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Networking: How to Develop a Rapport with Faculty

Developing a rapport with your faculty and advisor is essential for graduate school success and will benefit you in the long run.

I can think of four off the top of my head: 1) your time-to-degree schedule is likely to stay on track, 2) your name comes to mind when opportunities surface, 3) you become acclimated to graduate school and the new environment quicker, and 4) you will engage in thought provoking discussions that could enhance your graduate school experience.  

One of the top benefits is working with your advisor to formulate your thesis and/or dissertation topics early. Early means allowing time to work through some of the kinks of developing your topic.  Hence, firming up a topics early will provide you with the opportunity to craft your class assignments around your topic instead of working on class assignments independently of your topic.  There is no need to perform double duty by completing the coursework assignments and then begin work on your thesis or dissertation—work smart.

If done correctly, the benefits continue.  For example, Include faculty and your advisor in your writing process to nurture and develop your writing and research skills.  You should be prepared to grow in this area, even if you believe you are a strong writer. 

Letting faculty, advisors, and mentors (FAM) know about your goals can increase the opportunity that your name will come up during conversations when looking for students to participate in activities. Remember, speaking with faculty and advisors are not limited to your coursework.  Make time to stop in during office hours or make an appointment to discuss interests that could enhance your graduate school experience.  Think of graduate school as a village of networks that includes your FAM.  Use all the resources, attend meetings and workshops that pertain to your interest, and be willing to meet other students, but remain focused and vigilant of your time and schedule.  That being said, networking for some is not as easy.  Introverts should read the following paragraph to work on stepping out their comfort zone. Extroverts can skip this paragraph and continue to read. 



Developing a rapport with FAM requires developing networking skills especially if you consider yourself an introvert. Skills that could come with a little practice if you are willing to change your mindset to approach others and be approachable.  Don’t stop reading now with plans to bury your head in the books and hope you can get what you need only from books and YouTube.  Incorporate some techniques to move outside your comfort zone, doing so stimulates personal growth.  Make plans to attend a departmental meeting, workshop, and/or function.  Sit near the front for more visibility and be prepared to chat after the session.  Make an effort to approach the speaker after the presentation to introduce yourself.  It would be nice to have something to say, like a question about their presentation or inquiring about a source for additional information.  If you’re not ready for the “big league” just yet, then walk over to the refreshment table and make small talk or practice on people in your department.  Engage in school-related questions or small talk to become comfortable with initiating the conversation. I say this with caution and be sure to read the disclaimer, but practice on strangers in the grocery line. Ask about an item they are purchasing or ask them have they tried an item you are purchasing.  Make sure the items are not apples or oranges, they might figure you to be a little odd. 



If you are an extrovert, I doubt that you even clicked on this section because it’s likely you have already developed a rapport with faculty and have established a few mentoring relationships.  Continue to attend graduate school events and workshops and meet your peers.  If you see a peer that appears to be struggling with getting acquainted, reach out and introduce yourself and invite them to a graduate school function.  


Moving Forward

Use your FAM’s time wisely.  Most FAM have less than 20 minutes to spend with you, for this reason, generate your questions prior to your visit. If you have met previously, review your notes and have any assignments completed. Use your list of questions to guide you through the meeting and to stay on task. Any minute the meeting could be interrupted and requiring you to rescheduled.  Your goal is to have all your questions answered within the first 10 minutes; additional time with your FAM should be considered bonus time.

Your FAM is grooming you to make a contribution to new knowledge in the field and can be instrumental in your growth to becoming an effective writer and researcher.  Your ability to show your FAM that you are prepared for the meetings and take your role as student seriously will go a long way with your FAM.  All FAMs are willing to invest time into students who show potential, who are professional and respectful, have a passion for their research, and a genuine interest in the field.  Continue to grow and show your FAM that you are willing to grow. Be smart, work smart, and grow smart.