Networking Opportunities in Graduate School

 

When I first heard about the networking opportunities with the Advisory Council, I realized that the College of Charleston offers the ultimate master’s degree experience for communication students.” – Nina Rose, UCSC 2011

Networking. It can be intimidating, and as a result, many people don’t like to do it. But if you can do it (and do it well), it has the potential to be very rewarding. Networking is especially important in graduate school when you are beginning to think about possible career paths after graduation.

The age-old cliche “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” rings true to anyone who has ever been offered an opportunity simply because they knew the right person. If you have yet to experience this – don’t worry, I’m going to tell you how you can. First, you have to expand your circle of acquaintances. If you’re thinking, “How do I even start?” then you’re in luck. Below I’ve included a list of four networking opportunities to take advantage of during your time at UCSC. And, as a bonus, I’ve included some top-notch advice from a few of our successful MCOM alumni. Equipped with this list, you can overcome your fear and become a network navigator.

  1. Advisory Council  The Department of Communication Advisory Council  at the College of Charleston is a unique and invaluable resource available to students. This group of over 50 prominent leaders in the field of communication volunteers by providing opportunities and mentoring to the College’s communication students. This year’s itinerary brings the Advisory Council members to Charleston on Wednesday, October 25 to Friday October 27. For the communication graduate students, a “power lunch” will be held from 12:00-1:00 on Friday in the Stern Center Ballroom. Students are encouraged to check out the member listing prior to events.

While talking to a few of our alumni, they all mentioned the opportunities the Advisory Council affords. Here’s what Jill Skipper, UCSC 2017, shared about the council: “The Advisory Council is an unbelievable group of brilliant and successful individuals and no matter if you think they work in a field you are interested in or not, research them, speak with them and NETWORK! They are resources for you to utilize to bounce questions off of, send your resume to, connect on LinkedIn, etc.”

  1. Build your professional online appearance (join LinkedIn if you haven’t yet) One study found that 85 percent of jobs are filled through networking of some kind, and networking is prevalent on LinkedIn. This social media is one of the best ways to connect with people you meet and showcase your work. Think of it as an online resume – one that can show all of your hard work but isn’t limited to one sheet of paper. Whether you are job searching or happily employed, LinkedIn is a platform that can take your networking and opportunities to the next level. You can use your LinkedIn account to make new connections or maintain professional relationships.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, here are a couple facts that might: 89% of employers report having hired someone on LinkedIn, and 94 percent of recruiters are active on the site. Meanwhile, only 36 percent of job seekers are active on LinkedIn. Just being a part of this online community can give you an incredible advantage!

  1. MCOM Alumni The MCOM program has over 85 alumni around the world, and you have something in common with them: your education at UCSC. Jessica Richardson, UCSC 2011, mentioned that she has recently gotten involved with the Alumni Association and has found the connection with other alumni beneficial. Whether you stay in the Charleston area or not, you can get involved with a chapter wherever you end up, and that common interest can foster a great introduction. In addition, during your time here, get to know your fellow classmates. Like you, these people will soon be alumni and off to hold important positions in the communication field.

Jessica noted how important fellow classmates and school alumni were for networking: “My grad school cohort and I have strong ongoing relationships – we serve as professional references for each other and help each other out, personally and professionally.”

  1. Local Professionals Networking with professionals in the Charleston area is also very important – especially if you plan to stay after graduation. UCSC offers communication students the opportunity to attend PRSA and AMA meetings (a great place to network!). In addition, the International Association of Business Communicators hosts networking events that are often open to non-members. For example, the South Carolina chapters of IABC and the PRSA are teaming up to host a professional development conference on November 3.

Nina Rose, UCSC 2011, offers some advice for current students: “My advice for graduate students is to be bold and ask questions to the professionals in your field. The answers might surprise you, turn your career another direction, or inspire you to continue your journey, but the power is in your hands through networking.”

Bonus Tip: Get a Business Card (even if you’re only a student). A student business card can make you look professional and well-prepared when networking. In addition, that little piece of cardstock can help create a lasting impression (try VistaPrint to create your own). After a successful in-person networking session, remember to connect with that person on LinkedIn!

Brandy Francis, UCSC 2016, shared her secret to successful networking: “I researched each Advisory Council member, discovered who I was interested in, and arrived with a handful of business cards and a mission. Now I’m working for a super fun, innovative agency and I have Dr. Ruth and a few Advisory Council members to thank.”

 

Did I miss anything? Let me know if you have additional networking tips in the comments!

Until next time,

Cierra

 

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