Networking in Student Affairs
Student Affairs Networking
Graduate students who will be moving into work in higher education and student affairs have much to consider, including professional development and networking. Ideally, that networking should start well before graduation is imminent, because it allows the student to develop contacts in the professional world before he or she moves into that world on a more permanent basis. Students who have professional contacts before they finish graduate school are more likely to see success in the working world in an earlier time frame, which can help those students make the transition from educational institution to professional working environment more easily.
While this type of networking and development does not guarantee success, it is one of the most significant things a student can do to move toward career placement and advancement in his or her chosen field. The literature that is addressed in Chapter Two will focus on the networking that is seen among graduate students in general, with as much emphasis as possible on those who are moving into careers related to higher education administration. Since the literature on that specific career path is scant, at best, an overview of networking and professional development in the graduate student population will be provided. This will show both the valuable information needed by graduate students when it comes to networking, and the large gap in the literature where higher education administration, graduate students, and networking is considered.
The purpose of this study is to detail the information that is important for graduate students who are focused on professional development. These students must take care to learn all they can about their chosen profession, and there are several ways to do that. The knowledge they acquire in the classroom matters a great deal, but so does the networking they will engage in while they are still at their educational institution. Mixers and other events, where the graduate students get to know professional contacts in their chosen profession, can be among the most vital ways to gain valuable contacts that can serve them well once they have completed their academic work.
The main question to be answered is why it is so important for graduate students in higher education administration and young professional in student affairs to network while they are still in graduate school, along with how this can best be done. Addressing both of these issues will provide the necessary insight for the topic.
There are only minimal key terms that need to be addressed here, in order to ensure that the study is clear and complete.
1. Graduate Student -- A graduate student is one who is enrolled in an institution of higher education for a degree that goes beyond baccalaureate.
2. Higher Education Administration -- Those who work in higher education administration oversee educational institutions and the students who attend those schools.
3. Student Affairs -- Those who work in student affairs are focused closely on the students who are enrolled in educational institutions, to ensure these students have a good experience and are prepared for professional life after graduation.
4. Networking -- Networking involves interaction with others who can provide help, advice, and information as it relates to a particular project, career, or life path.
All studies have limitations. This study is limited to what is examined through the literature review, and the information gleaned from a social that allowed local university and college student affairs groups to meet and greet one another. That exchange of ideas was important, but it may be difficult to extrapolate that information out to all other colleges and universities throughout the country. Regional, cultural, and other differences all matter, and have to be considered. Lack of a manual to follow when getting into graduate school for a higher education degree is also of particular concern, as many students are left struggling with networking and related issues.
Additionally, the creation of a manual for handling higher education administration networking and other, related factors is something that is long overdue. The importance of it cannot be overemphasized, as it can provide significant insight into what graduate students in this field of study should be looking for and how they can network properly, to form the right kinds of professional contacts.
Networking for professional development is nothing new, but there have been some new ways of handling the issue that have appeared in recent years. As technology advances, the way people relate to one another and how they react to each other has changed to some extent. Meeting in person, though, is still the best way to interact and develop good networking skills. Being able to put a name with a face is important, and can help people built trust and rapport they would not otherwise have (Rhoten & Parker, 2004). That is not to say that social media and online interaction does not have its place in networking for student affairs and higher education professionals, but only that the "old fashioned" route is generally the best choice. Getting the time to network, knowing who to talk to, and finding the right places to meet and greet others are all issues that plague people who are new to a particular profession (Rhoten & Parker, 2012). Those are among the reasons why it is so important to focus on making the proper connections while still in a graduate program, so there is a "leg up" on those who have not done so.
It should be noted that there has been rather extensive research on undergraduate students when it comes to socialization into professional roles through networking and other means. However, very little has been done in this regard when it comes to graduate students. Researchers like Gardner and Barnes (2007) saw that literature gap, and determined to focus on the graduate students and what they were getting/not getting from interaction with professional contacts. There are several issues that have to be addressed, and those include why the graduate students were not being studied, whether they were receiving good interaction with other students, and whether their school's administration was offering them anything they could really use when it came to understanding how to find contacts and connect with same. It is one thing to be aware that networking in graduate school is important, and another thing to know how to do it correctly, and have the tools and opportunities to do so.
Differences in Graduate vs. Undergraduate Networking
Gardner and Barnes (2007) determined that there are many differences between the way graduates and undergraduates network. With more than 1.5 million graduate students enrolled in master's and doctoral problems throughout the United States, there are a number of people who are going to be graduating within the next few years and moving into careers for which they have been training -- in some cases for many years. There have also been concerns with graduate education that include but are not limited to attrition rates, how long many people take to complete a degree, whether there are jobs available in a chosen field, and the true value of the educational experience for those who are working to attain master's and doctoral degrees (Gardner & Barnes, 2007). Among the fears of those who undertake graduate education is networking properly in order to be successful. This can be particularly difficult for those who go through their entire academic career without working in their chosen field, because they do not have contacts there (Gardner & Barnes, 2007).
Undergraduates have less of a networking issue, generally because they can get into their chosen field after a shorter period of academic work, which means that they have less to prove to those who are hiring them (Gardner & Barnes, 2007). Once a person embarks on a master's or doctoral degree path, he or she is moving into territory that is generally considered to be far beyond what most people will attain during their careers (Gardner & Barnes, 2007). With the pride and abilities comes difficulty. Most individuals who are in graduate school must either put off their career aspirations until their graduate schooling is complete, or take a break from their career to attend school and attain a higher level of education (Gardner & Barnes, 2007). Some are also unemployed, or they attend school in the evenings after they have finished work for the day. Often, they are short on time to network, and would not know who to contact or how to reach out to others who may be headed for the same career path, in order to start developing contacts (Gardner, & Barnes, 2007).
Mentoring and Networking
Naturally, that puts the graduate student at a distinct disadvantage over the undergraduate student when it comes to networking.…
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