Without any reservations, I can say that without a strong support network I would not be where I am today. Of course, one’s family is probably the first and most important network anyone will have in their lifetime. But for those who are first-generation or low income, often, our families can only provide limited academic and professional support. In my case, I realized law was both my dream and destiny only because I went out of my way to build a meaningful relationship with one of my professors. At that point, I was on my way to becoming fluent in Spanish, and I’d decided I wanted to become proficient in Russian as well. After taking Cultural Linguistics and Russian Literature with her, we became close enough that I asked her to teach me Russian one-on-one in an independent study. During one of our breaks, I began explaining that I might be interested in pursuing academia. High school was the first place where I had sustained and meaningful contact with people who had tertiary degrees, and at that point, the life of an academic was impossibly removed from and absolutely dazzling to me. As I spoke to her, I began to realize that even though I loved research and writing, I might also want a career that was the kind of highflying, high-powered, and fast-paced thing that I’d only read about, but never encountered in any real way through either lived or vicarious experience. It was then that my professor, who luckily was from a long line of both academics and lawyers, told me that what I wanted sounded like law. Two things happened at that moment: First, I felt my destiny open up before me. Second, my professor’s status as a lifelong mentor of mine was cemented.
Once I began law school, my plans to apply to business school were already almost completely solidified…but not completely. To be completely honest, this was because I was terrified. I was afraid because I knew that I had no work experience, well no full-time work experience, and that would put me at a serious disadvantage in the application process. Being intentional and self-aware about this, I met multiple JDAs who were able to advise me and tell me really important things about our school’s program, but none who could necessarily assuage my fears, as they’d all had previous careers and lots of work experience to fall back on which had given them the upper hand in the application process. Finally, in October 2016, I met a JD/MBA after a business school admissions event who also had no work experience but was able to successfully gain admission to the business school. Without my decision to go to the event and to be intentional about meeting current JD/MBAs I would never have met her, and it’s possible that my confidence level wouldn’t have been as high going through the application process, thinking that I was alone on the wrong side of a wall of statistics. Not only was she able to calm my anxieties, she ended up reading my application essays and showing me exactly where my narrative should be leading an admissions committee.
These two anecdotes are meant to show to demonstrate that success isn’t a solitary event. Success looks much more like the planting and nurturing of a tree, than it does a survival challenge in the woods. It is normal to rely on a strong network to succeed, but for those who do not have a built-in academic and professional network starting with their family, it is important to be as intentional as possible about building one from the ground up. Whatever your dream or passion is, it is almost certain that you can find at least one person on this earth that has gone before you. Even if you really are about to blaze a trail, you’ll likely find someone who’s blazed a similar one, if not the same one.
Also, never underestimate the power of a peer to peer network. It is important to find those who are where you want to be one day, but it is never to early to begin developing the right network of peers, who are going to be your colleagues, your business partners, and your clients and customers one day. Giant Takeaway: You need to be present, intentional, and self-aware in order to begin building the network that is going to empower you to pursue your passions. Find people who are where you want to be one day, and find people were going to be to be right there with you one day.