The importance of networking for researchers

Networking is misunderstood. And undervalued.  

While some may consider it simply small talk at a conference, in reality networking is a highly impactful skill that can nurture a research career in a host of ways.

Networking is how colleagues share exciting work, learn about job openings, collaborate on research projects and foster important relationships that can be essential to long-term success. But it’s not intuitive for everyone, and should be done with clear intentions and a deliberate strategy.   

Networking for Researchers, available now on the Nature Masterclasses online platform, teaches researchers networking skills and strategies that help maximise opportunities for collaboration, seek and sustain mentorship and support, and amplify the influence of their work.

Researchers need―and want―networking training

The ability to network with confidence and competence has big benefits for all researchers, particularly for those early in their career who want to build a reputation in a specific field of study.  

A 2020 survey of researcher training needs revealed that 90% of both researchers (total n = 344) and institutional clients (total n = 240) rated networking skills as important for researchers’ success. 

And while a well-rounded approach to networking is viewed as important, until now it has been difficult for researchers to find training services that meet their needs.      

In a 2021 survey, almost 80% of researchers (total n = 456) indicated that they struggled with networking and would benefit from more training, while a mere 21% (total n = 456) claimed they had access and were satisfied with training options. 

This desire―and disappointment―reflects an awareness among researchers that strengthening networking tools goes hand-in-hand with unlocking the full potential of a research career. 

Networking has evolved, and researchers must adapt

Networking is hard. And intimidating. 

Approaching colleagues in a physical or online environment isn’t easy, nor is developing those relationships so that they can nurture and support one’s own career growth. 

Like any skill, networking may come more naturally to some, but can be honed over time to the point of excellence by anyone. Some researchers may feel overwhelmed by the social aspect, or by growing digitalisation, especially in the wake of the pandemic. 

Traditional networking opportunities have shifted as fewer conferences and events are held in-person, making online networking and relationship-building more essential than ever. 

The challenges are real, but a solution exists. 

What researchers will learn

Networking for Researchers focuses on teaching practical skills and best practices that researchers can weave into a networking strategy that will enhance their career. 

This course will help researchers:

  • Understand the theory and importance of networking
  • Use career-specific goals to find relevant networking opportunities 
  • Learn strategies to connect with potential contacts and then follow-up―both in person and online
  • Research and develop an effective network of contacts 
  • Build an appropriate online presence     
  • Nurture relationships and leverage contacts to galvanise opportunities for career advancement  

To do all this, Nature Masterclasses designed a curriculum that addresses key areas of learning and made it available on demand via a platform that gives researchers full control and autonomy. 

Course design: data-driven, quality tested and expert-led  

The course was made in full collaboration with networking experts representing a diverse spectrum of networking perspectives, including researchers, experienced academic networkers, networking consultants, fellows and communication specialists. 

The course is designed in a data-driven and iterative process, starting with the course outline and continuing through building the written and video content. Each stage is user- and expert-tested so that it delivers what’s most important: impactful lessons that researchers can use.  

  1. The course features 4 modules of learning:
  2. Why network
  3. Getting ready to network
  4. Connect with new networking contacts - in person and online 
  5. Nurturing and harnessing the power of your network

Each module is divided into individual lessons, 23 in all, with 3-4 total hours of total learning. 

Nature Masterclasses online learning

The Nature Masterclasses online platform is a unique resource tailored for the busy schedules and tight learning windows of researchers.

The platform provides researchers with:

  • Bite-size learning in the form of 15-minute, information-rich lessons that convey maximum information in concentrated time
  • On-demand access to lessons, videos and online activities that meet researcher needs and schedules
  • Course material organised into targeted modules that divide topics into clear, manageable sections 
  • Multimedia formats, including interactive exercises
  • Asynchronous delivery, which makes course material accessible anytime and anywhere
  • Progress status that can be saved for self-paced learning
  • English language subtitles and transcripts
  • Subscription options that give institutions full access to the entire catalogue of online trainings, plus access to future courses 

Researchers increasingly recognise the importance of networking to their career, and are eager for training resources that can help. Networking for Researchers takes them step-by-step through the process of becoming a better, more confident and capable networker. 

The end result will benefit both your research and your career.