Agency and Networking

in Researcher Career Development

ERASMUS + Researcher Identity Development

Navigating Professional Careers

Expanding your network

Networks as work supports

Research participants often commented on their networks and how they used them to enhance their working lives. Tulip, for example, talked about the importance of the in-office support.  

 

So I have a great support network of colleagues …that you just need… So, I will have had a rubbish week, and I’ll go to one of them and I’ll say, ‘I’ve had a rubbish week – I did this thing,’ and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I did that three times last week.’ I think the biggest thing about going to the work office is actually the interaction with your colleagues and sort of enabling you to just be more kind of cope better with doing your job. It makes a big difference …I look forward to Fridays because I know everybody’s going to come back and we’re going to have lunch together…it’s really important.  

 

 

Growing your networks

Growing a network requires investment. Here, Hannah described what she viewed as the strategic importance of investing in local inter-institutional networking. 

 

From my previous role …I’ve realised what I need; so I have purposely made an even greater effort this time to really target key leaders, key influencing people, who…if I can …develop working friendships with them, they’ll come to me and suggest…have you got any ideas on [xxxx] …I’ve found that’s what you need to do …to succeed [Hannah]

 

Shannon also reported specific ways in which she connected with organizations that were potential external funders for research her employer wanted to conduct. 

 

There are a group of funders in the area, who are interested in supporting …education in some way, and so…and most often, they’re coming to talk to an academic officer about what major initiatives we’re moving forward …so, what I’ve done …more of this year is connecting with them …doing presentations for them, taking phone calls with them, meeting with them, so I can hear what they want to fund, and I can tell them what we’d like them to fund, and to kind of do a little bit of negotiation that way. It’s been a lot of fun. You know, I’ve met a lot of great folks by doing that, people who are …really concerned about education. [Shannon]

 

13196 emphasized the need for time investment, especially since he was developing his own business. 

 

I’ve been advised to spend half my time not working but networking and marketing for…for more business, for new business. [From] …one day a week, up to 50%.  Right now, I’m between contracts, so I can focus all of my activity on that.  

 

Daniel described the way in which he was actually able to track the growth of his international network which he continued to draw on. 

I have even done my network map …just to make myself aware of who I am and where I am! …Because I have a network of people back in [my home town], where I used to work, people at the university where I was studying and working at some point, and people in the State Government that are still there, and …businesses also. I belong to a network of people working in the Government, at the federal level, in [my home country], and an extended network of specialists in [the capital], but I am also involved in the network of [my PhD university] …and also, with my [Master’s supervisor network]. [Daniel]

 

What comes through strongly in these accounts is that these individuals were agentive and strategic in making connections and developing them (which was not always the case among the research participants). Other ways of networking include, for instance, volunteering to work on committees, attending social events, joining formal organizations, and having a web presence (see other resources).  

 

Thinking about your network 

To help think about your existing network consider following Daniel’s example and make a map of your network. It’s a simple way to review your current connections and once you have drawn your network, you can analyse it to see where you might want to develop relationships further or in other directions. And, remember that networking involves putting yourself in a variety of social situations, so choose strategies that you feel comfortable with – but be prepared to move try some new experiences and to gradually enlarge your comfort zone.

 

One way to analyse your existing network is to think about the extent to which your network a) has grown over time, b) represents individuals in a range of institutions or locations, c) includes formal organizations, d) includes people able to provide different kinds of support, and e) is reciprocal.   

 

Another way to analyse your map is to draw on the framework in this article. It proposes three forms of networking – operational, personal and strategic – noting that many individuals who wish to be leaders focus mostly on the first two, overlooking the strategic. They describe the ways in which these forms of networking differ using four criteria: purpose, location and temporal location, players and recruitment, and network attributes and key behaviours. This set of parameters (see the table below) may help you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your current network and your networking strategies. 

Other resources 

Explore the other themes

Researcher Identity Development (2020).

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