I’ve mentioned it plenty of times in previous blog posts, but I thought it was time to write a full post specifically about networking. Some students love it, some students hate it, but all students need it. Plenty of benefits come when people network, including contacts with professional people in your area and potentially around the country (depending on where your contacts move), support during grad school and beyond, links to potential employers, and head starts on job hunting at career fairs.
Fellow Graduate Students
During your time as a graduate student, you’ll find that you tend to be in classes with the same people from semester to semester. The people studying the same industry and same field as you will be going through similar experiences and will be job searching at the same time, too. Connecting with your classmates early in your graduate career gives you a support system throughout your grad years and gives you connections for helping to find jobs after graduation. You can also network through graduate mixers; I know they don’t sound extremely exciting, but try to focus on what mixers give, which are opportunities to have new contacts and networks with people who you might not otherwise meet. You can also think outside of academia, such as connecting with coworkers at relevant internships and part-time jobs throughout grad school. This writer even mentioned that activities, such as academic organizations and honor societies are great ways to meet people in your field.
Employers at Career Fairs
Career fairs are a great place to find potential employers and talk to them about becoming part of their team. Universities like to host diverse career fairs, so there are plenty of opportunities to find what you’re looking for, such as internships, part-time jobs, or full-time jobs. Give yourself plenty of time to organize for the career fair. For instance, you’ll want to scan through the list of employers who will be there, make a list of the ones you want to visit, email a few that you are most interested in to let them know that you would like to speak with them at the fair, research those companies, and have more than enough copies of your resume and/or CV. There are a few more career fair tips in an article from TARGETjobs, so peruse this resource as much as possible while preparing for your next career fair.
Professionals in Your Field
So how do you network with people you look up to in your field but might be too nervous to approach right now? Sometimes, universities host conferences or talks that include a number of professionals from a specific field; whether you admire these professionals or have never heard of them, you might feel nervous to talk to them after their presentation. Don’t let your nerves get the best of you and give you an excuse to miss out on a potentially great conversation and good connection to your field of study. Depending on how often field professionals visit your university, you might only have one chance to meet them, so you need to be prepared. Make sure you know enough about the professionals and their works to strike up a conversation about them and the field. Have plenty of questions organized for professionals you want to talk to, and prepare a quick synopsis of who you are, what you’re working on, and what you plan to do in the future. Also, visit this blog from Naturejobs to get some other great tips about how to approach top-notch professionals in your field.
A good rule of thumb when trying to network more is to meet new people on a regular basis. It might be a good idea to have a goal set for yourself at the beginning of the semester to meet and get to know a new person every week or two. That way, you can know plenty of people who can help create a good community of support as well as a number of people to remember you for any future positions they need to help fill. What are your favorite ways to network with people in your field? Were you as uncomfortable as you thought you would be in talking and meeting with other people?