Networking is no longer something only business leaders do over lunch or when quaffing after-work drinks and is increasingly important to teaching professionals. Our top three networking tips are:
- Go to union meetings and education-related events
- Build connections with your schools of interest
- Make time for networking
How to network in education.
Whether you’re just starting your education career or looking for a more senior role, it's vital to understand how networking can help you to achieve your goals.
Stellar qualifications, a strong CV and your own natural charm will only take you so far in today’s highly competitive teaching job market. To help you reach the next level you need a solid professional network. To do that you should see contact building and developing personal contacts as a rewarding and enjoyable part of your job and remember: you never know what doors your contacts could open.
First, think about where you would like to see your career develop and think of networks in those areas. Nurture these connections over time so that they grow stronger and begin to multiply, the more contacts you have the more likely one will bear fruit. Don’t forget that you, in turn, may be able to offer reciprocal help to benefit others’ professional growth.
Take a look at our top three tips in more detail:
Go to union meetings and education-related events.
If you are a new teacher looking for that all-important first step on the ladder, there is no better way to start thinking and acting like one than by joining your union and regularly attending meetings. This will put you into contact with other teachers with their career’s worth of connections – a potential fast-track to information and experience that might just make a difference.
Whether you’re a graduate or an ambitious teaching professional, the more teachers you can count among your network of contacts, the better. Try to attend out-of-work events, which present an excellent opportunity to meet future-focused teachers and can be the forum for relevant news about departmental change or of a forthcoming vacancy at a school which you can then target for further networking.
As a new-starter, the contacts you meet will recognise that you are interested in teaching and education issues. They will be able to help with job-hunting advice and may be able to arrange a visit to their school – a great opportunity to build a network.
Build connections with your schools of interest.
The more connections you have to a school, the more likely it is that you will be a desirable candidate for a teaching position there.
Put yourself in the position of the hiring panel at a school who have to choose between two candidates with identical qualifications. One of them has successfully filled in an application form and arrived on time for their interview. Meanwhile, the second candidate was originally asked to visit the school through a teacher they met at a community education event. They showed great enthusiasm for the local area, for the school and department, even for the extra-curricular science club – and went on to work as a responsible and dedicated substitute teacher at the school, which is how they heard about the job in the first place.
Make time for networking.
If you want to reap the benefits, you can’t put networking on the back-burner. One idea is to dedicate time each week to networking. That time provides reciprocal insight into the world of education and allows for the sharing of new methods and potential opportunities.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that networking is all about face-to-face contacts. The digital world provides us with all the tools, channels and communities we need to create a PLN – a Professional Learning Network – where contacts and relationships span the divide between real and virtual.
Every teacher needs a PLN – a vibrant, fluid group of connections to whom you can go either to learn or to share. Nowadays, a network will include close personal contacts, maybe respected figures on Twitter or online forums, plus members of professional organisations and communities such as LinkedIn groups - individuals who share your values, interests and areas of expertise.
Now is the time to start planting the seeds of a more effective professional network.