Just Ask: How to build your industry network

Posted on: 15 March 2024 by Hazel Kennedy (Number of words: 311; Read time: 1 minute, 30 seconds) in Blog posts

Portrait of Hazel Kennedy
Hazel Kennedy

Hazel Kennedy, External Engagement Manager at the University of Liverpool Management School, discusses how to build your industry network.

Part of my role as External Engagement Manager is about supporting academic colleagues by brokering fruitful introductions to non-academic contacts, for example, leaders and policy-makers in the private, public and third-sector.  It’s incredibly satisfying when my team’s ‘match-making’ efforts between industry and academia result in a positive outcome, whether that’s enhancing student experience and employability, leading to a Knowledge Exchange opportunity or building a relationship where a collaborative research project benefits both sides. 

Relationship investment 

It’s all about building the relationship and, most importantly, the trust.  So, as brokers of beneficial introductions, my team’s relationship with the practitioner is not the key one: it’s our practitioner and academic protagonists that must invest in this. 

Many academic colleagues are comfortable and successful at seeking and establishing links with stakeholders from non-academic groups themselves.  By investing in those relationships, colleagues build their network of trusted, go-to people who are ready to engage on opportunities whether that’s simply out of goodwill or for mutually-beneficial gain.   

Go direct 

Other colleagues, particularly those who are relatively early in their academic careers, may not feel as confident in approaching potential contacts (the off-putting ‘cold call’ scenario). But here’s the thing: be bold and ask directly yourself. 

My team is often tasked with finding practitioner contacts and we regularly reach out to potential stakeholders on behalf of our colleagues. Whilst that can be a warmer and more palatable introduction, the benefits of going direct are that you’ll:  

  1. Target the most suitable prospects for your area of specialism/project
  2. Provide better context from the outset
  3. Start to build the relationship (NB. be mindful of your responsiveness)
  4. More quickly understand the practitioner’s motivations for engagement
  5. Be able to bring in other colleagues earlier to the discussions
  6. More effectively grow your network of go-to people, ready for that future funding bid or research collaboration

Good luck! 

Hazel is delivering a workshop as part of Making an Impact 2024 to support researchers in developing industry contacts for mutually beneficial collaborations. 'A guide to industry contacts for ECRs and PGRs' is taking place on 5th June 2024, 14:00-15:00 BST in person at the University of Liverpool. Find out more and reserve your place here:


About the author

Hazel Kennedy is External Engagement Manager at the University of Liverpool Management SchoolWith experience of working with the academic-, public-, private- and third sectors she provides the gateway between academic and non-academic audiences, leading a team responsible for delivering activities to support researchers, students and practitioners.