By Eli Conlee,
M.S. Outdoor & Environmental Education
Pa knew everybody.
When I was a kid we regularly visited my grandparents in the ranch country of eastern Oregon. Among the joys of small-town ranch life, breakfast at the local tavern with our “Pa” was a runaway favorite. (Yes, the tavern was the only place around for breakfast.) While the crispy bacon and pan-fried hash browns certainly had their own appeal, I loved breakfast at the tavern for a different reason.
When the Tavern’s screen-door slammed and worn boots creaked on the old wood floor, Pa hollered a greeting to the latest cowpoke sauntering in. There were the regulars like Clarence and Wade, but every now and again a crusty old beard from “out North” or “up the river” would roll in and Pa greeted him as if no time had passed since their last cup of coffee together.
As if to counteract our premature tenure at the tavern, Sundays were spent at church. When that final hymn was over the lucky folks hurried home to their pot roast, but being related to Pa, an hour would pass before we even got to the parking lot. While Pa shook hands with everyone and their dog (often literally), we eased our woes with stale cookies.
Little did I know that the tavern and the church were my introductions to professional networking.
What was once a dusty tavern has given way to social media and the church parking lot has turned into emails. The scene has changed and the tools are different, yet the goal is the same: to be the guy in the room who knows everyone and their dog.
That’s a tall order when you move to a new place or pursue a new career.
When I came to Alaska a few months ago, I knew maybe four or five people. I was a new graduate student with no connections and was unaware of how to find them.
But I soon learned not to worry.
Alaska Pacific University may be a small school and the M.S. in Outdoor & Environmental Education (MSOEE) program is exponentially smaller. But don’t be fooled: though small, the imprint on the local community is not. In our opening weeks, we were introduced to NOLS instructors, Musk Ox Farm educators, and ski resort developers – and the introductions have not stopped!
One of the courses in the program is called Outdoor & Environmental Education Literacy. In the course, we learned about networking-reliant teaching methods like Place- & Community- based education (learning rooted in and connected to local community, culture & environment). Nothing solidified these concepts more than realizing how quickly I was connected to the people, businesses, and opportunities in Alaska through the MSOEE program.
Networking guru Ivan Misner once said, “Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting.” Here, you do not have to hunt down connections to build your career; they are cultivated from the moment you arrive.
I have found that the only way to experience a “network connection failure” at APU is if you don’t show up.