Lessons from my truly electric network | AUA Blog

Zunnaira Shabbir
Project Assistant, School of Biological Sciences
University of Manchester

Networking is an odd phrase. I imagine a network in the sense of an electric grid: wires connecting power houses to provide us with electricity that is so pivotal to modern life. This translates to the connections and acquaintances we make in the world of work to make us all stronger, happier and more productive.

This January I decided I was going to extend my network. I began by first meeting various members of staff within our department. This was fairly easy. I simply asked colleagues who I didn’t work with but bumped into fairly often if they had ten minutes to spare. I learnt about various roles, how the department runs as well as training courses that would be beneficial to my role.

I then took networking a step further. I emailed ten colleagues within the University of Manchester, each with a senior position across a range of departments who I had never met before. Rather unexpectedly all ten of my potential meets arranged to meet up! I was both surprised and incredibly grateful that every person who I wanted to connect with was willing to give me their time (a very precious commodity!).

Below are the three most important lessons (in no particular order) that I learnt:

  1. You just have to ask

People are more than happy to meet up. I believe this is a culture not only linked to the University of Manchester, but a general philosophy nationwide amongst administrators. We all have a great deal to learn from each other, and often being asked is a privilege in itself.

2. There is no such thing as a set career path

Every person I have met has had different experiences and worked in a range of departments. There is no set career path to success. Often, people just got involved. This may have been through a new project, volunteering at an event, or like myself through meeting with people and learning of new opportunities. I believe that`s what it comes down, just navigating through to activities you enjoy the most.

3. Positivity is your most valuable asset

Every person I met was incredibly positive. All were proud of their work, excited of projects happening within the university and the upcoming developments within their fields. I believe this positivity is pivotal to each of our own journeys in our professional lives. It`s this quality that makes even the most mundane tasks exciting, and it`s this excitement and drive that generates results.

Final thoughts

I think I’d like to redefine the meaning of network. It is rather the collective learning and collaboration between us, as an organisation. We are social creatures by nature and often, by creating links with those around us, we can go on to accomplish great things together. We all want to be on the grid, so I guess it all comes down to making the first move.

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