4 reasons why you should network

From my workshop at the Beyond Academia Conference,
March 15, 2016
U.C. Berkeley

In an earlier blog post, I gave the following definition of networking: 

Networking is building relationships and community based on trust and generosity.

Networking is nothing but making friends and building meaningful, sincere relationships with people. Keep this in mind as we go through the reasons you should be "networking" every day. 

1. Knowing your options

If you have been in academia as long as you can remember, or any career bubble for that matter, you may experience tunnel vision when it comes to your career options. Building relationships allows you to get a glimpse of someone's career experiences, connections, and most importantly, knowledge from their past that can help you make a better decision in the future.

A conversation with the most unlikely person may give you life-changing insight and make you consider a career you never knew about or thought would be a good fit for you. 

2. Landing a job

Over half of job hires at companies happen as a result of network referrals. Uploading or sending around a resume is not the way to get a job, especially for a PhD. 

Look at it from the other side of the table: let's say you are looking for someone to fill a position on your team. You want to confirm two things: competence and fit. In other words, not only do you want to make sure they can do the job but also that they will be the type of person you want to spend your time with 40+ hours per week. 

3. Career Success

According to one study, successful professionals spend 70% more time networking than their less successful counterparts.* Career success here is defined by salary, number of promotions during career, and career satisfaction. Good referrals are increasingly important for upward mobility in a company. So, once you land the job (#3), it's not over, you have to keep networking in order to have long-term career success

Life is about work. Work is about life. And both are about people.
— Keith Ferrazzi, Author of NY Times Best Seller, Never Eat Alone

4. Happiness

If we go back to the definition of networking being "building relationships," it is no surprise that networking leads to increased happiness. Scientists in the field of happiness research have pointed out that positive social relationships are a necessity for people to feel happy. In a leading study by Diener and Seligman, the happiest people were highly social and had strong relationship ties as compared to less happy people.

In academia we often pick up the “lone wolf” mentality, where I have to do everything by myself and spend all my time on work. But in the long run, having a healthy community of professional friends is the best way to surround yourself with meaningful insights, hear about opportunities, network in to a job, and feel happy, supported, and not alone. 

Read the "Redefining Networking" and "How to Network" posts for more. 


*[Missing reference, because you don't need references outside of Academia. Just kidding. I've painstakingly found it: Luthans, Hodgetts, and Rosenkrantz (1988), quoted in Seibert, Kraimer, and Liden 2001, "Academy of Management Journal" Vol. 44, No. 2 (Apr., 2001), pp. 219-237. Let there be no complaints from the Ivory Tower.]