Think about the last time you went job hunting. What was more successful for you, blindly applying to job postings, or tapping into your network of professionals in your field? One of the most important things apprenticeship does for students is provide that professional network. Internships and job shadow opportunities are great to make a connection here or there, but a powerful professional network consists of people who know what you know.
When I was traded from the Broncos to the Rams I only got in a couple of practices and a few hours studying the playbook before I started against Dallas …and had six catches for 74 yards.
That’s because Josh McDaniels, the Rams offensive coordinator—and the coach I played for in Denver the year before—knew what I knew. He made that trade because he knew that I knew the playbook. He knew what I was capable of on the field, and that I could help the Rams win games.
Sure, another coach could look at my tape and stat lines and know I was a capable receiver, but I’d worked with McDaniels before, and he knew how I came to put up those numbers; to him I was more than just my resume. That’s the power of a professional network. Combine skills and experience with a network of people who know what an apprentice is capable of, and the sky’s the limit.
That’s particularly important for our students of color who are less likely to have parents or family members with professional networks of their own in high-growth fields. But even if a young person has some distant connections, the depth and familiarity a professional network apprenticeship provides—that aspect of knowing people who know what you know—is unmatched by merely knowing OF someone in their field.