10 Tips for Networking While You’re in Graduate School

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Updated: February 29, 2024, Reading time: 8 minutes

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In the professional world, knowing the right people is crucial for your success. However, in graduate school, you need to balance your time between earning a degree, getting social support, and building connections. This makes networking while in graduate school an incredibly taxing job. 

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Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Why Do Graduate Students Need Networking?

When career opportunities do not knock immediately after earning a master’s degree, you need to go out of your way and find the opportunities yourself. Networking, in this scenario, plays a pivotal role! 

It opens a world of opportunities for you. 

Networking while in graduate school is crucial because it helps create opportunities for you. It can help you advance in your career. It can provide you with new insights on critical topics. It can help you find solutions to complex problems. More importantly, it can give you a competitive edge over the competition. 

It’s an investment.

Investing in building beneficial and long-term connections with the right people may not offer an immediate return but can pay off big time in the long run. Planting networking seeds early on during your graduate studies helps you build a list of contacts, including professors, fellow students, and teaching assistants, who can help you one way or the other in the future. They can introduce you to industry professionals and show you other opportunities that are otherwise unavailable to you. 

It develops valuable skills.

Aside from expanding your professional circle, networking can also help students gain valuable skills, including communication, leadership, problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork, qualities that are all indispensable for many employers. This makes you a more well-rounded professional, which can lead to career growth.

It establishes a personal brand and increases visibility.

When you attend social gatherings, you get to interact and engage with other people in your field. This opens a host of opportunities for you to showcase your skills and expertise, as well as establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. As a result, you will have more edge over the competition and more chances of success.

It provides insights into organizations and companies.

Networking with industry leaders allows you to get a closer look at crucial things that make a business successful. These include workplace culture, practices, and processes that impact productivity. 

Networking lets you in on any information that may not be accessible. Building a professional relationship with leaders can teach you a thing or two about how businesses are run, what employers look for in employees, and how challenges are overcome. As a result, you will learn a lot about strategies that can help you overcome any hurdles.

A Guide to Networking While in Graduate School

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Networking is getting your name out there and building connections that you can benefit from in the near future. 

Below are some of the things you can do to build a network while in graduate school.

1. Connect with professors, mentors, and other faculty and staff members.

These individuals know other professionals in the field and can introduce you to them. They may also be able to recommend you for a job or internship opportunity and help you reach your career goals. 

To connect with professors, you need to make an effort to stand out in class. This makes it easier for faculty and staff to remember your name. Make sure to engage actively in class and turn assignments and projects in promptly to lay out the groundwork for the professional relationship you wish to establish with them. 

2. Attend professional development events.

Conferences, workshops, symposiums, and other social gatherings are great opportunities to meet important people in the industry you are in. 

When attending these events, make it a point to sit next to those you have not met before so you can introduce yourself to them. Also, talk to presenters after the symposium or seminar to compliment them and maybe ask for their business cards so you can connect with them, too. 

3. Get involved in student activities at school. 

If you are enrolled at a university near you, you should take advantage of on-campus activities that offer networking opportunities, too. Sign up for school organizations or clubs that interest you to be introduced to people who can help you reach your professional objectives. 

You should also join extracurricular activities, such as fun races, outreach programs, and fundraising events that bring together people from various industries. You can have the chance to join discussions that showcase your skills in a particular subject. The key here is to get involved as much as you can to get your name out there.

4. Search for local industry-aligned organizations.

Take the time to search for industry-aligned organizations in your area that can provide you with the chance to meet people with the same interests as you. By doing so, you will also meet industry leaders who can recommend you to the right people after graduation.

Some students go out of their way to choose a graduate school based on the employment and networking opportunities available. Boston, San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle are some of the cities that are brimming with world-class businesses, cultural events, and nonprofit organizations that can help them advance in their careers. 

5. Keep your online presence active, up-to-date, and professional.

Most networking opportunities nowadays happen online, leveling the playing field for both online and in-person graduate students. However, it’s still important to always put your best foot forward when making connections online and in person. 

To make a good impression on people whom you want to connect with, maintain a professional profile on your social media platforms. Add a tasteful profile photo and cover image and a short but professional description of yourself, highlighting a few of your marketable skills. This will give your online network a better overview of your personality, goals, and abilities, which can attract more people to connect with you. 

6. Maintain a healthy relationship with your connections.

It’s important to stay in touch with the people in your network to let them know that you appreciate them connecting with you. Greeting them on special occasions is one way of maintaining a healthy relationship with them, which makes it easier for you to ask them a favor in the future. 

Constantly communicating with those in your network also makes it easier for people to remember you. When you come across them during events, they will recognize you right away, and they will be more than willing to introduce you to people in their networks. 

7. Be prepared to pitch.

Pitching yourself to others can take a lot of practice to perfect, but it is necessary. Attending social gatherings that are industry-related gives you the opportunity to meet new people whom you can pitch yourself to. Practice to gain the confidence to communicate your skill set, career goals, and any special talents you may have that give you a competitive edge. 

Practicing also ensures that you are able to pitch yourself professionally and respectfully, not sounding like you are bragging to other people. It means you need to identify your strengths and weaknesses, as well as interests, so you can practice the proper way of expressing them to other people. 

8. Print business cards you can give to new connections.

Graduate students should start creating business cards they can give to people they meet. Make sure your business cards have your name and contact details in them to make communication with other people easier. It leaves an impression that you are professional and that you are serious about establishing a professional network with them. 

9. Get to know your connections’ backgrounds even more.

Knowing their names and contact details is not enough to build a healthy, professional connection with other people. If you want to use those networks to reach your career goals in the future, you need to research their background to know them a little better.

If you are looking to land a management role in the company you work for, you need to research the organization and the person’s role thoroughly. Doing so will teach you how you can have a competitive edge and how you can ace your interview with them. 

10. Make follow-ups.

Introducing yourself to other people is one thing, and establishing a strong connection with others is another. So, after the initial introduction, be sure to follow it up by reaching out to your connections through email or chat. Keeping the connection going is crucial to ensure that those people will remember you and recognize you once you meet them during special events again. 

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