Communication to build a network

Building and maintaining networks can be a really important part of a career in science. It can help you to secure a job, build relationships with potential collaborators, or increase your profile within a particular field.

Methods of networking can vary considerably, however, at its core networking is about communication. As with all communication activities, you need to consider the purpose, the audience, and the genre (in this case the genre will be an event, conference, meetings, or online conversations).

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Considering self-presentation is really important when it comes to networking. You will often only have brief interactions with people at networking events so it’s essential that your first impression is one that you want people to remember. Your appearance, handshake, and attentiveness when someone else is speaking will all form part the image you present to people.

When considering what to talk about, particularly when you’re searching for a job, you should try to talk about your interests, your expertise, or areas of work where you want more experience. While it’s perfectly normal to chat about topics not related to your work, to get the most out of your networking efforts you should try to limit the amount of time you spend talking about your personal life or the amusing things your dog did on the weekend.

Use the opportunity of being in a room full of knowledgeable people to learn about what they do and how things work. Networking should be a learning experience—make your questions count.

Types of networks

Similar to friendship groups, you will find that rather than having one large network, you will have multiple small networks that have a different focus and result in different interactions. For example, you may have group of contacts that focus on science communication, another group with a focus on your specific field of expertise, and another made up of colleagues at work. Each type of network will offer different opportunities and may use different methods of communication.

Think outside the box

Your networking activities don’t just have to focus on your field of expertise. It can be refreshing, and sometimes rewarding, to network with people completely outside of your field. Cross-disciplinary organisations (e.g. Women in Technology, Australian Science Communicators) can not only help you to broaden your network but also develop your ability to communicate with people outside of your field.

Networking for job opportunities

If you’re searching for a job, you may feel disappointed if you leave a networking event without anyone discussing job opportunities. It’s important to remember that networks take time to build and need ongoing attention to get the most out of them.

Try to relax at networking events and, rather than constantly thinking about finding a job, use the opportunity to meet people and connect with them. Most importantly, you need to continue to attend events and build relationships with the regular attendees. Job offers will only appear if you put some effort into talking with people and building relationships.

If you’ve met someone at a networking event that you think would be good to work with, you can easily follow up with an email and politely ask if they have any job opportunities.

Experienced science employers recommend using business cards at networking events. Even if you’re still a student, a simple business card with your name, contact details, skills, and LinkedIn URL can help to keep you in touch with someone you meet at an event.

Useful links

How to network effectively
The Cheeky Scientist
Networking for scientists

Getting help at UQ

Guide to networking (requires UQ login)

The UQ Student Employability Centre hosts workshops on networking and improving your LinkedIn profile.

Browse or search the UQ Careers events page for more details.

Social media for networking

Social media can allow you to easily build a professional networks, but maintaining these networks will take some effort—the more you put in the more you will get in return. It’s important to recognise that different social media platforms attract different types of users and will be used for different purposes. You may find that you need to maintain a few different accounts to engage with a range of networks.

You can use any platform to build a network but for scientists Twitter and LinkedIn are good options for science-related networks.


Twitter is used by many scientists to promote their own work or share information relevant to a specific field. Although Twitter can be a great source of news and useful information, depending on how many people you follow, Twitter feeds can get a bit overwhelming.

While some people are prolific tweeters, others only drop by occasionally when they have something important to share. It’s up to you how much you choose to interact with people on Twitter but just remember that you don’t need to interact with all the posts that are available to you. Yes, you need to interact to build your network but don’t spend all your time scrolling through your feed.

To build and maintain a professional network on twitter:

  • follow people in your field
  • follow relevant hashtags
  • follow relevant conferences and conference hashtags
  • comment on posts and ask questions
  • create posts that highlight your work, projects, or fields that interest you.

Useful links

UQ Digital Essentials: Personal learning networks and using Twitter

Twitter and scientists – a love story

List of Australian scientists on Twitter

Scientific Twitter accounts to get you started


LinkedIn is a combination of a networking and job-seeking platform. Unlike twitter, LinkedIn gives you the ability to create a profile that highlights your previous work history and experience, which can be made available to potential employers.

LinkedIn allows you to connect with colleagues and maintain connections if you move to another workplace. Users will post work-related articles, milestones, or upcoming conferences, etc. LinkedIn also has a groups feature which can be useful to follow field-specific information and find new contacts.

Useful links

UQ Digital Essentials: Building online networks and using LinkedIn

LinkedIn for students


Networking events organised by professional associations or industry groups are good opportunities to begin building your network. Compared to conferences, these events are generally small, so you may find it easier to interact with people and have more meaningful conversations.

Making connections

Try to move around the room as much as possible at networking events. Short, meaningful conversations with as many people as possible will grow your network much more effectively than if you get stuck in a group of people.

Keep an eye out for people standing by themselves or in pairs. These people are much easier to interact with and are probably hoping someone will introduce themselves and start a conversation.

Get involved

You may want to consider joining the committee of a local professional association or volunteer to help at events. This can prove to be a very efficient way of becoming known among all of the members.

Browse the clubs, societies, and not-for-profit organisations in the CLIPS Skills & Experience Module to find organisations relevant to your field.

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Scientific conferences can provide great networking opportunities with other researchers or people working in your scientific field. However, conference schedules are usually fairly busy so it’s best to do some preparation before you arrive at the conference.

Preparing to network at a conference

To maximise your networking opportunities at a conference, you should:

  • Research the people attending to the conference and identify a few people you would like to meet
  • Consider contacting people before the conference (breaking the ice) and request a meeting/coffee
  • Check if they use social media—you can often begin interacting with other people quite easily through twitter
  • Have a reason for meeting someone (e.g. interested in collaboration, angling for a job, or discussing aspects of their work).

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Poster sessions for networking

If you’re a new graduate and you’re going to your first scientific or industry conference, presenting a poster on your work or research is an excellent way to engage with a wide range of people attending the conference.

The poster presentation format takes some of the awkwardness out of introductions. During the poster sessions people will be approaching you to learn more about your work. This not only gives you an opportunity to introduce yourself but also a chance to learn the names and backgrounds of other people at the conference.

For more information on presenting a poster, visit the CLIPS Poster module.

If you’re not presenting a poster, use the opportunity to talk to people that are presenting posters. You will meet new people and improve your conversational skills.

Following conferences through social media

Conference organisers and attendees will often use social media (particularly Twitter) to talk about upcoming sessions and key points of conference talks. Even if you can’t make it to a conference in person, you can learn a lot from following the hashtags related to the conference.

These posts about the conference will allow you to interact with other scientists online and begin to build relationships with key people in your industry.

The Royal Society of Chemistry even runs a poster competition through Twitter. Participants enter the competition by using the #RSCposter hashtag.
More information: RSC Twitter Poster Competition

Useful links

Get the most out of attending conferences
Networking for scientists
10 tips for networking at scientific conferences
Make the most of a scientific conference


Meetings are a common feature of most scientific workplaces but the communication skills and expectations for each meeting can vary considerably. For example, some meetings require formal agendas with presentations, whereas others may simply be a relaxed coffee with colleagues and supervisors.

Science graduates entering the workplace will generally attend meetings with colleagues or supervisors, who will provide guidance on what is expected. Regardless of the type of meeting, you should always arrive well-prepared.

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Be prepared for meetings

Setting the time/date
Many organisations use a calendar system that allows an individual’s calendar to be shared with other staff, and makes scheduling a meeting much easier. However, when staff outside an organisation are involved, tools such as doodle poll can be helpful for the scheduling process.

Responding to meeting invitations
Always respond to meeting invitations. This allows the meeting organisers to manage the venue and catering requirements.

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Read the agenda before you arrive
Reading the agenda before the meeting will allow you to consider the topics in advance. It will also allow you to prepare or make notes where you think you will be required to contribute.

Bring any required information
If there are items on the agenda where you need to provide information to the attendees, ensure that you have prepared in advance. If you need to provide handouts, ensure that each attendee has access to a copy.

Research the attendees
Researching the attendees isn’t always necessary but it can helpful to learn about a person’s skills and experience, particularly if there is an opportunity to network at the meeting. Having some background knowledge of where a person works and what they do will allow you to think of questions or talking points.

Networking at meetings
Meetings can also provide excellent networking opportunities before and after the meeting, generally during the provided morning/afternoon tea or lunch. Use these networking opportunities to get to know people outside of your workplace. There’s a good chance that these people could be a potential employer or collaborator in the future.


If you’re new to the workplace, you may not need to contribute to a meeting, but you may need to introduce yourself in front of the group. This is often the case when the meeting includes people from different departments or other companies. Sometimes people won’t be expecting to introduce themselves to the group and can look a bit clumsy if caught off-guard. If you’re not great at thinking on your feet, prepare and practice an introduction for meetings.

Your introduction doesn’t need to be too detailed but it should contain enough information that the people in the group know who you are and what you do. Your introduction will need to be adjusted depending on the people attending the meeting, but try to keep the scientific jargon to a minimum and get straight to the point.

Things to consider for introductions:

  • Your name
  • Your role/position
  • Your company/department
  • Your project

Chairing meetings

If you get the opportunity to chair a meeting, there a few things to consider to ensure the communication stays on topic and the meeting runs smoothly.

  1. Stick to the agenda
  2. Meetings will often fail to achieve an objective or run over time if the agenda is not followed.

  3. Keep people on topic
  4. Sometimes people will have a lot to say on certain topics. As the chair, it’s important to try to limit the amount of time a person speaks, particularly if they’re repeating themselves or going off-topic.

  5. Keep introductions brief
  6. If you need to provide an introduction for a guest speaker, make sure that you’ve prepared a short but interesting introduction for the speaker.

Useful resources

Chairing a meeting
Introducing a speaker