Advice: Creating Connections

Michelle Rodriguez

Question:

 

I am a current sophomore at Duke and I have a problem. I’m hoping that your insights might be able to shed a light on the issue for me and perhaps offer some guidance as I proceed. I am applying to various internships in a particular business field, and I am getting really bummed out by my lack of connections. I am a first-generation immigrant to the U.S. and my family is far from well-connected. We still struggle to assimilate to American society and face prejudice from neighbors and supposed “community-members” as a result. At Duke, I don’t have to worry about this because of my diverse support network.

But recently, I’ve been recognizing how my background is hurting me in other ways. While some people, namely my roommate and a friend from a student group I am involved with, are able to talk to directors and engagement managers at various firms because of their family connections, I know no one. It’s becoming especially disheartening and I am at the point of giving up on the search all together. Obviously, the world is not a level playing field and being at Duke puts me at an advantage that others would love to have. Still, the nonchalance of my peers who leverage personal connections to secure professional opportunities is frustrating. Thoughts?

 

Response:

 

Despite the actions and higher social/economic standings of other students being at times transparent and therefore difficult to ignore, there are moments when you just need to focus specifically on yourself and how you plan to achieve your goals. We were all born into varying household situations with varying benefits or challenges accompanied within them; however, that is something we cannot change. What we can change is how we proceed from there towards each long and short-term goal we establish for ourselves. Honestly speaking, I understand your frustration and over how others may require less of an effort because of their more available resources. However, reversing this scenario, if your parents or family associations were to have landed you the internship, how would you have felt and to what moral extent would you be able to accept such an outcome that you may or may not have deserved?

Although the social connections you mentioned that your peers have are results of someone else’s efforts, who is to say you cannot create your own? The process will definitely be more time consuming and require more effort on your part, but they will be connections that you yourself have established. By getting to know a professor within your business field or major (or someone who has a similar social and academic outreach) and investing time into strengthening that student-faculty bond, you expand your access of resources. If you do this each semester, by the end of your undergraduate career, you will have five new people (assuming you start now) that would be willing to help you further your academic pursuits. In your own way, you can level the playing field.

What will truly impact your situation is your level of willingness to accomplish your goals despite hardship. Although there is always a possibility that things may not go as planned, that does not mean failure. At times, you need to just take a step back and try again when you feel most comfortable. Whatever course of action you choose to take, I hope it resonates with what you believe is right for you and your current situation. 

 

Hope this helps, 

Michelle