One Person at a Time: building your social capital

Quitting my job and entering a new profession wasn’t a decision that I took lightly. It took a lot of soul searching, prayers, a pay cut and a great deal of courage. I want to explain why I quit the world of finance and investment banking and entered the education field.

I quit because I wanted to have a positive impact on learning, which I believe cannot be accurately measured by test scores. I quit because children are not just our future, they are our present, and they need to be empowered now. I quit because I have a soft spot for dreamers and had to find a way to make their dreams come true.

Entering this new profession has made me uncomfortable several times and one of the hardest parts for me so far is learning how to network. For some people networking is a cakewalk but for me it is as hard as getting a perfect score on the GRE. Since the day I arrived at Harvard, I have wondered, “how do I network?” I received a variety of answers ranging from “you need to be present at all events and talk to as many people as possible to build your social circle,” while others told me “networking is meeting someone for a cup of coffee.” I didn’t know what to do with this advice because I wasn’t sure yet what it meant to “fit in” at Harvard. However, I didn’t give up my quest to find out.

In one of our meetings, Professor Fernando Reimers addressed my question. In his words, “it isn’t as much about networking as it is about building your community.” Some people may network by talking to as many people as possible and trying to be the most popular person at a party. But for me, building community means getting to know one person at a time and taking the time to really talk to them. This way, I’m building long-term relationships that won’t die as the party comes to an end. 

And that’s how I started building my social capital – with the philosophy that I don’t have to know everyone at a party or an event. Instead, I focus on meeting one person at a time and developing lifelong connections. I hope this post helps people who don’t see themselves in the category of “fitting in” realize that there is more than one way to connect with others at HGSE.  

networking photo

Blog and photos by Aarushi Singhania

Aarushi Singhania is a master’s candidate in the International Education Policy program. She is passionate about bringing inclusive education to marginalized students and the financial empowerment of women. Aarushi has a small–scale startup focused on empowering young girls and women in Bangalore, India that teaches them to work towards building financial capital with vocational skills, entrepreneurial competencies and digital literacy.

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