Coming to the end of your degree and seeing graduation in sight can be frightening. Especially when you don’t know what the next big step in your life is afterwards. Whether you’re leaving university to find work, continuing to graduate school, or are graduating with no plans at all, there are people around you who can support you on your future endeavours.
And while these people can come from different aspects of your life, I want to focus on those within the university by looking at what they can do for you, and how you can establish a relationship with them.
There are four main groups of people you can draw from or connect with in your time in university. They are:
- Fellow students
- Campus community
Each of these can provide their own distinct (albeit, sometimes overlapping) level of support in your establishing yourself post-graduation.
What some students may fail to realize is that many of the professors and academics that run their classes aren’t just teachers. They’re researchers and experts within their respective fields. Because of their expertise, they often have connections with other researchers and professionals in the private sector—and many of them actually work in the private sector as well as teach. When you’re thinking about your next step after graduation, they’re a great place to start. They can connect you with potential supervisors to study with at graduate school or employers in your field.
So how do you network with them? For starters, use office hours. Come in with questions or talking points related to course material. Professors are always interested in students who are engaged and interested in learning. They’re also interested in talking about their own research. Read up on your professor’s work and ask them more about it.
For resources on where to find recent work, try searching them on Google Scholar, Dal’s Novanet, or check for recent publications they have listed on their page within the Faculty & Staff sections of their respective departmental website. In short, buttering up your professors can open up doors.
The academic and professional worlds often come together. You just need to seize the opportunity when to make a connection when they do. If you ever have a professional as a guest lecturer or speaker, make sure to introduce yourself. Ask them for a business card, connect with them on LinkedIn, and follow up letting them know you appreciated their time and expertise.
When you’re preparing to graduate you can remind them of the time they spoke to your class and ask them for an information-seeking interview to help prepare for your job search. Professionals can also be met through professional/career development events that happen on campus. Likewise, you can meet these people through various on-campus groups and events. Keep an eye on community billboards and make sure to read emails from the university. When a professional from your field is on campus, make sure you’re there.
At the student level, your peers are probably the most underappreciated people you can network with. Sure, at the moment they may be your peers and friends. But they, along with yourself, are the leaders of tomorrow. So be sure to connect with those around you, whether they’re a research or teaching assistant, or just fellow students who share your classes and interests.
They’re also some of the easiest to connect with. Be sure to build your networks with them through study groups, extracurricular activities, and casual get-togethers. Discuss and pursue your common interests. Compared to friends you may have made in high school, these are often the people you will connect with for the rest of your life.
The campus community is made up of student employers, campus administrators, sporting groups, volunteer groups, societies, and more. Dal offers so many opportunities for students to gain experience and connect with like-minded individuals. To find on-campus employment, you can check out myCareer or check with the DSU or DASA in Truro. Sporting teams/intramurals can be found through Athletics & Recreation. Societies are arranged through the DSU.
Keep an eye on campus community billboards for volunteer opportunities. Alternatively, many labs hire student volunteers wanting to get experience. Be sure to look up faculty members and their respective labs within your department and reach out to see if they’re looking for student volunteers.