So I am nearly finished with my first year of graduate school and aside from attending classes, going through practicum interviewing experiences, and working at my part time GA position, I have not left Syracuse for any other professional development opportunities. While I do appreciate all that I have learned at SU, I feel that I am lacking when it comes to networking outside of school.
I was so used to increasing my professional circle through attending local, regional, and national conferences. At the same time, I was also used to having those opportunities for networking being paid for by my school.
Now I have to find ways to fund these opportunities for myself, and so far it has not been easy. My part-time GA position does not offer me professional development funding, so I often look into other opportunities like scholarships and grants, which are not always available. Another one is managing my academic responsibilities. Many of the opportunities to attend conferences and socials often occur around times when I have to submit paper assignments and make presentations. I am still working on my time management thanks to the help of Microsoft Outlook, but when I am able to put perspective on the dates of the events and the time that I usually need to complete my academic tasks, I come to the conclusion that I cannot make those sacrifices without harming myself academically.
One of the lessons that I learned in grad school about job searching and being a professional in student affairs is that being connected to other professionals is very important. Yes, your resume and your cover letter and your interviewing skills do most of the front work, but having someone that you know in your corner helps you look more marketable as an applicant and as a candidate. I also appreciate the opportunities that I get to make new connections and new friends. These in-person connections have helped me create a support system in Student Affairs that I have to this day, and I am extremely thankful for the experiences that I have had that led me to some amazing people coming into or are already in the field.
Thank God for Social Media. My friends say that I use it way too much, however, if they knew why I used it so much, they would probably understand… okay, maybe not. While I love using social media for personal reasons, I love using #SoMe for professional purposes as well. Participating in Twitter talks like #SAgrad, #SJEchat, and #SAchat have helped me “cyber meet” a large number of graduate students and professionals. It’s interesting how sharing opinions and advice with others helped me build connections to the field.
While this is not the greatest situation now, I am grateful that I am using the resources that I have now to network with other professionals in the meantime.
Some networking suggestions as a graduate student:
- Make a professional account for Twitter. I find that having a Twitter account has definitely helped me in interacting with more people in the field. I gained followers primarily through chats, and I also made it my purpose to follow professionals that I am interested in learning from and connecting with.
- Set up a LinkedIn account. I am still working on understanding the app, but the way that I see it, it’s kind of like an interactive online professional resume crossed with a Facebook profile. It allows you to connect with professionals and peers that you know and want to know, all while displaying who you are and what you have done professionally.
- Join professional organizations. Two of the major organizations are NASPA and ACPA. There are other organizations (that are functional area specific) that host webinars, online programs and discussions, and have committees that you can join as a way to give back to the field and the organizations.
- Join online groups. LinkedIn has forum groups. Facebook has many groups (“Student Affairs Professionals, Student Affairs Graduate Students, NASPA Region 2 Grads – just the few that I am in). There are great people in these groups, they have online convos, they ask for advice, they give advice, and if they are in your area they may look to meet up.
Stay tuned for the next “I Just Can’t Stop” post.
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