Many reclusive graduate students are terrified of the concept of networking, and desperately seek any networking tips that they can get. Even though they know and understand that networking is crucial to their success as academics, many graduate students avoid opportunities to network with other professionals in their fields, perhaps because they don’t understand what networking is or how to go about it. We can eliminate confusion about, as well as offer you networking tips about what networking is by defining networking as a process of developing a web of professional and academic relationships and contacts that are mutually beneficial to all parties and that can be used to further various types of agendas (e.g., academic, professional, personal, etc.). We would like to emphasize that networking is a constantly evolving process that requires time, effort, and forethought; you cannot network effectively if you only attend one academic function in your entire career as a graduate student. Rather, networking is a process in which you will engage not only in your academic career as a graduate student but also in your postgraduate career as a professional, whether or not that career is in academia. If you are unsure how to go about the process of networking, the following are some networking tips to help you get started:
Learn about people.
Remember people’s names, and google them to familiarize yourself with their work. Be polite and courteous when you meet someone new, and invest time in developing relationships with people you meet.
Develop your interpersonal communication skills.
Remember to shut up and listen sometimes. Do not interrupt someone when he or she is talking. Learn and practice active listening, and demonstrate that you have actively listened to someone else’s conversation by asking intelligent questions.
Do not expect to get something for nothing. Be willing to give something in return if you have asked someone else for a favor.
Prepare for networking opportunities.
Choose some talking points in advance of networking opportunities. Practice those talking points as well as greetings and farewells, which are often the most difficult parts of conversations. Engage in rituals to calm yourself and to boost your self-esteem (e.g., taking several slow, deep breaths, talking positively to yourself in your mirror, etc.).
These networking tips are sometimes the hard to do because graduate students have very little time; they don’t have the time to reciprocate favors or do additional research on people or companies. Unfortunately you will have to make the time and improve your own time management skills if you want to make the connections that are so critical for success.