Network Your Way Forward

Panel event on networking


On Thursday 18 May, in the enchanting setting of the Sint-Pietersabdij, four outstanding guests, and former postdocs, shared their networking experiences with the postdocs of Ghent University, explaining how networking helped them boosting their careers.

The panel event featured

  • Prof. Dr. Anne De Paepe, member of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, and currently Rector of our University
  • Dr. Kim Heylen, until 2016 postdoc at the Faculty of Sciences, now Sample Coordinator at Biocartis
  • Prof. Dr. Savvas Savvides, first postdoc and now professor at the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology
  • Prof. Dr. Stijn Baert, first postdoc and now professor at the faculty of Economy and Business Administration

and was professionally moderated by Annelies Beck, renown Flemish TV and radio journalist.

For those who couldn’t make it, here are some take-home ideas the participants got from the discussion.

Rector De Paepe encouraged the Postdocs to believe in themselves and be honest, trying not to impress but to present their real self. These are essential preconditions to create a profitable and durable network, which is a framework of relations build on trust.
Practical tips: dare, even as a young researcher, to speak to people who can help you, and invest time in building your network by becoming a member of committees, organisation, scientific associations, …

Kim Heylen pointed out that building a network means working on the long term, small networking seeds planted today may bring a great harvest later. She also stressed the fact that networks should be exploited both directly and indirectly: a contact can always lead to another.
Practical tips: go for lunch, once every week, with a person you do not know well, and don’t hesitate to ask questions; when looking for a non-academic job, contact the company you want to work for at the right level (it is not always the CEO who decides who will get the job!); and, last but not least, mind the jargon, try to understand what companies mean with the jargon they use in their job adverts (and in order to do that, guess what? …exploit your network, ask your contacts!).

Savvas Savides approached the subject from his expat perspective, and encouraged international postdocs to try and get as integrated as possible in the place where they happen to be living, beside of course cultivating their international network.
Practical tips: go to international meetings; while in academia, do not limit yourself to academia but let academia prepare you for the outside world too.

Stijn Baert stressed that there are no general rules for networking and everyone should follow his/her own inclinations and personality when it comes to make and maintain professional contacts. He too encouraged the postdocs to dare and introduce themselves to people they do not know even without go-betweens.
Practical tips: be concrete, offer content when approaching someone, present concrete proposals, real plans, possibilities for collaboration.


Take a look at the pictures!