5 Must-Know Networking Tips for Graduate Students

Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network event - NYC

What I have discovered over the years as a graduate student is that networking is more than just socializing with others (more than just sharing a drink and laughing over some PhD comics emailed from a friend to another). It is an essential part of creating strong relationships with those who can help me to do well in my crafts, and if done effectively, it can be my springboard to a successful career.

Here are some tips to effective networking I wish I’ve learned earlier:

1. Start with your home campus.

The university campus is a unique common ground where students, faculty members, admins, and alumni are likely to overlap in terms of their expertise and interests. Treat your own campus as a serious playground where you can try to meet people from your own department, other departments, as well as the university administration. Learn to share your research interests and pedagogical methods with others, especially your fellow grad students or cohort, and listen to what they have to say in exchange.

2. Maintain an identity, both online and off.

Earning a graduate degree is a professionalizing process. By the time you’re completing your master’s degree, you should have a good sense of what your professional interests are. Be very thoughtful about your career aspiration; be consistent about your professional image; be vocal about your goals.

Use various social networking outlets (such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Academia.edu, etc.) to create an online presence. Many graduate students maintain a personal website or blog to publish their thoughts and philosophies. Share your thoughts out there and let your audience help you with your next big idea. When meeting people in person, do have some name cards ready to be handed out.

3. Know your responses to, “So, tell me about your work/research.”

Practice and know your extended elevator pitch. Rehearse out-loud how you would introduce yourself to just about anyone: someone in your field, someone who may or may not know your work, and someone who is not an academic. Be aware that your audience may not be well-versed in the specific theories you read and/or use. Being able to communicate about your craft across the general public is key to effective networking.

4. Be active in your field; attend conferences.

As a graduate student, you are expected to keep yourself up to date about recent advancements and new technologies in your field. One way to keep up with such development is to attend academic conferences and professional conventions to learn from other scholars and practitioners. You may also share your work with others through presentations, panels, roundtables, or workshops. These avenues are best for getting your work critiqued and receiving constructive suggestions from those who may be doing similar research like yours.

Going to conferences also helps put your name and face out there. Remember, it’s not about who you know, but who knows you.

5. Paying it forward pays off.

Networking is a multiple-way interaction. It’s not enough to just give away your name card and wait for a job interview call. Bonnie Marcus writes in Business Insider Malaysia, “The more you invest in your network, the more valuable your network is.” Whenever you are able to help someone by taking calls, responding to emails, or making recommendations, do it. Be active in email listservs. Contribute to blogs. Be a part of the bigger academic community. The more you are able to offer help, the stronger your bond with others might be.

Networking involves strategy and attention. When done effectively, it can be the catalyst to your career advancement.


This article was originally published on LinkedIn Long-Form Post, June 25, 2014. Image from Wikipedia.

Dong Dong Chiang: Tips for Surviving this Lunar New Year

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The Chinese/Lunar New Year, or CNY as how the texting-generation likes to call it, is a month-long festivity celebrated at the beginning of a new lunisolar calendar. Also known as the Spring Festival, this festivity marks one of the major – if not the most important – celebrations throughout the year. Though I have not been home (Malaysia) for CNY for a while now, my years of experience as a kid and teenager growing up in a Chinese family have given me quite some insights on how to survive this occasion. This will be helpful especially if you have never been to and are planning to visit a country that observes this festivity:

1. Watch Out for the Horse – the Zodiac of the Year

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The theme of CNY is usually surrounding the celebrated zodiac of the lunar year. This year, the Horse is the hero and most CNY greetings and decors should be horse themed. Learn some horse-related season greetings but don’t over do it.

2. Eat Desserts First

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There will be a lot, and I mean A LOT, of food served starting with reunion dinner (the eve of CNY) all the way to Day Thirty (the end of the month). Don’t waste time and your tummy space chowing down the regular meals — go straight for the delicacies that are only available during CNY but remember to come back and taste grandma’s unique dishes too. Be sure to drink a lot of water to keep your body hydrated.

3. Find Out if You Need to Give Angpao/Lai See/Money

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Thanks Internet for infographics. I think it explains it all. Angpaos are given out to your younger generation to keep them “young” and healthy. Check out more about the tradition of giving here.

4. Have Answers about Your Current Life Ready

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These will come in handy when your parents bring you to visit distant relatives who would ask you the same routine questions: What are you doing now? Do you have a boy/girlfriend yet? If so, when do you plan to get married? If not, is there something you need to tell us?

5. Take a Lot of Selfies

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With food, with friends, with your new outfit, with angpao packets, with yo’ grandma, and with those who you won’t see again until next CNY. After all, CNY is all about getting together with friends and families, and to check in with one another about their lives. You may feel overwhelm by the food and questions — but at the end of the day, it’s the notion of close/familial relationships that give you that fuzzy feeling inside.

That being said, I wish all of you readers a happy and safe CNY celebration this year. May the Year of Horse bring you happiness, good health, and prosperity!

Image credits (in order): mayaubud.comalexleow-kimmy.com, 365days2play.com, imgur.com, youtube.com, timeslive.co.za