We all know how important networking is and how it can help us jump-start a career or even land that dream job. This week I want to discus a few keys ways to get the most out of your networking abilities in graduate school:
Connect with your classmates
Your classmates are your #1 source for networking opportunities. Many think that professors or meet-and-greets with executives are the most beneficial, but it’s your classmates who will be your foundational network for the remainder of your career.
So connect with yourclassmates: get to know them, connect on LinkedIn and begin building meaningful relationships. These are the people you eat, sleep and study with for the next two, three or even four years. You will learn everything about these people as you experience the stressful but extremely rewarding experience of attending a graduate program. Furthermore, your classmates will come from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and professions, making your classmate network more powerful than you can imagine.
Connect with Professors
While I believe that connecting with classmates is vital, it is also important to reach out and get to know your professors. I discussed the importance of finding a specific professor as a mentor a few weeks ago, which should be part of your networking goals as well. One of the easiest ways to connect with your professors is to hang around after class and talk to them, even if it’s for five minutes – don’t under estimate the power of putting a face to a name! Also, feel free to e-mail them or request office hour visits in order to connect on more of a person-to-person level, rather than a professor-to-student level.
Attend Networking Events, Professional Speakers, etc.
One of the benefits of attending graduate school is the amount of networking opportunities offered on a weekly, or even daily, basis. At Northwestern, there are professional speakers or networking events every other day! Take full advantage of these events. While you may not have the opportunity to sit down and talk with the professional speaker on a one to one level, you’ll have the chance to learn from his or her speech, as well as the chance to exchange contact information. Attending these events gives you a “foot-in-the-door” approach to following up with that individual, and potentially expanding your network in the future.
Overall, I think many graduate students put too much emphasis on finding networking contacts outside of their school or specific program. Remember- the most important contacts and opportunities are sitting right next to you!