Finding your community: the importance of networking

Where do you begin with new connections, and, most importantly, why do you need them in the first place? In her new blog post Daria tells you about the possibilities of networking and the opportunities to get started.

By Daria Akhapkina.

Sometimes doing a PhD sure seems like a lone journey. It’s so easy to get stuck in a perpetual cycle of writing, editing, reading and researching, until one day it strikes you that the only communication you have with the outer world are the emails from your supervisor. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

A cartoon drawing of people networking, There are 4 people in the image, with coloured lines connecting them. The background is yellow.
Image: Daria Akhapkina.

I bet you’ve been hearing about the importance of networking since your first day of studies, but what does it really do for you and where does one get their first connections? I have assembled a brief list of benefits that you can get from simply socialising with other students, researchers and professionals from outside the academic environment to help you navigate in the world of networking.

Tell about your research

And don’t be ashamed to do it! Although it may seem like your research topic is very narrow and might not interest people who are not from your specialist area, spreading a word about what you are working on brings amazing results. By talking to researchers outside of your usual scope of connections you may be able to find interdisciplinary links which you might have never thought of before, and conveying your research to a non-specialist audience helps you get some experience with public engagement that is an essential skill in many careers in and out of academia.

Where to get it:

A good starting point would be attending dedicated PG-spaces and events. At some point you’ll realise that your research topic is now a crucial part of your introduction. The Library has wonderfully informal Research Refresh sessions in Wolfson Research Exchange where you can chat to other postgrads about where you are at your writing, get some fresh ideas and have a break from being on your own. Speaking of, have you heard about the upcoming Festival of Doctoral Research? This event includes opportunities to discuss your research with a wide audience of your fellow students and academics, choose a non-standard media for your presentation or explain your thesis in one slide. Make sure to take a look at it!

Get opportunities

Ever wondered how researchers go to countless conferences, find projects, get publications and new exciting training courses? Of course, you know the answer – through networking. Visiting dedicated events and establishing connections with other scholars in your field is crucial to your professional development. It might look scary, especially if you’re new to the world of conferences, symposia and round tables, but research communities are usually very welcoming to anyone interested, and experienced colleagues are more than happy to point you into the right direction when it comes to getting a new skill or jumping on board with a new project. You never know where an opportunity finds you: a conference that might seem insignificant may land you a nice publication or give you great new ideas for your own research. Never underestimate the chance!

A cartoon image of someone presenting at a conference. The presenter is in blue and stood in front of an orange lectern. There is a green box above them with a pie chart. There are some audience hands in the bottom left corner of the image.
Image: Daria Akhapkina.

Where to get it

Your department most certainly has a mailing list with opportunities available to students, so don’t miss it! A good thing would be to join research groups and other specialist communities available in your subject area: this will help you get the news from your field the quickest way possible. Our university hosts a significant amount of research organisations, such as Global Research Priorities that run events and conferences to connect academics from different areas with their colleagues (I tried them and can now assure you that you sure get some great opportunities and even free food!).

Broaden your horizons

Sometimes I myself forget that I, in fact, have a life outside of my studies. You can use your networking skills to advance in your favourite hobbies or simply meet new friends to enjoy the day together! Remember, not everything has to be about your research interests – exploring new fields can boost your creativity and just be relaxing. Find a new thing to experience or participate in a long-loved activity. We all need a break sometimes!

A cartoon illustration of people sharing their hobbies. There are three people in the image. One is holding a book, a second is knitting and a third is holding a camera. The image is very colourful/
Image: Daria Akhapkina,

Where to get it

You can always find communities of your interest on your own by looking up what’s going on within the Arts Centre, Student Union or browsing the students’ societies list. Don’t forget to also check out our Study Happy pages for new events and creative chillouts where you can try a new hobby (like knitting, crochet or painting) and just have a good time with other students.

Tell us how you find new connections. Are you good at networking and what are your tips about getting in touch with the community? Let us know by tweeting us @researchex, by messaging us on Instagram @warwicklibrary, or by emailing us at

If you want to learn more about making professional connections on the Internet, make sure to check our post on digital networking. And if you want to read about some first-hand experience and advice on presenting at research events, have a look at How to Present at Conferences.

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