Take a moment to think about the words “power” and “community.” I often find graduate students meeting with me saying both of those elements are lacking from their life, and wondering why – often feeling like they can’t get traction in their professional goals. You will gain traction if you put the locus of control back where it should be – in yourself. Instead of saying my advisor doesn’t know anyone in my field of interest, ask who do I know?
Building your own professional community gives you the agency and power in this process. You have the ability to make yourself relevant within professional communities that matter to you. Below, I list the first of 5 Steps to Building Community. Take a look and think about how you could make this work for you. You may define it differently after you start the process and develop other methods and ideas – use these steps to get you started.
Step 1: Determine What You Want to Know
Ask yourself, what am I trying to learn or accomplish by connecting with another person? While you may ultimately be doing this to get a job, there is probably a more basic question that will lead to a more actionable focus for you. For example, the first contact might be as simple as you always wondered about a certain career path or job and you want to learn about it from someone in the field (in the career biz we call this informational interviewing); or it might be because you want to gain insight to the job search process in a certain field. Whatever the reason, break it down to a reason for a first contact – don’t make it bigger than it is. Remember, you are building relationships and in any relationship, people want to know why you are connecting with them. Be focused and transparent about that focus.
Stay tuned for the rest of the steps to build your community!
About the Author
Paula D. Wishart, Professional Development, Rackham Graduate School
Published in: Professional Development