Your social capital, which is made up of your networks, friendships, relationships, does matter. Studies have shown how your social capital can positively impact your academic citations, job satisfaction and career success. It is worth assessing your different types of networks and being strategic about how you develop them.
Sharon shared research on social network theory and showed that having three different sorts of networks tend to be important:
Strong, close ties with a small professional network for advice and support;
A wide range of 'weak' ties (looser connections with people) for access to diverse knowledge and ideas ; and
Strategic relationships that connect, or broker, other people and groups with each other.
More tips from Sharon:
Proactively build your networks. Recognise that your mindset and attitude towards networking matter.
Consider what you can offer (the importance of reciprocity)
Be targeted: Who are my best prospects, where can I meet my best prospects, and whom (exactly) do I want to meet?
Some tips for introverts
Volunteer to help at the event/ be on a panel/ be the chair
Find ‘open’ configurations
Set a goal
Listen/ pay attention / perspective-take
Ask questions / be curious
Plan some openers
Do some homework
Follow up key connections (with something to give)
Source: Misner, How to Network Like a Pro
Sharon Friel’s tips as someone who considers herself as a shy and introverted person
Embrace your nervousness and being uncomfortable and at the edge of your comfort zone
Trust that people will make physical space for you to join in
Be clear on who you want to be and how that translates in your work and demeanour
Do not make networking about yourself but about the issues at stake in your work
Be open to the ways of engaging of different colleagues
Follow up with an email (eg. giving thanks and showing appreciation) to (re)connect. This is a great way to be on others’ radars.
Ask for help - reach out to colleagues, they may open up possibilities for you
Nanda Dasgupta’s tips
Reflect on the qualities and aspirations as a person and professional - who do you want to be?
Consider the purpose of the networking opportunities (is for me, my health/well-being, my work, my department?)
It is ok to be uncomfortable in a networking environment: it is a good sign of your motivation and wanting to do your best
Do your homework: be familiar with the background/research of your potential connections
Carefully consider how you can approach specific people you would like to reach out to (eg. discuss a paper/study and link it to your research)
Enquire about how others can help you connect to more colleagues
Be aware of preconceived ideas and how it affects people's interaction with you; e.g. people may want to exchange pleasantries to be "nice" but it is best to steer the conversation towards your research/expertise so that it is in line with your strengths and aspirations.
Maintain connections via professional networking platforms and social media and use opportunities like end of year/new year/achievements/birthdays to keep in touch