, causing you to withdraw. You can always add value to others, even if you also want something from them.

Prosper

Networking in practice

Networking happens all the time and in different formats. It includes one-to-one conversations as well as larger group interactions.

As a postdoc, perhaps you are most familiar with networking at academic conferences, with many people in attendance. This could include formal networking activities such as poster presentations but also informal opportunities during breaks and group activities.

For many people, networking can be difficult and draining, often inducing anxiety. Others are more comfortable with it and may even enjoy it!

Whatever your comfort level, networking is a skill that can be learned and honed with practice. Understanding how to behave and interact when you're networking can help you to feel more confident.

This is useful when approaching one-to-one career conversations such as informational interviews. But also in larger in-person and virtual networking events, whether in academia or elsewhere.

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Jeni Smith has created a series of videos giving tips for in-person and virtual networking events, as well as general advice for maximising networking opportunities. There are also videos specifically addressing neurodiversity and networking. Some of the tips provided by Jeni are very practical, whilst others focus on developing your mindset.

You can access the videos and resources in the Networking cluster of the Learning and Development section. They include the following:

  • In-person networking events: formats
  • In-person networking events: reading a room
  • Virtual networking events: preparation and setup
  • Virtual networking events: online etiquette
  • Network diversity
  • Relationship management
  • Adding value to others
  • Career progression
  • Neurodiversity and networking: understanding and impact
  • Neurodiversity and networking: navigation and advocacy

Related resources

Barriers to networking

If you do struggle with networking, it can help to think about the reasons why. Recognising what is getting in your way is the first step to becoming more comfortable with networking.

Some difficulties may be personal but others will be shared by many people. In our resources on overcoming barriers to networking, we look at common challenges and how you might tackle them.

Informational interviews

You should not underestimate the power of networking for exploring careers. Speaking to others can really make all the difference. Not only will you gain more insight but you might actually receive job opportunities through existing, or new, connections.

For more structured guidance on reaching out to others about careers, see our resources on conducting informational interviews.

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