“So, What Do You Do?” 5 Ways to Build an External Reputation | AUA Blog

Martha Horler | Programme Manager | Manchester Metropolitan University

How many times have you been told the importance of networking? I am guessing it happens at many training sessions. How often have you cringed inside at the thought of going up to someone at a conference and trying to introduce yourself? I have, many times. The frequently given advice on looking at delegate lists to identify people you want to talk to seems too pre-planned, and forcing your business cards on people just seems too forward.

All of this advice comes from a helpful place, as we all know that forming connections with others in our profession is a great way to learn and find out what is going on in the sector. Surely, there must be a better way of doing it for those of us that do not want to start stalking conference delegates?

A couple of years ago I started a role in the Student and Curriculum Data team at Manchester Met, and it made me realise how much I enjoyed working with data. Strangely, I discovered this was something that not everyone liked doing, and I started to get requests for help from many of my colleagues. I realised that this could become area of expertise, and might be a good way of building my reputation. Over the course of the last 2 years, I have come a long way, and I would like to share some of the things I have learnt.

  • Think about what you are known for. What do people ask you about? What have you worked on that really motivated you to get involved? Is there something happening in the sector that you know a lot about?
  • Set up your social media accounts – not all of them will be suitable for you; it depends on how you like to connect. Twitter is great for conversations; LinkedIn is great for articles. Start following people that interest you. Think about blogging – choose a social media handle/username carefully as it may be hard to change later once you have people following you.
  • Think about personal or career branding. There are articles online1 as well as courses2 you can do on this subject. This can be taken as far as you are comfortable with but if nothing else, think about how you can better respond to that age-old question – “So, what do you do?” Try answering with something more than just your job title.
  • Get involved. Once you have spent time thinking and reading, you should be ready to start contributing. Contact the AUA about conference sessions, events or writing opportunities. Contribute to online discussions; get active on your social media accounts. Contact people at other Universities when you hear about interesting projects they are working on – ask to go and visit them.

There is no single way of networking and building connections. Find out what methods you are comfortable with, but try to stretch yourself sometimes. Making connections in the sector can open up so many opportunities for development, and it can be fun. However, if none of the above works for you, you can always go back to delegate stalking!