Large group of students from Studio 20 program

This is part one of a two-part series on mentorship and relationship building in graduate school. For part two, head to our post “5 Tips for Forming Strong Working Relationships in Grad School.

While the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” can seem silly in an academic context, it still stands true for making the most out of your higher education experience! 

Building good relationships with your professors, mentors, and department faculty can positively impact your success as a grad student and in your post-graduation life. 

When done right, thriving relationships with your academic network can lead to better classroom performance, more job opportunities, and a healthier professional network. In this article, we’ll explore some of the key individuals you can consider reaching out to and the best way to do so to grow and maintain healthy academic relationships. 

The Who and The Why

There are several key people you’ll interact with throughout your academic career. So where should you start, and with who? Here are some professionals you might want to prioritize getting to know and building good relationships with, as they all can play different roles in your academic and professional experience. 

Program Director

A Program Director usually sits within a department and oversees a specific concentration or track. My program is called Studio 20: Digital First and is led by Jay Rosen. This program falls under New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, which houses eleven program tracks. I go to Professor Rosen with any academic questions during my time at NYU. He helps me make critical decisions like navigating which electives to take and which media partners to work with on projects.

Furthermore, Program Directors often teach multiple classes, so they will best know your academic abilities, which can be crucial for when the time comes to ask for letters of recommendation and make introductions to their extensive network for jobs. 

Career Advisor 

Many departments and graduate schools at NYU have dedicated career advisors. Their full-time job is to help students advance in their specific fields, such as finding internships, improving resumes, and supporting job hunts. Often these career advisors have worked in the field prior, so the advice and guidance they provide you can be much more helpful in navigating your industry. 

For example, NYU’s journalism school has two career advisors, and they even host journalism career fairs and update the job portal with rich resources. Suppose your program does not have specific industry advisors. In that case, the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development has extensive info sessions, group training, and even 1:1 coaching for graduate students. All the above resources are invaluable and highly recommended for an NYU grad student. 

Screenshot of Calendar of Events

Professors and TAs

This category of academic professionals is pretty straightforward. At the graduate level, professors are going to be what makes your NYU experience so rich. These lecturers are often still actively practicing in their field and have such deep insights for you to gain beyond the textbook and class coursework. Make the most of your given time with them by attending office hours and seeking their support in your career exploration. 

Job or Internship Supervisor

Working on campus as a Graduate Admissions Assistant has been an enriching experience! I have met some extraordinarily inspiring and kind colleagues and managers working there. A good relationship with your campus job or internship manager will not only make your day-to-day more pleasant, but these individuals can also develop your skills in parallel to what you’re doing in the classroom. 

For instance, being a graduate campus tour guide has improved my public speaking and storytelling abilities, largely due to the helpful coaching and feedback from my office mentor and supervisor. 

Group of students at holiday party

Outside of NYU Mentors 

Keeping non-NYU mentors in your circle might slip your mind while in grad school mode, but keeping in touch with these external stakeholders is essential. These individuals can provide a great balanced viewpoint and advice.

I personally kept in touch with my mentor from my previous job before attending NYU. I enjoy keeping her in the know about my growth, and she does the same by informing me about what changes and movements are happening in the professional world we were both part of.