Why is networking important as a researcher?

Not all Ph.D. students like networking during their research journey. Some are shy professionals and not big fans of networking. Others may think networking is a waste of time. However, we still hear about the importance of networking in the academic arena.

Group of people talking

Get some support

A Ph.D.’s journey is quite lonely, and everyone is a sole researcher doing an individual project. Some Ph.D. students say their thesis is written in tears, blood, and coffee. Why not get some support from your peers? Get to know others’ research experiences and learn from them.

In my first year of the Ph.D., I got some useful advice from senior Ph.D. students and experienced colleagues. In addition, the virtual Shut Up and Write group also accompanied me during my PGR9 preparation and hard lockdown time. An AUT research group helps me know other research students. Students across the disciplines support each other. Every meeting has a specific theme, such as “How to do a systematic review” and “problems with argument writing.” Most of the time, students are willing to share problems they have encountered in their research journeys and seek help from other students. For example, one student was stuck in their data analysis phase and afraid of writing; other research group members gave her advice and encouraged her. One student does not have experience in reviewing articles; other senior researchers gave some advice.

The research group also provides a great platform for students to rehearse their PGR9 presentation and doctoral presentations. Several group members wrote a blog post entitled “How should you practice your PGR9 Presentation in front of your peers?” Find a group you are comfortable with, practice in front of them, and get some feedback.

Improve your soft skills

Ph.D. study is all about learning new things. Your academic studies will improve your research, analyzing, and writing skills. Networking will help you to round out that education by improving your communication and presentation skills, potentially bringing some job opportunities and providing light relief from your research.

If you are attending formal networking events, remember to prepare and bring your elevator pitch. This will help people get to know you faster. You should include the necessary information about your name, the university, and your current research project. Instead of asking a general question, ask a more specific one. Remember, listening is often more important than talking. Treat networking as a normal conversation and small talk. Do not be afraid.

During COVID-19, many virtual networking opportunities have come up, including academic conferences and virtual meet up events. Dress appropriately (try not wearing pajamas), use eye contact, and use gestures to boost your confidence.

Focus on the quality

Focus on the quality, rather than quantity, of networking opportunities. Do not expect to meet everyone, and do not exaggerate the function of networking. It mainly assists your research journey, and the key focus is still the piece of your writing and your content. Have a clear goal and know what support you can get from it. Try networking with Ph.D. colleagues, but not just them. Some industry seminars will provide you an excellent opportunity to talk with professional industry people. An academic conference is a perfect way for researchers to expand your research influences, get some great feedback, get to know other intellectual people in the same area, and build connections.

Remember to follow up and know when to say no

AUT provides many opportunities for postgraduate students to network, such as Mix & Mingle events, the 3 Minute Thesis competition, research groups, and conferences. Also, ask your supervisor what kind of networking opportunities they recommend. Social media plays a vital role in today’s professional and academic life. You do not want to meet someone in your area and not see them anymore. Please remember to add and contact them on LinkedIn, Academia.edu, ResearchGate, and Twitter.

Time management is an essential task for all research students. Do not use networking to occupy too much of your time. When changes come, think about your schedule and use your time wisely.

About cindyseeme

Cindy is a Ph.D. student in AUT’s School of Communication. Her research topic is about online video content creation and audience engagement. Cindy has worked as a TV presenter, journalist, and social media marketer in China, Australia, and New Zealand.

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