The problem for many people with networking is that it sounds so superficial. However, postgraduate networking shouldn’t be like speed dating. Remember that making professional and academic contacts within your field of study is a completely normal part of life. If you are working in an area of study and reading 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.
Postgraduate networking is not just about making contacts within academia, however. Think about the sort of industry you might go into following the completion of your studies. This may be obvious for some students, but it is less so for others. Not all postgraduate courses point to an obvious career path, after all. However, once you have identified a likely sector of industry check out any trade fairs that are associated with it. Most industries have trade fairs, or new product exhibitions, which will welcome students and you can usually attend them for free or at a reduced rate. 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. You may be able to use them at a later date when you are looking for employment.
Try to widen your circle of contacts as much as possible. Many institutions will afford students the opportunity of studying abroad. Even if it is for only one term, don’t miss out on foreign study. There’s little doubt that it can really widen your circle of contacts . 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. So, it can really help your networking to take off. You might even be considered a bit on expert in the country you have studied in, which is no bad thing.
The point about postgraduate networking is that you want to use it to improve your later career. However, try to keep your contact making informal. People can be put off a little by someone who is simply engaging with them because they are only interested in job hunting. Remember to give help to others as well as asking for it yourself because both are a means of networking.
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