Something that becomes increasingly more important as a doctoral student, specifically those who intend to continue onto an academic career after their studies, is to network in the academic community. Doing so is key in progressing in this industry and to get your name out there in the relevant academic circles. As a first year PhD student in theology, these are my top tips on how to do so.
Conferences are commonplace in the academic world and a great place to meet like-minded people that may be interested in your research. Whether you’re just listening to others or presenting papers yourself (something that will likely become more common at least a year into your studies), being present at conferences is the perfect place to network.
If you’re just there to watch, asking questions of other people’s papers or approaching others to discuss each other’s research means you will eventually become more established and known to those most influential in your field. When you are comfortable to present, you will gain some valuable experience, specifically in the process of writing abstracts for example, and responding to on-the-spot questions on your papers from fellow academics. Even if you have your fair share of unsuccessful submissions, or difficult questions on your research, all experiences are ensuring your name is out there in the academic world and that your work is being heard.
2. Attend Social Events
Conferences can be a more serious setting for networking and though they are effective, there are always less formal opportunities to communicate with your academic peers. Manchester in particular is great for this, and I have found that in my personal experience as a doctoral student, there are always event invitations in abundance in my emails, including quizzes, coffee socials etc.
These are opportunities to meet with academics on an even keel, and get to know each other more as people, whilst also recognising that people’s research will probably be a topic of conversation also! With the pressure of a conference audience removed, these events will likely mean you build genuine connections with peers and learn some valuable things too!
3. Believe in Your Research
One thing that I can struggle with is believing that I am worthy of being amongst academics and that my research is good enough – this attitude can have a negative impact on your ability to network. The reality is that you have earned a place on a PhD programme and have access to brilliant academic advisors and great resources more generally. You are in the perfect position to be considered a budding academic, and a successful one at that!
Though I have felt this way at times, any time I do talk about my research, it is met with intrigue and enthusiasm, and I certainly respond that way when I hear of other’s work too. Even if you are all studying/working under the umbrella of a certain subject, the beauty of doctoral projects is that they are always so specific and different, so everyone is so interested to hear each other’s work. Therefore, no matter whether you are in a formal or informal setting, being confident and believing in your research aims when you convey them will only do great things for your networking skills as you find your feet in the world of academia.