Networking in practice
Provided that researchers know who they are talking to when they meet them, some of the questions below might be useful. If you have researched someone’s interests, challenge them about their work, if you are looking for specific help ask straightaway…
- So what do you like best about what you do?
- Oh I see. So what got you started in that direction?
- Have you any new (research) projects on the horizon?
- Why do you think _____________ (fill in blank)?
- What books/articles do you think are most influential in this field?
- Why do you like __________ (fill in the blank)?
- Why did you choose ____________?
- Tell me more about ____________ (fill in the blank)
- Could you elaborate more on ______________…I found that interesting.
- You mentioned earlier that _________________ tell me more about that.
- I am having trouble understanding ____________…what did you mean by that?
- What do you mean when you say ___________?
- Who do you know who______?
- Where would you go if you wanted to______?
- Do you know of any paths that I could follow?
- How would you proceed in taking the next steps?
- What sort of people do you think could help me?
- Do you have a useful contact that I could call?
- Ask about other upcoming conferences/seminars/becoming part of a research group
- Any specific question about a paper they have given at the conference
Using business cards
Academics are frequently using business cards to make contact with other researchers. Business cards are useful for a number of reasons, and they offer a new contact something to take away with them and a reason to stay in touch.
What information should be included?
This question is not easy to answer. It’s important to be authentic and to keep a business card professional and it would to include information on the card which would help the person to remember the meeting:
- Address – work/University email
- Telephone – mobile or landline?
- Email – work/University email
- Thesis/research topic and/or title?
- Affiliation – research groups/centres
- University logo
- Don’t try to meet everyone
- Do carry business cards
- Be selective about where you spend time
- Don’t get trapped into conversations
- Never barge into a conversation
- Do more listening than talking
- Don’t be rude or get too drunk!
- Have a polite ‘exit’ strategy
- Research contacts thoroughly
- Be polite, courteous and respectful
- Ask pertinent questions
- Listen carefully & make eye contact!
- Be attentive to body language
- Prepare to share knowledge and resources
- Engage in regular practice to develop confidence
It is important to nurture the network (see above) but the following tips can help for networks to flourish in the long term:
- Remain mindful of your goals
- Be systematic – how will you follow up contacts?
- Evaluate your network of contacts and build relationships steadily
- Make a commitment to filing data efficiently
- Organise yourself – match promises with actions
- Be seen and known – keep in touch regularly
- Keep online profiles updated, remove any unwanted/outdated information
The networking spiral
The networking spiral demonstrates how anybody can become better connected over a long period of time. Networking requires effort and patience. Not everybody will remain in contact forever.
Known to be a well-connected person = More contacts = More leads = More well-known = More opportunities and larger networks.