The Preparation

How to Network in Your Academic Department

By Colleen Sabitano, The Intern Coach

Networking includes a much broader range than Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. It starts in your school with your faculty and staff, especially in your major and minor departments. Here are our 5 top tips for establishing a network that will strengthen both your academic and career goals:

  1. Join departmental organizations, clubs, or groups associated with your department, especially if your major professor is the faculty sponsor. For example, if you're an English major and your department publishes a literary journal, sign up for the staff. Some departments sponsor field trips or even study abroad programs, which could be great networking opportunities for you.
  2. Show your support to the faculty by offering to do research for a faculty member. Many professors need student researchers for their work and will give you credit in the final project. If a department professor has a newly published book, be sure to buy the book and ask for his/her autograph. Offer to help teaching assistants, too, because they have input into the department and may be your future professors. And they probably have more time to help you with a challenging assignment than a professor does.
  3. Build good relationships with department secretaries and student aides. Consider being a student aide yourself. And always take time to chat with the secretaries and to recognize their hard work. They are your first point of contact when you want to make an appointment, learn about new internships, find out first when grant or scholarship applications are due, or simply hear about department politics.
  4. Establish yourself as a scholar and outstanding asset to the department by achieving a high GPA and being inducted into honorary societies. Departments often compete for top students, and your department will respect you for enhancing its reputation. Attend any study groups and participate in them. Ask intelligent questions and introduce new information that you've gleaned from outside sources and go to academic conferences.

Volunteer in your department to help with special events, tutor other students, or work on committees. Many departments host guest speakers or conferences and need student support, giving you more opportunities to network outside of your university. When major or minor professors deliver lectures outside of the department, plan to attend and then let them know that their presentation was most interesting. If a professor helps you with an assignment or helps you find an internship or job, send a thank-you note.