REDS guide to networking

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REDS guide to networking

  1. 1. ‘I’m sorry, do I know you?’ The REDS guide to networking for academics by academicsContributors: Jenna Condie, David Roberts, Eleanor Jackson, Arash Raeisi, Charlie Mydlarz, Matthew Trump,Fiona Christie, Cristina Costa, Nazanin Asadi, Zbigniew Koziel, James Woodcock, Pascal Venier, Tobias Ackroyd,Gennaro Sica, Rasal Eskandari, Esme Caulfield, Princess Nwaneke, Ajeigbe Oluwapelumi, Lisa ScullionThis guide is the outcome of two events ‘How to network’ and ‘Online Networks for Enterprise’, partof the REDS (Researcher Enterprise Development Salford) series of events designed to encourageand support the development of entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial skills amongst the researchcommunity at the University of Salford. The sessions consisted of postgraduates, early careerresearchers and experienced academics coming together to discuss and debate the how’s, what’s,where’s, when’s and why’s of networking in academia. What we all agreed on was that networking,when done right, can lead to some brilliant working relationships and opportunities forcollaborations, not to forget employment.What is this thing called networking?“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are,you need one.” Jane HowardEveryone talks about networking and most of us feel that we should be doing it, but what is it?Rather than giving you a dictionary definition, here’s a wordle of what networking means to us as agroup of enterprising academics:This wordle or ‘word cloud’ represents what networking meant for the group (www.wordle.net) 1University of Salford REDS Production – this guide is available online at www.virtual-doc.salford.ac.uk/reds
  2. 2. A lot of the words above were originally part of a sentence so they might not make complete senseon their own, for example ‘the old boy network’. However what the wordle does reveal is that twowords in particular, ‘sharing’ and ‘keeping’, were more commonly used by the attendees than anyother words. ‘Sharing’ knowledge and experience was important for attendees, as was ‘keeping’ upwith the latest in your field of research and ‘keeping’ in touch with those people. So as academicsand researchers, should we be networking for these central reasons, or should we be networkingwith other goals in mind?A bit of theory for youAs this guide is by academics for academics, here is a taster of some of the theories on networkingthat we discussed in the session. These theories were used to help us consider the networking wedo, but also the networking other people and other groups do in their professional and personallives. Exploring different social networks (e.g. family, friends, professional), helped us get down tothe core of what networking is - an essential part of being human.Within the session, we discussed the Strength of Weak Ties Theory by Mark Granovetter (1973)which argues that people we don’t know very well (our weak ties) are less likely to know each otherthan people we know well (strong ties). As we are already sharing a lot of information with ourstrong ties, our weak ties have more potential for new information that we are unaware of such as opportunities or collaborations. Applying Granovetter’s theory, we need to expand on our network and form relationships outside of our close knit research communities to reap the most benefits. This raised the question of whether we want quality or quantity within our professional networks. So we mapped out our own networks to get a closer look at them; thinking about what we want from them and what we offer our network too. Attendees brought other theories and ideas about networking to thetable such as Actor-Network Theory, the idea of boundary spanners, six degrees of separation,Dunbar’s number of 150 (optimum network community size), and books such as Malcolm Gladwell’sTipping Point (2001).One of the most important conclusions was that successful networking and developing professionalrelationships should be reciprocal – it’s all about give and take. You need to be offering upsomething too whether it’s suggesting an event that might be of interest to someone, or bringing apotential collaboration to life. The more people you are developing successful relationships with,the more good quality work you have to do. 2University of Salford REDS Production – this guide is available online at www.virtual-doc.salford.ac.uk/reds
  3. 3. So how do we network?The group networked in a range of ways by attending events such as conferences and trainingworkshops; sharing information by publishing papers, speaking at conferences, and being part ofdiscussion/research groups within their specialist fields; getting involved in collaborative projectssuch as REDS; and by using their expertise, knowledge and skills to support and help others withtheir work. As a group, we also talked about how rewarding it can be getting to know people on asocial level.As well as networking in person, some of the attendees were also networking online via varioussocial networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Some of the attendees werealso using other academic social networks such as Academia.edu (an academic social networkingsite) and Mendeley (a research management tool for sharing and organising papers). A number ofattendees were also keeping online research blogs to tell people about their research. Onlinenetworks and academic digital presence created much discussion and debate in the two sessions. Get over yourself (!) and some ‘how to tips’ By David Roberts Can you recall a circumstance where you made a real effort to attend a meeting, presentation, or event and came away feeling that your time could have been better spent? For many people the thought of walking into a room full of strangers can be a cause of anxiety. Our primeval fears of rejection, failure, and the unknown are often stimulated. The following tips and ideas could be used as preparation so as you can get the very best out of the next event that you attend. It may even make the next event you attend less fearful and more fruitful. Before you walk into the room, try reminding yourself of the following points and make some decisions. First, you are going to enjoy yourself and meet some people who will be interesting. Second, you will meet and listen with interest to two or three new people and you will learn about their interests and the kind of things that are important to them. Thirdly, remind yourself that the other people in the room are there to meet people too. Fourth, be clear about your areas of expertise and your interests. Finally, decide that if you do meet the 1% of the population who might try to reject you ignore them and go and talk with somebody else. As you walk into the room of strangers, take a number of slow deep breaths, put on your best smile, and then make immediate eye contact with the people who look at you and go and talk with them first. 3University of Salford REDS Production – this guide is available online at www.virtual-doc.salford.ac.uk/reds
  4. 4. Academics in the digital ageIn the current climate, it’s arguable that if you’re not online you might as well not exist. Have youever googled yourself? You might be surprised at what you find. By creating your own onlinepresence and building a profile of your work online makes you findable and accessible if someonewants to contact you or consult with you about your research. Also by paying attention to what isout there online about you means you can manage and control your online content.In the group sessions, we used various onlinetechnologies to engage with others. Many of uswere using twitter to find information,communicate with other researchers, and talkabout various events that we were attending.Twitter can be useful before, during and after anyevents you attend. Today, most events create atwitter hashtag (e.g. #sparc11, #REDSalford)which people can use to tag all their tweets aboutthe event. There are also virtual communities ofpeople coming together on twitter to networkwith one another, share information and keep intouch (e.g. #phdchat).On a recent #phdchat discussion (8th May, 2011) about what technologies academics were using,@scottwdavis tweeted ‘I discovered a company and set up a live meeting to discuss a potential research project all through Twitter’, and @qui_oui ‘through Twitter I recently participated as an "expert" on a Guardian.co.uk online panel’. Twitter can be a place of opportunity. Facebook can also be good place to network online, for example see the Salford PhD’s page www.facebook.com/salfordphds. Although remember to check your Facebook privacy settings and have a read of Facebooks terms and conditions about copyright and intellectual property rights. Awareness of Facebook’s conditions is even more important if you are using the site for academic purposes. Managing your online presence takes time and skill. Forexample, if you use Twitter for informal, unprofessional purposes, it would be unwise to sync yourTwitter with a LinkedIn account that you use for professional purposes, as the messages sent out toyour online network would be mixed. Have a look at what other people are doing to create aprofessional identity online. If you’re unsure, training workshops and events are popping up all thetime on the use of social media for academic purposes. Also, we have included some links to usefulresources at the end of this guide. 4University of Salford REDS Production – this guide is available online at www.virtual-doc.salford.ac.uk/reds
  5. 5. Networking for enterpriseOne of the workshop attendees said ‘we can shape our future successes’. Networking is aboutcreating your own opportunities, as is enterprise. Being entrepreneurial is not necessarily aboutmaking money or taking risks, it is about recognising and creating opportunities. We talked abouthow meeting new people can be uncomfortable at times, especially if we have been brought up onthe mantra ‘don’t speak to strangers’. Enterprise is about exploring opportunities and one of themost effective ways of exploring opportunities is to share ideas with new people. As individuals whowork within the field of academia, developing our networks will help increase the number andquality of opportunities that present themselves. However doing this will require a little practice.Once practiced, opportunities will emerge. Good luck!To concludeIt is important to note that, as a group, we did not all agree on the best ways to network. How tonetwork is very much dependent on the individual in question – work out what works best for you.In a LinkedIn discussion group recently, Nicole Gravagna, a Molecular Biologist at University ofColorado said, ‘The economy doesnt look so bad if you skip the job ads and speak directly to theCEO. At the end of the day we all want a job, preferably doing something we like and somethingthat makes use of our strengths and expertise. If you network and network well, you are(potentially) opening yourself up to a ton of opportunities. You never know what’s around thecorner!A few linksTry mapping your network on LinkedIn Maps -http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com/There are many places to network online buthere are some of the main ones to check out:LinkedIn, Academic.edu, Twitter, ResearchGate,Facebook, and Mendeley. If you’re starting outon these sites, try searching for some of thecontributors to this guide – we look forward tohearing from you. Mark W Schaefer’s book ‘The Tao of Twitter’ is an excellent introduction to Twitter. Why not start your own research blog? Wordpress www.wordpress.com and Blogger www.blogger.com are easy to use. Check out Social Media & Marketing Consultant Rachel Levy’s blog on online networking http://www.rachel-levy.com/ The University of Salford postgraduate careers team have a blog full of advice and information http://virtual-doc.salford.ac.uk/pgrs/ Vitae have lots of useful information on networking too http://www.vitae.ac.uk/ 5University of Salford REDS Production – this guide is available online at www.virtual-doc.salford.ac.uk/reds

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