Networking: Grad School vs. Undergrad

By Allie Caton on June 29, 2017

This article is brought to you by Kaplan, the leader in test prep for over 90 standardized tests, including the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT.

By the end of your senior year in undergrad, you may feel as though you have mastered the art of networking. After four years of practice, you’ve probably built up a pretty good arsenal of networking tools that you are ready to utilize in grad school. However, networking in grad school vs. undergrad can be a whole new ball game.

Networking with your professors in undergrad mostly consists of showing up to office hours. Office hours are a great place to get to know your professor and pick their brain for advice. In grad school, it might be a bit different than just showing up to office hours like you did in undergrad.

Here are a few ideas and suggestions about networking for success in grad school.

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Don’t assume opportunities

In grad school, it’s easy assume that after all the hard work of getting a master’s degree, connections and opportunities will just present themselves to you upon graduation. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you work in school, opportunities aren’t going to just appear to you unless you put in the time to network with professionals in your field. Your professors are the most accessible professionals to you during school, and you should take advantage of their availability.

You and your professors are more alike than you think

Your professors in grad school are your biggest asset. They are your door to the professional world that you are working towards. What’s different about your relationship with your professors in grad school versus undergrad is that you while, yes, you are still their student, you are also much closer to being a real professional. And, in some cases, grad students ARE working in their desired career field while working on their master’s.

You already know the basics of your career field through undergrad, and now you are in grad school to hone in that knowledge. Your professors know that you are well-learned in your field and will treat you as such.

Because the relationship between professor and student in grad school is closer to that of a colleague than teacher/student, your interactions with them will be different. They, of course, are still there to help you learn, but they are also great connections to have as you enter the job world. Instead of meeting them just to go over academic things, take them out for lunch and treat them as you would someone who you are networking with outside of your school. Try to create a real relationship with them because not only are they themselves great connections to have but they might be able to introduce you to their network.

Spread your reach

Imagine how many connections can be made through your professor introducing you to their network that they have been cultivating their entire career. Then imagine how much your network can grow through connecting with the network of multiple professors. Don’t just limit yourself to your own professors — get meetings with professors from all over your campus. Research online to see which professors have relevant experience in your area of interest, and reach out to them. Getting yourself in front of as many different people in your field is the best way to maximize your network.

To take it a step further, research professors at other institutions in your area to reach out to. Shoot them an email and try and schedule a meeting with as many professors outside your institution that are professionals in your field. This provides even more opportunity to make connections, and the professors will likely be impressed with your determination to learn as much as possible about your field of study.

Stretch your comfort zone

Another way to meet professors that aren’t your own is by attending different seminars around campus. Stick around and speak to other students and the professor presenting afterwards — don’t just bolt for the door. If you liked the seminar, go to more than just one and stay behind after each one is over. Show that you really are interested in what the professor has to say — enough to take the time out of your day to go to this seminar more than just once.

When attending events and seminars, follow the 72-hour rule to make sure that you don’t lose any of the connections that you have begun to create. This means reaching out to everyone you talked to at an event within 72 hours. This really shows people that you have initiative and want to have a relationship with them. It also helps remind them of who you are.

Reconnect

Consistency is key — this goes for networking at every stage of your life. Don’t just show up to one day of office hours and then never reach back out. Show consistency by showing up to multiple office hours and staying after class to talk more than once or twice. Once you’ve completed a course, continue to reach out to that professor and schedule time to meet up every few months. Don’t let that connection die just because your classes are different!

Even after you graduate, continue to follow up with your professors through email and face-to-face meetings. Continue to ask them questions, update them on any projects you are working on that they might find interesting, share articles or new information you have learned about the job field with them — anything that you can think of to keep the relationship strong and lasting.

Networking is about consistency. It might feel like you are annoying your professors to death with all of your emails and meeting requests, but at the end of the day it shows that you really care about cultivating a strong connection with them.

Learn more about Kaplan’s test prep options and start building the confidence you need for Test Day.

By Allie Caton

Uloop Writer
Allie is a creative at heart. She loves to draw and fawns over comic book illustrations and animation. She hopes to be able to use the skills she has cultivated as a Communications major to bring value to the creative industry. Her goal is to one day work somewhere where she can be around creatives while utilizing her writing and illustration skills.

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