There’s not much that I dread more than networking events. So many of us (yes, even me) hate networking. Trying to strike up a conversation, nevermind build meaningful connections with strangers, can feel awkward at best, and at worst, forced and insincere. And for academics in particular, it can feel sales-pitchy, gross, and off putting.
Yet there are real, tangible benefits to networking. Conversations with work friends can lead to opportunities. You might hear about an upcoming job opening before it gets posted. You’re more likely to find out the inside scoop about an employer. Your connections might approach you to speak on your area of expertise, giving you the chance to promote your skills and knowledge. Or when you’re a candidate for a job, you might know someone who can put in a good word for you (in addition to your professional references).
Networking isn’t just about sharing business cards or building up your LinkedIn connections, though. For your network to be effective, you need to have or build relationships with your associates. You don’t want your connections to decline to connect, grow stale, or drop you because it’s a one-way connection. Making your network work for you means meeting people organically, and then thinking of your associates as real, genuine relationships. People who are not just looking out for you, but who are invested in keeping a relationship with you. So how can you do this? There’s two easy steps.