Whether you are writing applications to graduate school, applying for tech jobs, or deciding on your next professional steps, MAA MathFest in Chicago July 26-29, 2017 is the perfect place to strengthen your network.

Don’t let networking be a dirty word for you. It’s more than an intimidating room full of strangers and can be fun with the right approach for your personality and professional goals. Use our five secrets to network your way to professional success for your mathematics degree at MathFest.

  1. Set goals for expanding and strengthening your network. Make manageable personal goals, like making four new alumni and classmate contacts each semester, or three connections at MathFest when you present your research. Don’t forget to strengthen your existing network by reaching out to people you met previously at conferences, like last year’s Joint Mathematics Meetings and MathFest. Two emails a month to people in your existing network can go a long way to help you stay in touch with those who may help you down the line.

  2. Listen and find shared interests. The network you create is about more than the number of people it contains. Listen to people you meet at conferences or on LinkedIn and find out what you have in common, or how you can help each other. You could discover a shared passion for algebraic geometry or rescue animals. Both topics are a valuable reason to keep in touch with the new contact.

  3. Consider your new contacts as professional friends. Even if you only met once through a mutual friend at the MathFest Undergraduate Ice Cream Social, or in calculus class, and are connected on Linkedin, treat the person like a friend. You may not text on a regular basis like you would your best friend, but simple check ins or a like on their social media post will go a long way. Share timely information on topics that they are interested in to have meaningful conversations.

  4. Follow up and stay in touch. After you meet a new contact, email them within three days to say hello so that they have your email. Another option is to add them on Linkedin. Stay in touch with people in your network and don’t be shy about sending an email or Facebook message, even if it’s been six months since you last connected at MathFest.

  5. Help people in your network. Networking is really about what you can do for others rather than what they can do for you. This is the secret to strengthening and maintaining a valuable professional network. Introduce people in your network to one another, assist someone with tracking down old research or course notes, share your contact’s professional achievements when they share them on social media, and act as a resource to everyone so that they want to be a resource for you.