Networking. The word conjures up almost as much fear and loathing as the thought of a grant denial or manuscript rejection. The two words that comprise it aren’t much better: ‘net’, as if you’d be trapped, and ‘working’, when you’re already doing plenty of that.
But you can’t fling it off like a mosquito. To ‘network’ is simply to connect with others, and we’ve rounded up expert advice on why it’s important, even crucial – and how you can network in ways that don’t involve too much cringing or trying to schmooze strangers at your field’s annual conference.
It’s no secret that social media has created manifold ways to establish and boost your profile. But used appropriately, these platforms can help you to forge vital links. Twitter, for example, isn’t only a means of publicising yourself and exchanging information. It’s a great way to network virtually – and maybe even get a job.
You may know by now that there are many social-media sites specifically for researchers and academics. Are you familiar with all of them? Their benefits can be legion, finds a Nature survey: they can help you with collaborative discussion, accessing papers, sharing results and more.
Still, you have to get off your phone at some point and do some real face time. It isn’t easy for everyone, yet it doesn’t have to be an introvert’s nightmare. The key, says Nature Careers columnist Peter Fiske, is to aim for a steady level of regular interaction with others.
And ‘others’ is a central concept here. You have to diversify your network: even its weakest links count, says a Naturejobs blogger. Don’t try to persuade yourself that reaching out only to contacts of colleagues or potential collaborators means you’re done.
So after all that networking, you feel virtuous and accomplished – and probably exhausted, as another Naturejobs blogger laments. But you’ve got to carry on. After all, you never know where that chance encounter will lead – or whom it might connect you with.