I recently met with a BU journalism major who shared about her experience networking as an Asian American pursuing a career in media. She noted that, “It’s very easy to feel isolated in the career world. Since journalism is extremely competitive, times can arise where you feel like the barriers your facing are insurmountable. ”
If you are a student of color, a member of the LGBTQ population, an immigrant or part of an underrepresented group; you probably can relate to her.
Networking as a minority has its unique challenges. However, there are many successful people from underrepresented communities that have found ways to build their professional network.
Here are a few tips that will help you network as a minority.
Connect to Minority Alumni
A great way to start networking is to tap into Boston University’s alumni network. Find minority alumni by registering with the Career Advisory Network (CAN) or find BU alumni via LinkedIn. In addition, many alumni come on campus for events or are featured in the Alumni magazine, Bostonia. Reach out to them to conduct an informational interview, ask for advice or to mentor you.
Join an Affinity Professional Organization
Being connected to people similar to you will help you gain visibility in your community, open up opportunities for further professional development and provide social and emotional support. Many of these organizations coordinate career fairs, speaker series and even semi-social networking events that allow professionals to further develop skills as they navigate the career ladder.
Some of these associations are industry specific. For example, National Society of Black Engineers focuses on career development for Black engineers and Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality is health focused. BU student, Josee Jean Matela, found joining the Asian American Journalist Association quite empowering. After attending an event she noted that “It was really amazing seeing people who were so willing to help each other out and share the experience of being Asian-American in today’s media”.
Other professional organizations have broader interests like Greater Boston Latino Network, or Ellevate, which is a women’s professional association. There are several ways to get involved in professional organizations. Start with joining affinity groups on campus, many of them are chapters of larger professional organizations. Also, check out Meetup.com to find local professional networking groups.
Find a Mentor
By becoming involved in professional organizations and connecting with minority alumni, you will most likely build a strong connection with a person of influence in your industry. Consider asking the person to be a mentor. This person can provide support, share experiences, give advice and connect you to leads in your field. Cultivating a relationship with someone that understands your struggle and who has successfully navigated the challenges of being a minority in the professional world will empower and inspire you to do the same.