I do a lot of workshops on building partnerships, and the question I get more than any other is: “Where do I find partners?” Even among those who have taught for years, most educators feel like they don’t know anyone outside the school walls – and for a new teacher, or one new to a school or district, the feeling of isolation is even worse.
There’s good news, however: Every educator, even those brand new to the field, has access to a tremendous number of industry contacts! The trick is to stop thinking in terms of your own personal relationships, and start thinking in terms of your personal and professional networks. Think about who you know, and then think about all the people that they know, and watch as your circle of contacts gets exponentially larger.
The list below highlights some of the networks you can leverage in your search. Ask your contacts for help, and you’ll have a full list of partners in no time!
- Ask your fellow educators and administrators, both CTE and general subjects.
- Do your vendors also sell to industry? Ask them for introductions.
- Your current partners are already bought in to your work. Ask them who else they can bring to the table, either from their company or from others.
- One of your advisory board’s core duties should be to bring in new partners.
- Your students’ parents want opportunities for their children. Ask them who they know.
- Ask your postsecondary or secondary counterparts to swap contacts with you.
- Former students are great partners; they can also introduce you to their employers.
- You have a life outside of school; tell your personal contacts in your church, bowling league, or other groups you’re looking for contacts to help your students.
- Get involved in business organizations like the Chamber and start networking!
Work through that list and look for opportunities to ask your contacts for introductions. Most would be happy to help, they just don’t know that you have a need! Ask for a couple of minutes at a staff meeting to let your fellow educators know that you’d like to be introduced to anyone they know connected to your field. Send a letter home to parents. Take a couple of minutes at an advisory board meeting to talk about partnership development, or better yet, set up a task force or subcommittee with specific goals.
Follow these steps, and your program will be bursting at the seams with new partners!
Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (www.nc3t.com). NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education