How to Network as a PhD Student

networking as a PhD student

Humans are social creatures. However, networking may not come naturally for most people.

Nevertheless, we all need a social support system. As a PhD student, effective networking should be part of your daily routine.

Successful networking is a two-way street. It involves setting objectives, commitment, sharing of your time, resources, knowledge and presence to guarantee meaningful outcomes.

Read on to find out why you should network and how you can network effectively.

Importance of networking

It enhances career development

Networks help with career progression

Job search becomes easier when you have a rich network. Instead of looking for advertised job openings, your network colleagues are likely to share job vacancies they have heard of.

It is easier to get a job from internal connections as opposed to open advertised jobs.

Networks in Graduate schools are effective during research

Sharing of ideas, research tactics and study tips. The research process can be arduous and energy sapping.

However, being in the company of colleagues with similar research interests makes it worthwhile.

You are likely to learn a thing or two, overcome research hurdles faster and complete your project in time.

Networking nurtures your social skills

Human beings are social beings. You can form lifelong friendships with people.

Despite your personality type, you will always find one or two individuals you can connect with.

Networking allows you to share important milestones in life. With your network, you get to go for adventures, it helps one to get away from the daily routine of doing things.

Networking is a confirmation of the social nature in humans.

Networking fosters an open-minded approach towards life

Being in a circle of people with different personalities, cultural backgrounds, opinions and outlook on life makes you appreciate diversity.

You get to understand that life does not revolve around you, thus you develop an open mind to accept others.

Networks also create globalization in organizations. The work environment becomes diverse.

It helps during challenging times

Having a strong social support system is helpful in times of distress and hardships. Having a shoulder to lean on among your network helps to lighten your burdens.

You also get to learn different problem solving techniques.

It opens up business opportunities

Having common ideologies and goals creates business opportunities. As a network, it becomes easier to identify gaps which you can fill through a business idea.

Tips on effective networking

Attend new and diverse seminars

Seminars are a good networking opportunity.

Do not limit your attendance to your research field. Being exposed to diverse conferences increases your knowledge pool.

Initiate conversations with presenters after seminars

Prepare a set of questions to ask randomly. Be a lifelong student, willing to learn at all times.

Never shy away from seeking assistance. Most people are willing to offer advice.

Allow the other person to speak without interruptions. Exercise effective listening skills so that important information does not pass you by.

Express gratitude towards the people for creating time to speak to you.

Join online forums

Participate in social groups. If there is none, be proactive, create one and invite your colleagues and schoolmates.

Follow renowned experts who have published in your industry. Share posts related to your field and encourage others to read them.

Start online debates on interesting topics.

Exercise self-discipline in social media. Avoid politicking and controversial matters. This can have adverse effects on your career as a PhD holder.

Set up one on one interviews with industry’s renowned professionals

As a graduate student, gathering information is an effective success strategy.

Interviewing professionals and mentors makes you knowledgeable in your line of work. You also develop a deep sense of critical thinking.

This allows you to become authoritative as a researcher, hence be able to defend your work.

Volunteer your time in any event held in your Graduate School

As a graduate student, learn to go an extra mile. Get out of your comfort zone by offering your time whenever seminars are held.

This is beneficial in a great way – it gives you an opportunity to interact with key players and organizers who are well connected in the industry.

Establish yourself as a brand

Create a personal brand and business card, despite being in graduate school.

As a graduate student, it is imperative to market your competencies early enough.

Take extraordinary measures such as publishing articles, co-authoring, taking up administrative roles in your school, etc.

You are likely to leave a lasting legacy which will set you up for future prospects.

Another personal branding technique is to take up guest lecturing offers. Not only will you be honing your public speaking skills, you will also get exposure.

Be presentable

Looks matter! First impression is everything! You do not need another reminder as you have probably heard this for the umpteenth time.

Always maintain a neat look in and out of school. Have a firm handshake and maintain eye contact when talking to people.

Keep your head up at all times and avoid walking while looking at your mobile phone.

Networking at a scientific conference

Show up early

Arrive at conferences early. This gives you an opportunity to meet and greet key figures. It also gives you ample time to settle down in a strategic spot, away from distractions.

Do your homework and research prior to the conference

For a graduate student, being clueless at any given point is not appealing.

Obtain adequate information in advance. This enables you to participate by making queries and giving your own insights.

Being involved displays interest. Such strategies can open up windows of opportunities for you.

Interact with booth operators

Scientific conferences are loaded with diverse booths. Walk around and familiarize yourself with what is available.

Pick as many information materials like pamphlets, magazines, CDs as possible. Many notable figures are usually featured in them.

From such media, you can obtain contact information that you can use to get in touch.

Make follow-ups

Follow up as soon as possible on any contacts you get. Have a specific purpose for following up.

Preferably, the follow up should be work-related. Your first choice of communication should be e-mails, since calling a personal telephone number may infringe on their privacy.

In conclusion, networking does not have to be horrible. With the above tips, you will be better placed at establishing fruitful networks.

Grace Njeri-Otieno

Grace Njeri-Otieno is a Kenyan, a wife, a mom, and currently a PhD student, among many other balls she juggles. She holds a Bachelors' and Masters' degrees in Economics and has more than 7 years' experience with an INGO. She was inspired to start this site so as to share the lessons learned throughout her PhD journey with other PhD students. Her vision for this site is "to become a go-to resource center for PhD students in all their spheres of learning."

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