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Networking Skills in Higher Education

“Networking” is the word that I am freaking out even by hearing that. As an international student, I feel that the networking here at U.S. is more important than my country because I already have my family and friend as my network there. Despite all fears and shyness, I believe it is very important skill must be leaned to make school-to-work transition smoother. Networking will connect you with people in mutually beneficial relationships who may be able to help you find your future career. Instead of spending all their time in the lab/office, graduate students must be encouraged to improve their social interactions, taking an interest in their community, and practicing networking.

All of us agree that networking is an essential skill and must be learned. But how? Where do I start? Please don’t tell me to ignore my fear and start talking and interacting with people at the conferences or workshops! I cannot. Therefore, I began researching instructions and I found some helpful tips. However, they are not enough!

  • You must start with our PhD supervisor or mentor since they are more experienced and work close to your field of interest. So, they are a great place to start. Asking their advice for building your network. It is much easier to start the conversation if you can mention mutual acquaintance.
  • Take advantage of all networking opportunities! Conferences are the best opportunity for academics network with each other if you are serious about a career in academia. If you have a paper, so, the others will understand what you are working on and during the breaks or meals are the best time for mingling and further discussing.
  • Be prepared! If you are interested in someone’s research, then, read his works before the conference to be prepared for starting conversion. Believe they are only humans and will be excited if they see their works influenced someone even if they are eminent scholars.
  • Always have your business card to yourself, it does not matter you start a conversion, or someone else starts a conversation with you. It is going to be short. Therefore, having your business card/ asking for their cards in the case you may want to discuss things further later.
  • Practice conversation tips! People like individuals who are friendly and speak up more than with those remain quiet and isolated. Moreover, you must develop elevator pitch beforehand, so that you will have it prepared and practiced when you want to network.
  • Attending networking workshops, career fairs and joining student societies are the simplest way to begin networking. Base on my experience, you may fell stressful and awkward, but the fear and shyness would be eliminated as you are getting involved with peers. Moreover, I think having some mandatory courses all the way from undergrad to PhD to teach and practice networking skills with students would be beneficial.

Networking is instrumental in obtaining my desired job, so it is important to work on myself. I need to do a lot more networking­. I came all the way until now to have a PhD. So, I do not want to ruin my future or be unemployed. So, next time you will see at an academic conference, I will approach and introduce myself, shake your hands, have a short and fruitful conversation, and build my network before it becomes too late. Building my network takes a lot of time and energy. I do not give up even if someone won’t respond me, there is always another person who is interested in talking with me.

3 Responses so far.

  1. dowlingm says:

    Another idea to help with professional networking is to help pin down an “elevator pitch.” For anyone who has not heard of this before, it’s the concept that you and someone important (e.g. a researcher you admire who is attending the same conference you are) are in an elevator. In the 30 seconds that you can have their undivided attention, explain your research to them. While this goes against what we were told in the Communicating Science workshop, the concept is simple and easy to practice for those of us who are more shy so that we can communicate our research ideas to new people we meet. While at first it might be very “scripted,” you can get more conversational with more practice. In fact, I met a girl at a workshop who said that she used to have a very hard time connecting with people at conferences, so she started practicing her elevator pitch when she traveled (e.g. whoever she sat next to on the plane or people she ran into in the airports). From all this practice, she got so good at her elevator pitch that she was able to impress some company bigwig so much that he gave her an internship that let her fulfill her dream of traveling internationally for an extended period of time!

  2. sogandmhz says:

    Thank you for reading my Blog!
    You mentioned very good point. I myself also is very shy and I am going to practice this for the next conference I am going to attend in April. Be prepared is something that can help people like me to network better.

  3. smahdu says:

    I actually wish that universities would make it mandatory for students to take a “how to network” class, and also offer opportunities for students to practice and get real networking skills! This actually benefits the university in the long run (hello being able to report that more students received jobs after graduation!) Everyone would be a winner!

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