Networking: Investment for Your Future
Life as a graduate student should not just be about going to classes and writing essays. I have discovered that it is also essential to pursue activities to expand your network while you are exposed to a new environment with thousands of opportunities. Networking is socializing with people, but with a sense of purpose instead of just chit chatting. The purpose is to cultivate strong relationships with those who might help you in your future career.
Start with those in your major
Conduct your own research to know your classmates. While getting to know them, it’s great to discuss their background and experiences, their research topic interest, and future career paths that they consider. Always remember that in addition to being your current study buddies and your support system, your classmates can be the source of any information (related to your field) that you may need in the future.
It might be exhausting to try to talk with them all, even for me as an extrovert. In the first one or two weeks, I tried to get to know everyone from my year. However, after you get to talk to most of them, you can take the time to develop a stronger connection with those with the most similar interests, such as those in your major.
You will also find new friends from activities outside of the classroom, such as cafeteria, library, or various clubs and activities. In my experience, I enjoyed finding a new friend from joining open trips of hiking on weekend, or even through the occasional trips to the local bars.
Be proactive with professors
One of the privileges of studying abroad is having the chance to interact with great professors and learn from them.
It would be great if you can do your own research on which professors you want to talk to. Since you are the student of the campus, do not be shy to reach out to any professor, even if you are not currently in their class. Email them first and ask convenient time for a meeting in their office. In that email, introduce yourself and tell them clearly what you are interested in and what you want to discuss in your meeting.
If there are professors who have worked in the same field as the one you are interested in, or has research experiences in Indonesia, reaching out to them would be a good start for you. There might be some opportunities that they might share with you, such as call of a proposal, research assistantship and seminar or workshop.
It is also essential to build a strong relationship with one or two professors whose classes you are taking. Make sure that they know you well academically, as they would be the ones who will give you a recommendation or reference for future internship/jobs/Ph.D. application. They will also give you advice on academic and professional plan, such as what classes you should take (though you will also get the information from your Master’s program advisor) or other opportunities.
Seminar and networking sessions
Seminar and networking sessions are great channels to meet new people. When meeting new people, be ready to hand out your business cards. Also remember that after exchanging cards, the networking has just started: within a day or two, reach out to them through email to tell them that it was great to meet them, thank them for their time and that you look forward to possible meetings in the future.
Since you will be having similar conversations with many people, prepare your short introduction template and answers to typical questions, to avoid awkward pauses. Get ready to answer questions such as the following: “So, tell me about your work/research” or “What is your plan after graduating?”
Networking needs effort
Sometimes I get nervous, feel awkward or exhausted when it comes to networking session. Bear in mind that it is totally okay not to speak with everyone in the room. It would be great if you could see the list of potential speakers and participants and you can start making your own list of whom you are most interested to talk to. Considering that time is usually limited, to be effective in conversation, practice on how you would introduce yourself to anyone: people from your field and outside of your field. I learn that being able to communicate my research project or study program across the general public is key to effective networking.
You will also need the effort to maintain your network. There are several things you can do to maintain your contacts. For example, when receiving business cards, I immediately record them in my phone contacts using an app that automatically imports a business card photo into contacts. You can also send relevant information (job opportunities, call of papers, interesting articles) to your networks. Sharing is caring, and it will be beneficial for your future. Remember that you can also utilize technology because in this era you might find your new job through Linked-in if your profile has credible endorsements.
To conclude, networking needs effort and we have to maintain the network that we have built. I am definitely not an expert in networking, but I hope this article reminds you that it is important to network and it takes conscious attempt to do it.
Andrea Adhi currently works as a research associate at J-PAL Southeast Asia. Prior to joining J-PAL, she worked at the Republic of Indonesia’s National Team for Acceleration of Poverty Reduction (TNP2K). She was a Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Professional Fellow in 2014. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree from Universitas Gadjah Mada in 2012 and a master’s degree from Boston University in 2016, both in economics major. In her spare time, Andrea enjoys watching art and music performance, playing piano and ukulele, or wandering around with her adventurous mind.