Snoozing on Schmoozing? Then You’re Losing out

people chatting at a networking event

Written by Susan Helmick, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate College

Networking events are pivotal for a graduate student's professional journey, providing unique chances for academic enrichment and career growth. As we step into International Networking Week from February 4th to the 10th, the spotlight intensifies on the outsized influence networking can have in both professional and personal domains. From academic conferences to specialized workshops, the week illuminates the importance of exploring networking opportunities beyond the confines of university lecture halls. If you're new to networking and uncertain about where to start, no worries! We've outlined eight of the most common types of networking events and how to make the most of them.

1. Academic Conferences

When attending academic conferences, consider starting conversations by showing genuine interest in a presenter's research. Begin by acknowledging the significance of their work and inquire about any challenges or interesting findings. Engage in discussions about shared research methodologies or similar academic interests. Exchange contact information and follow up after the conference with a personalized email referencing your conversation. Discussing recent advancements in your field or potential shared projects can further solidify connections made during the conference. UC's Graduate Student Government (GSG) Conference Travel Award is offered to financially assist graduate students in presenting their research at or attending academic conferences.

2. Career Expos

Initiate conversations at career fairs by expressing your interest in a company's mission or recent achievements. Prepare well-thought-out questions that demonstrate your knowledge about the organization. Discussing your academic achievements and highlighting relevant coursework can be a great icebreaker. Exchange business cards and, after the event, follow up with recruiters by expressing your gratitude for their time and reiterating your enthusiasm for the company. Discuss how your skills align with the company's needs and express your interest in potential opportunities. Need help developing an elevator speech? Bearcat Promise Career Studio offers guidance and tips on developing a concise and compelling introduction of you and your skills designed to quickly capture someone's attention and leave a lasting impression.

3. Industry-Specific Workshops

At industry-specific workshops, break the ice by discussing your experiences related to the workshop's focus. Share insights on how you've applied similar skills or encountered challenges in your academic or professional journey. Actively participate in group activities and discussions, showcasing your expertise and willingness to learn. Connect with facilitators by expressing appreciation for their guidance and asking for additional resources or advice. Exchange contact information with fellow participants, emphasizing cooperation on future projects or joint learning initiatives.

4. Alumni Affairs

Engage alumni at networking events by discussing common experiences or shared professors. Begin conversations by expressing your appreciation for their career journey and inquire about any pivotal moments or advice they can share. Discuss your current academic pursuits and inquire about their post-graduate experiences. After the event, follow up with a personalized message, referencing specific points from your conversation and expressing your interest in staying connected. Offer to connect on professional platforms like LinkedIn, reinforcing your commitment to maintaining any newly forged connections.

5. Meetups and Mixers

Bring a friendly and open attitude to meetups and mixers. Start conversations and build connections by expressing genuine interest in the event's theme or topic. Exchange contact information with those whom you resonate and extend the conversation beyond the event. Send an email expressing your appreciation and propose potential collaboration areas or topics for continued discussion. This proactive approach reinforces the connection and lays the groundwork for future interactions.

6. Webinars and Virtual Forums

In virtual settings, stand out by actively participating in chat discussions and Q&A sessions. Begin conversations by posing thoughtful questions to speakers or providing insights into the topics discussed. Utilize virtual networking features to connect with speakers and participants. After the event, engage in post-webinar discussions on online platforms or social media. Express your appreciation for the content shared and initiate conversations about potential partnerships or shared interests.

7. Research Collaborative Events

When participating in research collaborative events, initiate conversations by sharing your research interests and experiences. Discuss potential areas of synergy with fellow participants and express your openness to joint projects. Actively engage in group discussions, contributing your insights and seeking feedback on your ideas. Exchange contact information with potential colleagues and, post-event, follow up with a detailed proposal or plan for the joint project. Demonstrating a proactive approach can strengthen the foundation for future joint endeavors.

8. Community Outreach Programs

Community outreach programs emphasize social responsibility. Engage genuinely, connect with like-minded individuals, and share experiences related to community involvement. Discuss potential ways to work together on community projects or events. Exchange contact information with like-minded individuals and follow up with a message expressing your eagerness to contribute further. Engaging in discussions about the intersection of professional growth and social responsibility can lead to meaningful connections that extend beyond the event itself. UC’s Center for Community Engagement can help you find opportunities, in addition to outreach efforts offered by individual academic units.

Networking is more than a weeklong endeavor. Its importance in shaping academic and professional trajectories remains a constant, and only through practice can you become a pro. Each event is an opportunity not just to expand your network, but to forge meaningful connections and networking skills that can shape your future in ways both big and small. If you approach these events with preparation, adaptability, and a genuine interest in connecting with others, you’ll see your network grow in both breadth and depth.