You can’t put a price tag on it but it’s a currency that will open up more doors than cash could.
It’s the valuable relationships that build careers, families, and communities. People who are “rich” in social capital are connected. Those who are “poor” are isolated.
Social capital contributes to career growth, thriving families, and strong neighborhoods and communities. It’s such an important part of life.
The question: does your student have enough?
Why Your Student Needs A Network
There are a lot of factors in developing social capital. Like money, there’s not just one way to get it.
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Your student can accumulate valuable social capital and build their network through a variety of means. Finding a mentor is an investment in social capital. So is working on a collaborative project with like-minded peers.
Of course, networking is one of the most common ways to build social capital and open doors to more opportunities for your student.
A strong network is just as valuable, if not more, than the skills, certifications, and diplomas your student will pick up on their way through high school and college.
After all, the saying goes: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
Networking is for everyone. Not just mid-career businesspeople in suits, carrying briefcases.
How can you help your student start building a valuable network now?
Networking Tools for Students
There are a variety of tools and strategies that your student can employ to develop social capital while they’re still in school and set themselves up for success as they move into the working world.
Is there someone in your community that has mastered their craft? Is your student interested in learning from them directly?
Finding a mentor will develop your student’s skill set, their aptitude for learning, and it will introduce them to a valuable relationship.
Sometimes mentoring and apprenticeship can be as simple as shadowing a professional for a day to see what working in their job would be like. It can also be more in-depth. Life mentors can help offer your student an outside perspective on important decisions and can broaden their network by creating new connections. Apprenticeships can allow your student to get real job experience in their desired profession while learning skills from a true master of that trade.
Doing projects is a good source of growth for your student. But doing projects with others is a great source of growth. Collaborating on a project with peers will teach your student important “soft skills” like teamwork and leadership. It could be a film produced with friends, a business launched with classmates, or a workout regimen conquered with teammates.
When your student works with others on a collaborative project, they’ll build relationships that will increase social capital and open up future opportunities.
Building a network with people that you’ve actually done something with is more powerful than merely associating with people of similar interests. It has the double benefit of creating a strong connection and providing your student with real-world experience and a project to prove it.
This may be an obvious starting point for your student now. Getting your student on LinkedIn will help them create a professional online presence and start building social capital with connections.
When your student joins LinkedIn it’s important to create a full profile. This includes a professional headshot, a descriptive summary, and a headline that catches people’s attention and acts as your student’s “one-liner” introduction.
Engaging with and leaving comments on LinkedIn posts can help your student increase their visibility and show up in recruiter searches. It’s okay to start out small and build up over time.
Building social capital, like most investments, is a marathon.
The Time to Start is Now!
Whether your student knows what they want for their future or not, one thing is guaranteed: they won’t be able to accomplish anything on their own. Part of preparing your student for post-graduation success is helping them build a network and gather social capital.
Your student should start doing this now! There is no time like the present to invest financially and the same is true for relationships and social capital.
COVID-19 has changed the professional world. It has demonstrated that no job can be taken for granted. When a candidate applies for a job online they are competing with dozens (even hundreds) of other similarly qualified candidates. Having a network and professional connections increases a candidate’s chances by a lot. As we emerge from the pandemic soon (fingers crossed) it will be incredibly important for students to build their network.
We love practicing what we preach. We’ve built our Ascend program on community, mentoring, and developing practical life skills without sacrificing your academic goals. Take a minute to learn more today! Applications are closing very soon.
Jace Bower is the Marketing Coordinator for Unbound. An Unbound alumnus, he has experienced firsthand the powerful advantages of doing college differently and participating in an intentional community. Jace graduated with his bachelor’s degree in History in 2016 and has worked in restaurant management and marketing since then. He also served on the Unbound Student Cabinet in 2019.
The author of two books and a semi-regular blogger, Jace can often be found doing something with words. When he’s not, chances are he’s reading about theology, listening to music, or playing pool or tennis with his wife Shannon in their Virginia home.