How to Build Your Network
It’s not who you are, it’s who you know.”
Well, I was a nobody. I knew no one.
Unlike some of my college classmates, my parents were not former journalists or well-connected people in the media industry. I was not involved in my high school newspaper.
When I get asked about how I chose journalism, I usually say it was through serendipity. I loved writing and I loved talking to people. Journalism sounded like the perfect way to combine those two passions.
As a first-generation immigrant and college student, I was navigating this competitive field blindly. I often felt discouraged and imposter syndrome sometimes got the best of me. I remember not knowing what a lede was or how to write a nut graph– things that were very basic to the field.
But, my passion for storytelling kept me motivated.
I knew that this was something I wanted to do and I planned on finding a way to do it. I convinced myself to get over my fear and ask for help.
At the University of Texas at Austin, there were so many talented professors who were former journalists but I often felt intimidated.
What would they think of me?
Little did I know, that was the beginning of mentorships that changed the entire path of my life. I opened up about my struggles to those professors and shared my determination to pursue my goals.
“Look, I know I’m not really good now, but this is absolutely what I want to do,” I remember telling my professor in office hours. I went to him after I made a C on a crime story assignment.
He encouraged me to work on my craft and led me to other professors who I could get advice from. My first two years of college were extremely challenging academically, but most of all mentally.
The hurdles got easier to overcome. I felt I started to excel and could see my vision become realistic. This was thanks to professors, journalists and peers who pushed me.
Today, I love seeing high school and young college students get excited about journalism.
The best way to succeed is to surround yourself with people dedicated to the industry or passionate about it.
Ask them what made them get into the industry. Ask them what was their path? Be open to receiving feedback. Be open to getting critiqued.
And never take anything someone tells you personally.
Tips on how to build your network:
1. Join student organizations dedicated to your cause. Most campuses will have organizations that are student-run. This is a great way to stay motivated and surround yourself by others who are passionate about the same career. Join student media your first year!
2. Sign up for annual conferences that relate to your industry. There’s several associations like the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Asian Journalists, Society of Professional Journalists, as well as the Journalism and Women Symposium. Conferences are a great opportunity to connect with professionals.
3. Apply for internships!!! As many as humanly possible! Burnout is real. Don’t overwork yourself, but know that it is important to dedicate time to getting internships. It’s not only important for your resume, but the internships will help guide you for what you are passionate about. I did some television internships and enjoyed them, but getting to write more was important for me so I pivoted and focused on reporting internships for print organizations.
4. Make the most of your time at the internship.
It’s important that when you begin your internship to talk to your supervisor about some goals that you have. Maybe it’s a big project. Maybe you help start a new initiative on a social platform. Whatever it is, vocalize it. And while you’re interning reach out to people for coffee or lunch. Informational interviews are helpful ways to hear more about what jobs are like in media. It’s called an informational interview because it is like interviewing, but you want to treat it very casual.
5. Most importantly, follow up! Don’t reach out to people only when you need something. This is perhaps one of the worst things you can do. Check in with people from time to time about how they’re doing, or reach out to them when you have questions and want their advice. Send them links to your recent pieces and ask for feedback. When you foster genuine relationships with people, those relationships are much more beneficial.