Even teenagers have networks - and not just social networks.
"I bet teenagers know they have networks, just not the type of networks
they think they need," says Wendy Marcinkus Murphy, associate professor of
management at Babson College. She's also the co-author of Strategic Relationships
"Most teens are already on Facebook, so they understand a bit about how
social networks work. They just haven't thought about how it might help them
get through the next stage of their lives."
Your parents and their friends, your teachers, neighbors, scout masters
and coaches are just a few examples of adults who may already be part of your
network. But it's up to you to ask for their advice.
"People want to be helpful," says Phil Blair. He's the executive officer
of Manpower in San Deigo, Las Vegas, Temecula, New Mexico and Spokane. "You
might ask to call them later to make an appointment to come by their office,
or to meet them at the soccer field early next week, or after work one day
Blair says it's fine to say something like: "'You're an accountant and
I'm thinking of studying accounting. I really like math and I like finance,
and I want to know what an accountant does all day.' You might be surprised.
'Well, come to the office next week. I'll walk you around and show you what
we do.' It's called an informational interview," Blair says.
It might feel awkward to approach successful adults that way, even people
you already know, but having a network won't do you any good if you don't
use it. So don't be shy.
"When you're a student you have permission to ask questions," Murphy says.
"People are happy to help students, particularly when they see a genuine curiosity.
The rejection rate is very low. Most adults love to talk about themselves.
It's usually easy to get someone talking if you're prepared with good questions."
Murphy suggests starting with open-ended questions, like these:
- Could you tell me about your career path?
- What are the best and the worst things about your job?
- What do you wish you knew or had done at my age?
Think of yourself like a journalist trying to uncover helpful information.
But how do you expand your network beyond people you already know? "Join
the debate team, play sports - I don't care what the sport, it can be bowling,
it can be anything as long as you're involved in teamwork," Blair advises.
Get involved with clubs and student government, and volunteer to chair committees.
"It can be your church. It can be the YMCA. It can be the Boys and Girls Club.
It doesn't have to be school."
Murphy adds high school alumni to that list. Both say it's also okay to
contact a local business person you admire to ask about their profession.
Sometimes that can even lead to a mentorship.
"If you're active in high school, you interact with adults a lot, with
teachers who might not be teaching your classes" Blair says.
He says teachers are the best references for landing your first job: "It's
not your mother. It's not your neighbor. [To get that reference] you've got
to know the teachers and they've got to know you."
Once you have a group of trusted advisors, Murphy says you need to evaluate
their advice to discover what's right for you, especially if one source's
information conflicts with that of another.
"There's room in that circle for the different perspectives," Murphy says.
Listen to all viewpoints and ask more questions if something doesn't sound
right. Then trust your instincts to narrow it down to what makes the best
sense for you.
"It's going to take time to figure out what information to weight, and
how," Murphy says. "So the earlier you start having these conversations, the