Networking 101

These days, we've grown used to first learning about the major events in our friends' lives through social media – or at least knowing that sooner or later every major event will make it to your feed. Not many of us probably know, though, that this also works for professional life – for instance, you will more likely find your next position via Twitter than on specialized job platforms. 

A professional network involves every work-related connection that you have (not necessarily people you know personally) and ideally brings you new opportunities, ideas for projects, potential collaborators, and even new job positions.

Credit: Austin Distel (@austindistel) on Unsplash

Credit: Austin Distel (@austindistel) on Unsplash

Communities rule the world

Lifehack number one for any young researcher, in my humble opinion, is to join several online research communities and follow their feeds for a while simply to get the gist of what's making the core of informal chats and discipline-wide discussions. It is a much more user-friendly way than delving into actual peer-reviewed articles (though you should absolutely do that, too!) because it allows you to get to know a little about many different topics at once.

Where to look for communities:

  • Twitter: surprising as it might sound, Twitter is very popular among world-class scientists – legend has it, it all goes back to this article that linked the number of citations to tweets. Later, naturally, it was proven to be slightly off but the Twitter habit really stuck. To start off, you can simply search Twitter for your broad field of interest and see what comes up. You are likely to find labs or single researchers – see who they follow, who comments on their tweets, what they retweet, but also notice their research areas. Try to find what interests you and follow these accounts.

  • Reddit:  this one might be obvious, but it is also probably the internet's biggest discussion board. I've found this subreddit moderated by researchers – conveniently, with links to related communities. Granted, Reddit is not necessarily the place you'd find useful connections, but it will definitely verse you in the lingo and relevant issues of your field.

  • Medium: my personal discovery of the past year is Paradigm, as they seem to cover every possible topic I am interested in, from neuroscience to robotics and space exploration. But generally Medium seems to be a popular platform for blogs on science and related topics (see this one and this one for more neuroscience). It's hard to generalize what you can find there but let's call it inspiration and, probably, awe.

  • Telegram: including this one tentatively, for I don't have very much experience with English content there, but the Russian science chats and channels that I follow have brought me countless benefits already – from conferences and workshops to mentor programs. So I'd say you should give it a go and search Telegram for your research topics, too. Chances are you'll stumble on a personal blog or a public channel that can be of use.

  • LinkedIn: sadly, unavailable in Russia, but popular all over the world, this platform is your go-to for professional connections of any kind. Find top scientists and research centers there to keep track of their activities. 

Credit: Jeremy Bezanger (@unarchive) on Unsplash

Credit: Jeremy Bezanger (@unarchive) on Unsplash

Taking the next step

After following your resource of choice for a while, you are likely to find labs with topics that intrigue you the most. The next logical step is to see the people behind interesting projects by studying the lab's official page (and there usually is a regularly updated one). Some likely places for personal profiles are ResearchGate and You can also create accounts there to follow those who inspire you and publish your own research papers. In my experience, though, these platforms are not often up to date and the most relevant information is still up on scientists’ own personal webpages or the good old Twitter. 

You can not only follow your top labs or researchers on Twitter but also sign up to their RSS and newsletters, so you most definitely learn first about any internships’ opportunities or open positions there. Keeping track of their projects will also ensure that you can better explain your motivation to join the lab or collaborate with them, as well as give you the background to phrase in-depth questions to the team at the next conference you attend (which is also a great networking tip).

Credit: Solen Feyissa (@solenfeyissa) on Unsplash

Credit: Solen Feyissa (@solenfeyissa) on Unsplash

Conferences, courses, summer schools and more

Speaking of conferences and other opportunities, it is rather common for friendly research centers to promote each other's events, so your newly created network is very likely to introduce you to a much wider circle of collaborators and projects. All of those are your opportunities to grow from a follower into an active participator in your field of interest. The more you interact with those you follow by asking relevant comments or taking part in their workshops and schools, as well as presenting your work at conferences, the more chances you have to be noticed and recognized. Who knows, it can be of help when you apply for a job or an internship at the lab.

Credit: NeONBRAND (@neonbrand) on Unsplash

Credit: NeONBRAND (@neonbrand) on Unsplash

Something to take home

Networking in research can include following the blogs, treads, Twitter accounts, or websites of labs and researchers that conduct cutting-edge studies in your field of interest. First, this can help you keep track of the most relevant issues and find inspiration for your own projects. Second, it is a great way to find the opportunities you might not have had access to otherwise – from online schools to collaborations or job positions. Third, step by step, maybe without even noticing it, you yourself will become an active member of a world-wide community of researchers, a voice to be heard and a partner to collaborate with. 

The one step you can do today is choosing any of the platforms that you like and finding one or two pages or communities to follow. Spend at least 15 minutes on it and see where it takes you. Good luck on your journey to success