The Importance of being Networked (February 19, 2008)
From Case Studies Wiki
The post is just replicated here to catch all the words for archive purposes, to read the post in its original form and see the links, photos, videos etc., go here:http://www.good.group.shef.ac.uk/blog/?p=77
February 19, 2008 The Importance of being Networked Filed under: Tuesdays » GoodPractice @ 2:46 pm
Emily Savage is in Thessaloniki at City College and will not be able to send her post today.
Briefly, more thoughts on networking then! I have been thinking and having some discussions about networking because of the upcoming workshop and thinking about how people circulate before, during and after these types of things. The Case Studies Workshops are specifically set up for you to network with people that have similar interests to you within the University. However, often people seem unsure about how to use them them to talk about what they do with each other and so end up discussing the weather. Please, please, please! Unless you actually care about the weather (and sometimes it does matter I’ll admit), do not discuss this at a Case Studies Workshop. You are there to talk about what you do in terms of Learning and Teaching at the University with each other.
So, I spoke briefly about networking via the phone yesterday. How do you do it in person? To be honest, I find that I can only do it in spurts. I think it depends on your personality. I personally find that I like meeting new people but that it takes a lot of energy for me to really do this well and engage so I try to limit the length of time I do this down to 1 or 2 hours.
I did a Film Studies/Communications undergraduate degree where we were trained in networking as part of future “employability skills”. I later paid off my student loan by working briefly in Investment Banking and needed these skills there especially at corporate events where I needed to meet people professionally (in sometimes semi-social situations), find out what they did and then discuss it in a way that was potentially productive for both of us. What does productive mean? Well, for me I think it means finding out what other people are doing and whether or not it makes sense for us to maintain contact after the event we are at. Specifically for me, I am interested in learning how people approach problems/solutions differently. What is their focus? What are comparisons to what I do? However, you cannot even begin to find this out unless you speak to new people first.
At large events, the temptation is to simply speak with people you already know because it is overwhelming. Frankly, I often feel a bit silly going up to strangers and introducing myself. This is not something I would do normally but I see this as part of my job. If I am not “hosting the event”, I usually decide how many people I will try to make as new contacts (I can only network for so long, so I usually try to meet 2 or 3 people then I give myself a break). Sometimes, I will ask colleagues if there are certain people I should try to meet. This is a good way to introduce yourself to someone. However, if I do not know anyone, then I do not discriminate (I do not “nametag surf” or try to figure out who the most important people in the room are, conversely I also do not not talk to someone simply because they are obviously important as well).
I simply look for other people that are not talking to someone else at the moment and go over to them, take a deep breath and introduce myself. “Hi, I’m Nadine Wills. I’m with LeTS. I’m here because…. Are you finding this event useful so far?” I try to never talk about the weather or food because then you have missed your opportunity in meeting someone new for professional purposes. You may have met someone new, but you have not networked. And, yes, I categorise it that blatantly because some people I meet at professional functions and I talk to on a social and others I speak to at the same function and talk to on a professional level about work-related ideas and we make connections between what we do. So some people become “contacts” and others people I know. Some become both.
To put it another way: do you have time to talk about if they hate the rain or like the samosas? Sometimes the answer is yes, other times no. If you really want to network efficiently then small talk is fine for a sentence or two, but try to keep it to a minimum in these situations. Recognise though that many people simply feel uncomfortable in these semi-social situations and begin to talk about other subjects in an effort to find something to talk about. This is not a bad thing, but try to steer the conversation back to the event or work-related topics (but not simply yourself or what you are doing) if that is what you are there for. If someone is not willing to have a professional conversation and you are at an event to network, excuse yourself politely after a certain amount of time and then find someone else who is (this is only if you decide that networking is your priority rather than continuing the conversation).
Okay, so that’s my bizarre cross between the Machiavelli and Miss Manners approach to networking in academia. Feel free to let me know if there are people you want to meet or be introduced to at Workshops and I will do my best. I’m sure many of you have different approaches than this, and mine is certainly one that certainly comes from a North American background. I would love to hear if you have other approaches or ideas.
Nadine Wills, LeTS