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“Networking: In Your Own Backyard”

by Todd M. Wysocki, Ph.D. 

It’s not what you know, it is more often “who you know” that gives you a head start.  This adage, while cliché, can be very real for college students looking to start their career.  There is tremendous value in utilizing connections to help you get your foot into the door. What you do when in – is then up to you.  However, you can’t dazzle others with your talents and skills if the door is closed every time youknock.  It is a stark reality – one that countless prospects face time and time again. To this end, the need to create anetwork of contacts has become increasingly necessary.  Often, it begins with a mentor.

Traditionally, mentors are college professors, student affairs professionals, or a supervisor at an entry-level position.  In some instances, it can be an upperclassman as part of a mentoring program at an institution.  We often neglect to look to our roots. Yet, a mentor may be closer to home, in your own backyard or hometown.


While the directory serves to provide a conduit for developing direct contacts, it also demonstrates the power of human capital, the presence of educated, successful adults who provide models of what a young adult from our community can hope to achieve.

College alumni networks are indeed powerful. Alumni tend to go out of their way to help fellow alum. It is salient connection. Yet, sharing a hometown may be even more powerful.  I have found myself helping graduates from my college alma mater.  However, there is something uniquely personal and relevant when a person is from my hometown.  I go above and beyond to help in any way possible.  This is especially true given the fact that I come from a small hometown. 

This idea was the impetus for the establishment of the “Hometown Network”.  There is power in hometown connections.  The idea is twofold.  One to provide a network of contacts.  Secondly, it serves to showcase role models allowing our youth to see the successes of many individuals from our hometown.

The Hometown Network was established by the JLS Foundation in cooperation with the local public school in Hoosick Falls, NY to provide graduates with the opportunity to form connections with successful and talented people who also grew up in Hoosick Falls. It is designed to assist students in developing professional relationships and building a network of connections in their chosen fields.

While in college or a vocational training program, many students focus solely on finishing the program or securing their degree. An often overlooked, but critical component is learning how to develop professional relationships and building a network of connections in one’s field. It can provide the competitive advantage needed to get internships, full-time employment and continue advancing in your career.

The Hometown Network is comprised of a directory of successful professionals in a variety of fields from our hometown of Hoosick Falls. The directory allows recent graduates to connect with former and current residents in careers that may be compatible with their field of interest to develop a relationship to build connections and a network of contacts.

The directory can be searched by field of interest, name, year of graduation, college and more.  In addition, it provides a means to connect with anetwork of mentors on LinkedIn or email them directly.  Currently, there are over 75 people who arepart of the network.

While the directory serves to provide a conduit for developing direct contacts, it also demonstrates the power of human capital, the presence of educated, successful adults who provide models of what a young adult from our community can hope to achieve.  They serve as role models, examples of what can be achieved through hard work and determination. This can inspire our youth and foster a sense of self-belief, showing that we are only held back by self-imposed limiting beliefs. Our community, like many small towns, has seen its share of struggles often contributing to a mindset that too often focuses on what we can’t do rather than what is actually possible.  It is our hope that the network, in some way, can help our youth overcome the challenges and work towards a promising and rewarding future as seen by the many success stories in the network; as well as the connections they can provide.

All too often we hear the expression, “they have achieved success inspite of where they came from”.  Our goal is to change the narrative. Success, in part, can happen because of their hometown and because of where they came from. The Hometown Network hopes to play a role in that transformation because the best mentors and role models may be the ones in our own backyard.

For more information, visit: https://thejlsfoundation.org/hometown-network/ or email: t.wysock@hvcc.edu

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