Researchers rely heavily on networking at conferences and seminars and make little use of personal introductions, online social networking or proactive self-promotion, according to a report published by UK researcher development organisation Vitae.
Vitae surveyed almost 500 researchers at eight UK universities and found that less than a fifth regularly use online social networking to develop existing work contacts or make new ones. Only 14 percent feel comfortable asking someone they know to introduce them to an important person in their field, and 85 percent rarely send copies of their work to these prominent individuals.
Overall, researchers’ networks show several characteristics of a ‘good’ network as recognised by career theory, such as a large number of work-related contacts spread across a wide geographical area. However, the people researchers know through their work also tend to know each other, which can limit the effectiveness of the network.
“The picture was of networking within a fairly limited set of contacts, with few attempts to become more visible to many of the people with power in the respondent’s field,” said the report.
A recent post on the Guardian Careers blog also highlights the importance of having a diverse network that includes weaker ties as well as close contacts, explaining that acquaintances who hail from a different social circle or industry niche are more likely to have “unique network intelligence” about available job opportunities.
“Working out strategies to connect personally with key people would help researchers manage their profile within their research field, but may also prove useful in applications for roles outside higher education,” says Vitae director Ellen Pearce. “Good networking is about being purposeful as well as widening your contacts.”
- Courting connections – how to develop contacts as a PhD student or postdoc (24 August 2011)
- Self-reflection, online – why you should manage your online presence (30 March 2011)