How to network efficiently as a PhD

Published on LinkedIn by Irena Lovrenčič Držanič Technical Associate (Institute of Media Communications - UM).

How to network efficiently as a PhD

Networking is the process of establishing professional connections with people from your field of work. Its main benefit is career growth as a result of stronger business connections. Networking also leads to new job opportunities due to introductions to potential employers and referrals.

The networking process is based on soft skills, especially verbal communication and the ability to present ideas. Thus, it is important to know which skills are soft skills and how you can improve them.

The connections you built can help you in future when you will search for a new job in the industry. According to research, 85% of jobs are filled via connections built through networking (note 1). 

However, building relationships takes time and requires regular efforts. Here are a few suggestions for networking at events:

  • Conference attendees

Conferences are professional events where researchers and companies can exchange their recent findings. These events are ideal for PhDs who are searching for a job in the industry or at another university. Attending conferences is especially useful for those who do not know other people from their field. If you attend a conference with colleagues, ask them to introduce you to other people in their network. The best time for networking is at dinner and coffee breaks.

  • Other professional events

Pay attention to events organized by larger and/or important companies in your industry, such as presentations of new products. Prepare for the event by creating a strategy. Instead of distributing business cards, aim to connect to an important player in the industry by asking your supervisor to introduce you. Identify whom you want to meet, for example, speakers at the event and think which questions you would like to ask them.

  • Career Fairs

Career fairs connect PhD students and graduates to companies that are interested in hiring them. These events usually appeal to companies that already employ PhDs and are familiar with their skills, meaning it is easier to connect with them rather than with companies that have never employed someone with a PhD.

  • Webinars

Although webinars are online you can still make an impression on attendees. When possible, participate in discussions and ask questions to the webinar host.

  • Use LinkedIn

After attending networking events, be sure to connect to new contacts on LinkedIn. However, do not add people you have not personally met.

  • Join professional associations

These associations organize events that are great opportunities to build new connections with colleagues from the same field. To stay informed, also follow these associations on social media, for example on LinkedIn where potential employers can see your membership in groups.

Networking events are your opportunity to use your elevator pitch and convince employers why they should hire you. Always keep in touch by connecting on LinkedIn or sending a follow-up e-mail about the event topics.

Professional events are also a great opportunity for asking questions. When you attend an important event with companies that you would like to work at, prepare relevant questions that show your deep understanding of the issues discussed. When you discuss deeper issues the discussion can continue at social dinner or during the break, which will help you build the connections faster.


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