As a grad student and Regional Councilor (RC) for National NSSLHA, I love working with other students! I like being someone who others feel comfortable talking to and can use as a resource. Whether it’s being available to give advice on applying to grad school or giving tips to Student State Officers on how to connect with their chapters, I always try making myself available.
As students, we’re so focused on networking and connecting with professionals in order to jump start our careers, we forget that it’s just as important to network with our own peers!
And it’s important that we make connections with other students on a personal level, as well as a professional level. Here’s what I’ve done to build relationships with other students:
- Smile! I’m genuinely a happy person, so I smile a lot. Smiling can go a long way—students (and everyone, for that matter!) feel more comfortable approaching you when you smile.
- Connect. Ask students how other areas of their life are going—learn about their family, friends, and extracurricular activities. You might find that you have more in common than just CSD! As an RC, during my conference calls with my SSOs, I always asked them to turn their video cameras on. I wanted to see their faces! Even though we were many miles away, this allowed us to all feel more connected and get to know each other on a more personal level.
- Be observant and encouraging. Pay attention to who looks especially stressed out. If they’re struggling with the grad school application process, offer advice on how you got through the process. If they’re discouraged, let them know they can bounce back from whatever issue they’re facing. Motivate them and show that you’re there to support them.
- Be open and kind. By doing so, students will naturally gravitate to you. If networking doesn’t come naturally to others, be the glue that brings them together. Remember, it’s not only important to build your own student network but to help other students build theirs as well!
- Make yourself available. Talk to your peers in the hallway or give them your email or phone number. Let them know it’s totally okay for them to contact you. I remember looking up to the grad students when I was a post-baccalaureate student and I knew I wanted to be that for undergrads when my role was reversed.
- Get involved. As a NSSLHA Chapter President, I always made time to attend as many chapter events as possible and got involved in our mentoring program. It was definitely challenging given my rigorous course load, but it was such an amazing feeling to help students who were grateful for the help.
Networking Your Future
I think most—if not all—of us are in the CSD professions because we like helping people. We like making connections and growing relationships.
Not only will networking with our peers help us get through school now (with some semblance of sanity), but we’ll cherish those relationships for years to come. And who knows, maybe one day those relationships will open professional doors!