The Importance of Networking for Educational and Career Opportunities

We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” This is an obvious oversimplification, but the phrase has stuck around for so long because of the innate truth that the connections you build and maintain will be critical to your lifelong success. When applying to grad school, the benefits of a healthy network may come in the form of helpful advice, letters of recommendation or introductions to decision makers within your desired program. Especially in today’s interconnected world, meeting the right people and fostering relationships should be a point of focus.

These tips will help you get started:

Think about the connections you’ve made already.

You may not even realize it, but you’ve already been networking during your undergrad years. Think about the relationships you developed as an undergrad with classmates, professors, advisors and other people you met along the way. Start with those connections and build up from there. By asking them to refer you to some of their connections who share your interests, you will establish your network faster and more effectively.

Take time to build a genuine relationship before you ask for favors.

Networking is not just about finding people who can give you what you want right now. It’s about building career-long relationships with people and hopefully ending up in a position to help them in return one day. Be genuine in your approach, respectful of people’s time and gracious at every step along the way.

Consider all the networking groups you might need after getting accepted into grad school.

Networking is something you will continue to do your whole life. Be proactive and consider all the ways you might need help once you’ve been admitted to grad school, such as finding scholarship opportunities, landing competitive internships and preparing for job interviews. Reaching out early on will give you the time necessary to build relationships before you need a favor.

Networking will always be a big part of the professional world, so knowing how to make connections early on is very important. The more people you know — and the more energy you put into developing meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships — the more opportunities will come your way!