By Guest Blogger, Julie Preston

Julie Square

Communication and networking have been a regular theme of my social media networks in recent weeks, finally pushing me to write this post for Career Actually. Just one more means of connecting.

Carole has written about the importance of a strong network in other places on her blog. Networks are places to find opportunities that may not be advertised through the normal channels or a source of renewal and support when a job search is getting you down.

Establishing a professional network has never been easy for me, especially during the early stages of my first career journey as an PhD student and postdoctoral researcher. It seemed that everyone I should be speaking to was too busy or too important. Add my introvert personality and I was happy to sit quietly in the corner and wait for opportunities to come to me.

I have learned since then that proactivity is the best approach. It is not enough to simply wait for the next great job. I need to get out there and make things happen, which is where this quote fits with my approach to networking.

 Hello (2)

My first job after completing my PhD was the result of a simple hello, although on that occasion the first hello wasn’t mine. My supervisor introduced me to a researcher who’s manager was looking for new staff with the kinds of experience I had. The second time I met the same researcher it was up to me to reconnect, start a conversation, and establish that I really was a suitable candidate for the position. A few months later, after the standard written application and phone interview, I was standing at Sydney airport waiting for a plane to England and my exciting new life in biomedical research.

Since returning to Australia I have taken the daunting but incredibly rewarding step of changing my career path. I now work in learning and development, encouraging and supporting others to be their best. Many of the professional connections I have in my new field are virtual, having their origin in the social media platforms like Twitter. The benefits of these connections are the same as those that started face-to-face in the coffee queue at a conference, but they are nurtured differently. I will write about online presence and its impact on career in a separate post.

Here, I would like to share just one example of connection and benefit from that simple ‘hello’ in the online world. Dr Tseen Khoo is one half of the team responsible for Research Whisperer, a popular and well respected blog in the field of academia. A few weeks ago I shared my thoughts on her blogpost via Twitter. Although not strictly a ‘hello’, my comment sparked a request to write a guest post for her blog. I have now met Tseen in person, and in a short time have moved from admiring her work from afar to writing something simple for her blog and knowing that I can chat with her about relevant career issues at any time.

There are opportunities to connect all around us, all the time. Developing my career, whether is it building my current position or securing the next one, depends on taking the right opportunities and making them work for me. So take that first step and say (or email or tweet) ‘hello’. You just never know where that one word could take you.

About guest blogger Julie Preston

Dr Julie Preston coordinates NECTAR, an Early Career Academic/Researcher initiative at The Australian National University.  She is responsible for the delivery and evaluation of programs in which ECR share ideas, build confidence in leadership, develop cross-college networks, and acquire skills and knowledge required to establish a successful teaching and research career.  Julie promotes career development through ownership and self-empowerment. Julie’s academic background is in Immunology and Microbiology.  Her PhD thesis and postdoctoral research investigated mechanisms of Streptococcus pneumoniae infections.

Julie tweets at @julzpreston