Networking in Graduate School: Why and How to Do It

  (Updated December 8, 2021)
Jessica Shaffer
Jessica Shaffer
K-6 Math Instructional Coach and the Summer Enrichment Academy Coordinator; M.A. in Administration, Leadership, Georgian Court University, NJ
A group of diverse students meets in a library.

Opportunity knocks but if it doesn’t, you might need to go out and find it yourself. Networking is a great way to create opportunities in everyday life, and, in graduate school, it is imperative. Not only can it help to advance your career, but it can help you to gain new insights on a variety of topics. It can be exhausting, but it can also help you land a job faster and give you a “competitive edge” over the competition. Investing in your relationships throughout graduate school may not have an immediate return on investment but can pay off dividends in the long run.

Why is Networking in Graduate School Important?

Networking is defined as establishing, building, and maintaining mutually beneficial, long-term relationships with people you meet. Communication is key, and networking will help to develop your communication as well as interpersonal skills. You never know who you might meet that will impact your career and life. You want to increase your professional network to increase your opportunities beyond your degree.

Networking also helps you increase your skillset and learn different tricks of the trade. As lifelong learners, it is important to stay on top of current trends and research to continuing growing. Gaining as much experience as you can not only help to build your resume but also help you to meet others and gain working knowledge. Although many of those you attend graduate school with can potentially be competition for you in the job search, it could be one of those people that gives you an opportunity at some point in your career.

Who Should You Network With?

Classmates, professors, internship advisors, supervisors, and anyone you come across in your graduate school journey may benefit you in the short or long term. It is sometimes hard to look at the big picture when you are in the small bubble of graduate school, but that can set you apart from others.

Classmates can become friends and colleagues at some point in your career, and it is always good to have someone to collaborate with that you know you can trust. Professors can have many connections to other educators to help you in your job search and beyond. Internship advisors can see the motivation and hard work that you put into graduate school and how you apply it in real-world scenarios. Supervisors of departments at colleges or universities can also help network after your degree is completed.

Strategies for Networking in Graduate School 

Get Involved

It is vital to get involved in activities that provide networking opportunities throughout graduate school. You can build many beneficial relationships throughout participating in activities, clubs, seminars, etc. Getting involved in activities outside of the educational field and building your network in other capacities can help grow your career many years in the future.

Reach Out to Professors

Professors have so much more to offer; they are the key to the future. In my experience at graduate school, many of my professors were adjuncts in the field of education as superintendents, principals, and county leaders. I was able to grow my network just by maintaining relationships with my professors as they often have many connections to people and organizations that might be beneficial.

Be Present Online 

You need to make a name for yourself and be present online. Social media is an excellent way to network, and it is important to keep your profile and information up-to-date on sites you may utilize, such as LinkedIn. It is important to use a professional looking photograph, an updated summary, and skills you continue to obtain and develop. You want to give those looking at your professional profile an accurate picture of who you are professionally, a glimpse into your personality, and the abilities and goals you bring to the table.

Be Helpful to Others

To create and maintain effective relationships over time, it is essential to be helpful to those around you. One easy way is to form study groups with others in your graduate classes. You can share your time and knowledge with others and create positive relationships with those around you. Doing this will create a value to others of having a relationship with you. This can be beneficial to you in the long run, as those you helped may be in an advanced position to help you out professionally in the future.

Stay in Touch

Forming valuable relationships and keeping them can be challenging. It can be hard to maintain connections with people even in your personal life, but you want to be unforgettable. Drop an email, a phone call, or a text to those you wish to maintain contact with. Just a simple “How are you doing?” can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and reach out to those you feel keeping a relationship with will mutually benefit you both.

Networking in graduate school isn’t always easy, but the benefit is unparalleled. The more you push yourself, build relationships, and maintain them, the more opportunity you create for yourself in the future. As Dr. Ivan Misner stated, “Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s about cultivating relationships.” As a graduate student, you must cultivate the relationships that will continue to benefit you for years to come.

*Updated December 2021
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