(Another great installment from our guest blogger KSS)
I have never felt that I am a well-connected person. Networking was never a comfortable notion as it seemed intimidating and felt insincere. After moving to Los Angeles nearly five years ago, all of this began to slowly change and unfold in its own authentic way. It seems that this huge city is more like a small town and I feel that I am separated from strangers by much less than six degrees. Now, as my social network expands, it also contracts and I find that new friends know old friends and it is indeed a small world after all.
Making the transition from working professional to graduate program applicant is aided by this recently acquired social network, one I could never have expected. My interests lie in obtaining a doctorate so that I may teach, research, and work at a university. When I began exploring this avenue at the start of 2008, I did not know that I nearly knew two professors, both within a field of interest to me. One turned out to be a close friend’s fiancée who lived out of town, diligently working to complete the last couple months of his studies. The other turned out to be a comrade of one of my best friends and she was an established professor at a university with tons of wisdom to share. Wow, lucky me!
Even more luckily, Daisy did some networking for me and introduced me to a very helpful client of hers who teaches at a local university. All said and done, I have many lovely, seasoned people to seek out when I need advice on graduate school. They have graciously introduced me to their former faculty advisors, reviewed my application materials and fielded my many probing questions. I feel truly blessed.
So far, I am learning a great deal from these new friends, much more than any of my recently purchased graduate school advice books. Having a real, live person share their advice and insight with you is truly invaluable. For one thing, it turns out that I am applying to a graduate program that happens to be the very same one my friend’s now-husband just graduated from! Hearing personal accounts of what the program is like, who the players are and everything that happens after graduation is monumentally helpful. My other new friend went to an Ivy League school and studied overseas which widens my perspective further.
It can be daunting to network when you need help making a life change However, if you network among current friends and acquaintances, any feelings of awkwardness dissipate. You may suddenly realize that you almost knew the person anyway and feel comfortable knowing there is a friend or associate between your acquaintance. If you are comfortable striking out on your own and approaching perfect strangers as potential contacts, more power to you. For the more reserved, like myself, talk to everyone you know about your career change and a new friend is bound to turn up.