3 ways to increase your network and gain some collaborators
My last blog talked about the things you should do before your next grant application. The key message was to build your networks, solidify and formalise your collaborations, and to make new friends! This post encourages you to take the leap, increase your network, and get new collaborators for your research.
Live networking can take place in several different environments. Some of these you will feel comfortable in, but others you will need to take yourself outside of your comfort zone and create your own opportunities.
These can provide a great opportunity to target specific people, expertise and skills. All too often, we do not make the most of these opportunities. We go to conferences with people we know, or we navigate toward people we know already, and stick with them rather than meeting new people. As researchers we are not taught, and often not comfortable mingling and meeting complete strangers.
Tips for meeting people at a conference:
- Use the poster sessions at conferences to strike up conversations with people that you don’t know.
- Look for other people that are alone and strike up a relevant conversation (about the conference) with them. Make the effort to sit with, and mingle with, people that you have not met before.
- People love to be acknowledged. If you know of a paper, publication, or presentation that someone you are talking to has done be sure to mention that you know their work and compliment them on it.
- When meeting someone new, remember to ask interesting questions and try not to make the conversation about you. The number one goal is to create a relationship and then later, much later, there may be an opportunity to collaborate with them.
- Be genuine, swap cards, make a note of how you met (do this on the business card), follow up with an email when you get back to your office, and add them to your linked in network.
Are there organisations, associations and meetups where you may be able to meet the right connections for your network? Meeting people at these types of events can be fruitful. For a start’, you are both involved in something with a common interest, making conversation slightly easier. You need to put aside your fear and go to as many networking events as you can. Although it may feel scary, you really need to do this on your own. If you go with someone else you won’t take opportunities to network as much as if you go on your own. I have connected with some of the most amazing and like-minded people through networking events. I admit that I felt completely uncomfortable, but took a chance and had success. Go on, give it a try.
There are several social media channels that can be used to expand your networks and meet new people. Here I will focus on two channels, LinkedIn and Piirus.
LinkedIn is a business to business networking platform but there are some many people from many different industries that it is becoming one of the best places to connect with people that you may want to work with.
Connect with existing people that you know.
- You should connect with people that you know, or already have a relationship with. Go ahead and ask them to connect with you, you can send a message with the connection request outlining when, where, and how you met.
Searching on LinkedIn
- To connect with people that you would like to have in your network, either because of their position or the likelihood that you may want to work/collaborate with them, you need to find them. Use the search function to find connections, search for relevant terms like job title, organisation and location.
- Once you have found someone you would like to connect with, you can do one of two things.
- The first option is to see if they are connected to someone you know or are already connected to, i.e they come up as a second degree connection. If this is the case then ask your connection for an introduction.
- The second option is to ask them to connect, but you may want to do a bit of homework first. Take a look to see if they have shared any updates or written any posts that you are interested in or look further afield on the web to find if they have been published or in the media etc. When asking them to connect, don’t just leave the standard connection message, tailor the message to them by mentioning something that they have done or written that interests you. Alternatively, when connecting mention any commonalities and why you would like to connect with them. Personalising this message is very helpful when trying to connect to people that don’t know you and have no link to you.
This channel started at the University of Warwick in 2011 as Research Match. It is designed specifically for researchers to make connections and to collaborate. Although there are not that many users at present it may well be worth getting involved or at least checking it out to see if it is useful for you.
The old fashioned way – cold calling.
You’ve probably heard the saying that if you don’t ask you don’t get, and this is very true. If you are out of options, regarding building a relationship or just meeting the right person in the right organisation, then you can try the phone, email usually does not work.
There are some problems with cold calling that can be avoided using the previously outlined methods.
- The first of these problems is getting through the gatekeeper and managing to speak to the person that you need.
- The second is being able to engage the person in conversation over the phone long enough to obtain a follow up meeting or further discussion.
If you choose to use this method then I highly recommend that you are very clear on the purpose of you call. Remember the purpose of your call is not to get them to collaborate, they don’t know you yet, you need to build and nurture a relationship. The purpose of the first call is an introduction, what follows is either a meeting to discuss what you are working on or a follow up email sending them some detail. You need to obtain permission to build the relationship.
This is definitely the hardest option. My advice, prepare, plan, practice, and when all else fails the worst that can happen is that they say no “thank you”, but you might be surprised.
Say you get your meeting with this potential collaborator, how can you get their attention, keep their interest and sell them on the idea of working with you? Tune in for the next blog on pitching and presenting to get some ideas.
In the meantime……happy translating!