(If you caught that musical reference right away, score yourself a point. If you have any hints for your fellow readers that won’t give it away, right it down in the comments at the bottom.)
But seriously. For our readers who have recently joined the grad school community, in all likelihood you have tailored your experiences to boost your chances of being accepted into your program—you’ve been an RA in a research lab, you’ve volunteered helping peers, etc. Welcome to the show. For the rest of you who have been here for a while, you (we) have likely had several thoughts about what comes next – we’re all just slightly different distances away from beginning a career.
In our posts this month, we’ve been exploring professional development options. Amanda wrote on an excellent Queen’s resource, Expanding Horizons, and both Sharday and Jeremy reported on the new MyGradSkills.ca website that is geared toward helping graduate students build skills they need to be successful during their studies and on the job market. We typically learn the staple tasks for developing an academically oriented career in the first couple of years of grad school– get teaching experience (through TA- or TFships), work on publications, get presentation experience. A more advanced skill that helps both create these developmental opportunities and translate them into career prospects is the art of networking. In this post you’ll read a bit about networking.
MyGradSkills.ca doesn’t have a module dedicated to networking, although it makes mention of networking in its “Academic and Professional Communication for New Researchers” module, and Expanding Horizons offers opportunities for getting yourself out there, right here in Kingston. Socializing is something that comes naturally to some, and it is certainly an asset in the art of networking. But, although socializing and networking overlap in the sense that they involve interacting, anyone who has focused specifically on networking has found that effective networking involves a lot more. I just returned from a large annual conference for my field, where it was interesting to observe different networking strategies. There were those to who used the conference as an avenue to present their research to others, and there were those who used their research as an avenue to present their skills to others.
There is a plethora of websites devoted to providing tips on effective networking (like, here and here for general tips, and here for tips at conferences). One thing that they all seem to have in common is acknowledging that networking is an active endeavour. In the academic world, we are surrounded by people who can help us with our career – our professors, their collaborators, fellow students, and community workers. Take the opportunity to introduce yourself and, instead of waiting to be chosen, ask for opportunities.
Whether you’re shooting for a position in academia or looking for a career outside of academia, networking is a fundamental instrument you’re going to need in your toolbox.
Before we close off our month dedicated to professional development, we would be remiss if we didn’t say a little more about our homegrown and invaluable resources at Queen’s Career Services. You can cruise the Career Services website for tips, news on upcoming workshops, and other resources designed specifically to help you prepare for post-graduate employment. You can also make an appointment to speak with a Career Services staff member to get advice on what to do next in your job search or to discuss your specific plans.
Pass us over any thoughts you have on this post, using the comments section below. Perhaps it reminds you of a personal networking experience (if you share one of your disasters, I’ll share one of mine). Perhaps you used to struggle with networking and found a way of overcoming your hesitance. And maybe you have found or developed some resources that you think could help – even just one other person in the same boat as you. All comments are welcomed. Thanks for reading.