How Graduate Students Can Make the Most of Virtual Networking

For the last year, most of us have spent a significant amount of time working and learning remotely.  And most of us have gotten pretty good at this as online tools improve and we have gotten more comfortable with connecting with others virtually.  With spring’s arrival and summer right around the corner, many graduate students are thinking about internships and full-time jobs.  Networking is one of the best ways to learn about what is out there, as well as to assess what you may be qualified for.  Here are some 5 tips for successful virtual networking, which highlight some of the resources that Career Services has to offer.

Set a Goal
Begin by thinking about what types of information you would like to gather – what do you want to learn, and who would you like to connect with?  You will want to think about what kind of skills you would like to utilize in your future work, as well as what skills you don’t have yet but could acquire.  Set aside time each week to devote to networking; the more you do it, the easier it will be!  Start with a crash course in networking: Career Services’ Online Canvas Course on Networking.

Developing a networking strategy that includes informational interviewing will also grow your professional network by putting you directly in touch with people in the career fields you’re exploring, and potentially expose you to job opportunities that arise in organizations of interest to you. The benefits of networking in general are limitless.  You’ll then want to take the information you’ve learned to craft good questions that you want answers to, and shape the conversation in a way that will be most helpful to you.  To get started and to help you prepare, check out Career Services’ Informational Interviewing Guide for Graduate Students and Postdocs.

Leverage Alumni and Student Networks
As a graduate student, you should access not only Penn alumni, but also the alumni of any school from which you obtained a degree.  Penn’s alumni network, MyPenn provides you with easy access to a searchable database of Penn alumni that can be filtered by degree, School, major, employer, location, and even by areas of student interest. This resource is a great starting point to find people to reach out to for an informational interview. MyPenn can help you to build a list of possible contacts, and it includes professional and personal email addresses you can use as you reach out.

As a Penn student, you also have access to thousands of Penn students through Handshake.  You may wish to connect with Penn students who have previously worked or interned at an organization.  Log into your account and click on “Students” to begin your search.  Be sure to make your own profile public so other students can find you as well!

Connect with Interesting People
Just as you are looking for people to network with, there are a great many people in the world outside of Penn who are looking to connect with and learn from others.  LunchClub is a networking platform that matches you with other professionals based on your background information and experiences, areas of interest set by you, and your networking goals. Enjoy an easy-to-schedule 45–minute video chat with your match to build connections with interesting and relevant people.  Set up an account today and get started making connections. 

Follow Up
After you have had a great conversation with someone, don’t let it end there!  In addition to sending them a quick thank you, you will want to keep the conversation going.  Check out Career Services’ video of quick tips to stay in touch after an informational interviewing.

As always, you are welcome to schedule an individual appointment to discuss your networking strategy with a career advisor.  Schedule your appointment on Handshake today!

By Dianne Hull
Dianne Hull Senior Associate Director, Graduate Students & Postdocs