It’s not just what you know, but who you know — and how you connect with them. Networking and community-building for high school students are imperative skills for today’s connected world. Research says that 80% of jobs today are found via a network, including mentors, thought-partners, and professional connections. Helping teens learn to build their own dependable network and community are key steps to making them future ready. And networking skills are crucial equity-building tools, empowering students with a professional support system that can open doors to opportunities, mentorship, and guidance that might otherwise remain out of reach.
Here are 7 ways you can encourage students to develop and maintain network connections and build community:
1. Create a Relationship-Focused Classroom The foundation of networking and community-building starts within the classroom. When teachers create an environment that encourages collaboration, open communication, and active participation, students can more actively build relationships with their peers. Relationships are the bridge to learning. A solid classroom community lays the groundwork for fostering strong connections within the school and beyond, demonstrating how healthy communities function. 2. Model and Teach Social Skills Educate students on essential social and interpersonal skills such as active listening, empathy, conflict resolution, and effective communication. 3. Promote Inclusivity and Empathy Encourage students to appreciate and respect diverse perspectives and emphasize the importance of empathy in interactions. 4. Foster Cooperation, Voice, and Teamwork Organize meaningful group projects and collaborative activities with student voice and choice to help students develop teamwork and advocacy skills they can use for life. 5. Provide Mentorship and Support Offer mentorship, career guidance, and personal development support to empower students in the cultivation of robust networks. Redefine the teacher's role as that of a coach and mentor, going beyond content delivery and assessment, to provide comprehensive guidance and support for students' holistic growth. 6. Leverage Local, Personal + Professional Networks Tap into local, personal, and professional networks to connect students with potential mentors and real-world opportunities that align with their interests and career aspirations.
7. Introduce Career Exploration Opportunities Introducing students to career exploration opportunities, internships, and job shadowing experiences can help them establish connections in their chosen fields — and help them determine what fits. This early exposure to real-world networks can be invaluable in their professional development. By creating a relationship-focused classroom, modeling essential social skills, and providing mentorship and support, teachers can empower students to develop the skills they'll need throughout their lives. Through these efforts, students not only enrich their educational experience but also build a network of relationships and support that will prove instrumental in making them future-ready. These skills are not just for the classroom, but are essential for thriving in an interconnected world.