Posted Sept. 5, 2016
Networking has become an integral contributor to success in careers and business. It is even more critical for postgraduate students who are not just building on their careers but also seeking opportunities to advance their experience and expertise.
Networking gives you a chance to build relationships, discover new topics and local news, learn from other people’s experiences, as well as connect with industry insiders and establish yourself as an expert.
The problem for some people with the concept of networking is that it can sound superficial, rest assured that it isn’t. Making professional and academic contacts within your field of study is a completely normal part of life. For example, if you are working in an area of study and come across a paper from an academic that you might like to quote or reference, why not contact them directly?
Academics, even in other institutions and other countries, are usually pleased to be cited, especially if the area of research is a niche and not commonly known about. Talk to the academic staff at your own institution, too. Try to find other postgraduate students that are studying in related fields to your own and compare notes from time to time.
Let’s look at the importance of networking during your postgraduate studies in greater detail.
Open doors to employment opportunities
As a postgraduate student, everyone you meet in your lectures or seminars could be the person who will help you in your future career. Networking shouldn’t just be limited to your fellow postgraduate students, it can involve the people you meet on vacation, at your workplace, in conferences, or in fact in any situation that brings you in contact with other people you’ve never met and who share your interests.
These networks will become invaluable when you are looking for opportunities to advance your career after your studies. This is because many corporate recruitment schemes turn to such networks for employment. To put it simply, employers – especially in the private sector – are recruiting through networks and referrals. In fact, a survey conducted by www.scienceboard.net showed that networking was actually responsible for 90% of people finding employment, with cold CV submissions only securing 4%-10% of successful job applications.
Therefore, a postgrad student who is well networked has a considerable advantage when it comes to choosing a job as they will be highly employable after completion of their masters degree.
Understanding the demands of your field of study
Apart from giving you access to prospective employers, networking during your postgraduate studies opens your eyes to the dynamics in your field. This could be in terms of the high-value competencies that you may need to sharpen to boost your prospects. Not to mention the fact that the interactions that you have within your networks may make you realise that you need to take your career to a different direction.
Develop soft skills
Networking will also give you an incentive to sharpen the soft skills that will in turn help you to connect with people easily and express yourself in ways that do not result in misunderstandings. You will have to develop soft skills such as confidence, listening, curiosity, authenticity and humility, which will help you position yourself to be interesting to others as well as draw others’ interest to you.
Become a connecting node in the network
As a postgraduate student, developing networks is not just to satisfy your career needs. You will build your relationship with others without necessarily wanting to get something out of them. You will also share your knowledge and help to connect others to opportunities for jobs or workshops. In this way, you also become valuable as someone who helps others to make connections, and they will reciprocate, especially when they have opportunities to share with you.
Take every opportunity
Many institutions will afford students the chance of studying abroad. Even if it is for only one term, don’t miss out on this opportunity, not only will you be able to extend your network with foreign academics and postgraduate students more easily, but once you return home your UK contacts will probably ask for introductions, too. It can really help your networking to take off. You might even be considered a bit of an expert in the country you have studied in, which is no bad thing.
How to network
There are plenty of different ways to network as a postgraduate student, some of which you will find easier than others. Here are some simple ways you can network as a postgraduate student.
Talk to your professors – you never know who they may know or how they may be able to help you both during and after your studies.
Networking events – your university will host networking events and guest lectures specifically designed to allow the students to meet people in their chosen field. This is particularly the case with vocational subjects, such as business, finance, law and healthcare. It may sound obvious but get some cards printed with your contact details and don’t be shy about chatting to professionals and swapping business cards with them.
Attend career fairs – major companies and businesses attend university careers fairs to meet and woo the next generation of graduates. Make sure you’re in attendance.
Join clubs and societies – university clubs, societies and sports teams are great places to meet like-minded people and develop your network as well as your group of friends.
Networking – the bottom line
Acquiring a postgraduate degree elevates the level of your academic achievement, however it does not necessarily guarantee you get the employment opportunities in your field. Networking will help you add value to your career through investing in others in terms of sharing your connections and expertise and having people to turn to when pursuing growth opportunities. This will ease any transitions that you may need to make in your career in pursuit of better opportunities.
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