Our world is built around community. Once you step outside your door in the morning, you connect with people from the bus driver to your classmates to friends and mentors. In the spirit of the back to school season, here are some important people to reach out to if you’re interested in establishing some meaningful, beneficial relationships this year.
If you are in school, your teachers and faculty are a great resource to connect with because they are a solid link between the classroom and the world outside. Most schools assure that you meet with a counselor at least once before graduation to talk about your plans for the future. This is another great resource to explore. Remember, at school the staff is there to help you. Make use of their time, knowledge, and experience and ask all the questions you may have before it comes time to move that tassel. If you’re not in school, that doesn’t mean similar resources aren’t available to you. Homeschoolers may still have access to their local school’s counseling and guidance programs. Additionally, there are tons of organizations that help match homeschoolers up with mentors to guide them along the way. Gap year pursuers have the option to move around and explore local professionals, many of whom offer free initial consultations. If you’re looking for someone to talk to, check out therapists and counselors in your area and ask about their services.
Counselors aside, there are some other faculty members in every school and community worth reaching out to. Librarians know more than just books. They are trained to research and categorize everything from concrete records to abstract theories. They can definitely help you get organized and establish a game plan for whatever your goals are this year. Another great resource is the extracurricular team. Coaches, art instructors, and musicians have all the insider tips for how to boost your own motivation and work collaboratively with a team. You can find them in schools and in your local community centers.
No matter who you find, these professionals will offer trade advice, a shoulder to cry on, and maybe even a letter of recommendation if you need one. Connecting with adults with similar interests and career experience will help you learn about the opportunities available to you.
Make it a point to curate meaningful relationships with your peers while you are in school or pursuing a gap year. Most of the time your peers are in the same age range as you and are likely going through experiences very similar to yours. It’s important to connect with people on the same journey as you, whether that revolves around surviving a fifth period math test or decoding the city bus schedule. Find someone who participates in class who has very different opinions than you on certain subjects and reach out to them. Having discussions that put you out of your comfort zone is a great way to develope your view of the world and the way other people’s minds work. And don’t forget to connect with people you share common goals with. When you have friends and colleagues in your corner, it makes it easy to share your successes and failures with another set of ears. In the end you will feel you have conquered something as part of a team, even if that goal is something very personal, like reaching your destination or getting accepted into college.
Never make friends with someone just to mooch off their success. Never. However, you never know what connections you might make based off a relationship you have with an individual.
High schools often bring in speakers for assemblies to shed light on a topic or provide some motivational lesson for young learners. Many colleges host talks and workshops with industry professionals or established alumni. (Check out this link to learn how you can get a TEDx event at your college.) If you’re homeschooled or on a gap year, attending events or showcases in your local community is a great way to gain exposure to the professional world and start networking with the people you meet. Wherever you are in your life as a young professional, listening to others is a key element in building your own success and supporting the success of others. So don’t just show up, listen to what these speakers have to say!
If something strikes a chord with you, don’t be afraid to reach out to the event coordinator for more information on how to get in touch with the visiting individual. When you can, let them know they’ve inspired you to pursue something in their field. Depending on their schedule, they may even have time for you to buy them coffee or hop on the phone.
Getting to know individuals who have graduated from your institution, or better yet your specific program, is a terrific way to gather information and gain insight. Alumni can get you hooked up in the field and also give you low down on your school if you’re just starting out, so it’s never too early to start reaching out to them. They often wear many hats over the course of your relationship from wise mentor to colleague to friend. Just remember, like any relationship, this one is a two-way street. Stay in touch with your alumni connections, be professional, and always look for opportunities to thank them for their support by giving back. Eventually, you will graduate and become a resource for young college students.
Most colleges have an entire department specifically dedicated to managing student-alumni affairs and will go out of their way to help set you up with a contact. If your institution doesn’t take an active interest in its alumni or you aren’t enrolled in a traditional program, don’t worry. Thanks to the Internet, it’s easy to reach out to alumni through Facebook, LinkedIn, or your school’s email directory.
Most importantly make sure that, whoever you reach out to, you are doing it from a place of genuine interest in them and the work that they do. Creating meaningful relationships can be difficult sometimes, but the best way to get over your nerves and put yourself out there is to just dive right in. Good luck establishing these connections!To figure out which areas of industry professional you should consider reaching out to this year, jumpstart your independent learning with this free guide from UnCollege.