We have funding available for research staff and students, at The University of Sheffield, to support visits to make contact outside of academia, to support their career development. There is up to £500 available for research staff via The Engaging Researcher programme and up to £1000 for PhD students via the PREP scheme. This could, for example, include exploring career options or developing future research collaborations. But how do you find people to connect with and how do you contact them?
It isn’t all about conferences. There are many other ways of finding contacts and engaging with them. Like most things in life, making a plan is a good start.
Firstly, decide on the direction(s) you want to go in and make a list of the kind of people or organisations that would be useful to you in the future.
Secondly, seek out the ones that meet this need by asking your associates, exploring your current networks, checking LinkedIn and using Google etc. People can be indirectly helpful, such as those who have insight into an industry, who may not be able to give you a job but could help you decide if it’s the kind of place you want to work in future. There is a Research Hub Manager in many departments who may be able to suggest local companies, that we already work with, for you to contact.
Thirdly, once you have a list, prioritise it so that you have a shorter list of the ones who would be most useful to you so you can start contacting them. Do further research on the person or organisation, if necessary, to make sure you have the best person to contact and their contact details.
“I believe that collaboration is one of the most important things in any field.” Jonathan Anderson
Next, you need to plan how you will contact them and what you will say. It is important to be clear about why you want to meet them – are you interested in working in that kind of organisation/ looking for a collaboration/ discussing the possible usefulness of your research.
Is there a good time to make contact? Could someone introduce you? Why would they want to talk to you? Asking for a casual meeting such as offering to take them for a coffee can make it less daunting for you and a chance for them to have a break from their routine
Preparing what you are going to say and then practising it out loud can help you to be prepared and come across more confidently. For example
” Hello, my name is xxxx xxxx from the University of Sheffield and I am currently researching xxxxx and this might be of interest to your work at xxxxx. ( OR xxxx xxxx suggested I contact you as this might be of interest to your ) How does next Thursday or Friday work for you? I can meet whenever it is convenient for you and we could have a coffee.”
Don’t forget that if you are discussing your research with an outside organisation you may need a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and Research Services can help you with this.
So what are you waiting for? You have the funding and the know how, so start thinking about how you can help yourself to progress your career through engaging with others outside academia.
“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Carl Jung