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The value of a strong social and professional network is hard to overestimate, especially in the nonprofit sector. If you're considering grad school, the connections you make can determine the next step in your career, and help you get there.

From helping you to identify which programs may be a good fit to writing letters of recommendation, a professional network is key to finding the right grad program. And the best part is, you can start by tapping into the relationships you already have.

Consider the people who are already in your network and how they can support your journey; colleagues, former professors, fellow alumni, and supervisors all have different experiences. As you share your intentions about grad school, ask for any feedback or resources they may have. You never know, your boss might know a prominent alumni at your graduate school of choice and an undergraduate professor may have colleagues in your program of interest.

As you prepare to take the next step in your career, check out our tips to network your way into grad school and strengthen your communication skills.

  • Sign up for events, conferences, and alumni organizations. In addition to strengthening the relationships you already have, don't forget to form new connections. Attending events and meet-ups with people who are on a similar career path will help you learn more about your chosen field and identify grad programs that may work for you.
  • Take time to cultivate genuine relationships. It’s important to approach networking with an open mind and genuine curiosity about a person’s work, interests, and experience. Instead of trying to make as many connections as possible, focus on deepening your connections with others to learn more about who they are. 
  • Share your interests and goals. Equally as important as learning from others is sharing your own experience, as well as highlighting why graduate school is the next step in your career. When your network knows exactly what you want out of grad school, it’s easier to identify which programs, resources, and other connections they should share.
  • Be punctual and responsive. Make it as easy as possible. If you’re meeting in person or chatting on the phone, reply promptly to all emails and be on time.
  • Express gratitude. Make sure to thank your network and those who help you as you prepare for graduate school, especially if they’ve connected you with a program or resource. A simple email or card after a meeting can go a long way.
  • Stay in touch. Even after you’re enrolled in a grad program, follow up with your contacts about your projects and interests. Remember that networking is a two-way street; use your expertise to serve as a resource for others and follow-up consistently.

We wish you all the best as you continue to build your network and leverage it to help with your graduate school pursuits!


Interested in learning more about what graduate school can do for you? The Idealist Grad School Fairs are free and open to all. Learn more about the Idealist Grad School Fairs taking place this fall and start planning your future today.