Have you ever heard the saying, “It doesn’t matter what you know, it’s who you know”?
Many of us intuitively understand that who you know is important. After all – others can share opportunities with you and connect you with resources. That being said, expanding our networks can be challenging. It can be intimidating to reach out to people.
Fortunately, the more practice you have, the easier it gets. You might actually be surprised by how willing people are to help you succeed!
Here are some expert tips for overcoming the awkward and expanding your networks:
School Advisors: School advisors – like guidance counselors and academic advisors – are there to help you succeed, not just with school, but in life. If you reach out to a school advisor, they may have connections to internships, job opportunities, scholarships, or different people that you can talk to. But you must first talk with these advisors, by making appointments or by just dropping by (depending on their policy).
Family and Friends: Your family and friends know a lot more people than you think! Let them know of what career, internship, scholarship, or other opportunities you are passionate about pursuing, and see if they know anyone to connect you with. If you are nervous about being the first one to reach out, ask your relative or friend to share your contact information.
Social Media: Social media is huge. Everyone who has a cell phone most likely has a social media page. When you reach out to someone on social media be brief (so don’t write too much). Be direct and ask for the advice you need.
Newsletters and Email Updates: If you are intimidated about reaching out to people directly, newsletters and email updates that get sent to your email are a great way to keep in touch with what is happening with companies, schools, or scholarship organizations. For example, check out the American Indian College Fund, and sign up for their scholarship and internship updates here. AISES also has some useful info here.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a great way to make connections. There are plenty of job opportunities on LinkedIn that companies post. It is also an easy way to connect with others who work in career areas you are interested in. Not only can you see the education and jobs that got them to where they are today, but you can also see who is in their career network (and explore their backgrounds as well). This can help you strategize how you can end up in the same place professionally.
Tribal Education and Career Service Departments: If you go on your Tribe’s website, there is most likely a career or educational opportunities section. Some Tribes even offer their own scholarships! There are usually people who you can connect with through email or a phone call. Just explore your Tribe’s website.
Here are some additional resources:
- American Indian College Fund, Scholarships
- American Indian College Fund, Internships & Fellowships
- National Congress of American Indians, Internship/Fellowship
Author: Kaya Fernandes is an enrolled member of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. She is an undergraduate student at Western Washington University studying sociology. Kaya is also a 2022 Ambassador for the Native Action Network.