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Be a Social Capital Asset to Young People Not Normally in Your Network

With the holiday season here, you may be struggling with gift ideas. And, as a reader of my blog, you are probably concerned about the economic plight of Black and Latinx young adults. The following message contains a secret on giving a gift that always keeps giving – one that could close the opportunity gap as we know it.

Let me ask you, do you think of yourself as an asset to a young person? Not one in your family or immediate friendship circle. I’m talking about an asset to the young adult of a Black or LatinX co-worker, colleague, or employee.

If not, let me convince you that you are, or can be, a social capital asset to a young person not normally in your network. How? Because you have connections to people who are.

What is Social Capital?

Investopedia defines capital as “a broad term that can describe anything that confers value or benefit to its owners.” That could mean cash or financial assets such as stocks, real estate, or even a business.

But the most overlooked type of capital is social capital. That’s the intangible value from our connections to economically mobile individuals, organizations, and institutions. All too often, we fail to realize how much social capital we’ve acquired in our lifetimes. Perhaps even worse, we fail to recognize the value of ourselves as potential social capital assets to others!

The Risk of Losing Social Capital

Recently, I attended the funeral of one of my fraternity brothers. One of the eulogies mentioned the effort he invested in cultivating relationships with all of us in the audience. Because of the work I do, this made me think about the value of all those connections. Suddenly, it hit me like a brick that his social capital was at risk of being lost.

The sad fact is, after most funerals, there is much discussion about the distribution of financial assets…but little, if any, thought placed on the transfer of social ones. There is a lot of embracing and offering condolences; afterward, many of those connections are lost forever. Even intimate family members may not see or speak with each other again for years, if ever.

The social capital my frat brother accumulated over 40 years of fellowship, support, and love was at stake of dissipating. Of course, the collective memories of him wouldn’t die. But would his social capital be transferred to his beloved daughter? Or would it vanish like dust in the wind?

I decided that no, it wouldn’t be lost! I’d find a way to preserve what he built and pass it on to her. We succeeded in doing that through our My Opportunity Hub (MyOH) platform, enabling her to stay connected to her dad’s network of friends, family, and associates—all those invaluable social capital assets he worked so hard to build.

Social Capital Assets

Most educators and youth development professionals aren’t taught about social capital. Consequently, they can’t teach young people how to develop it. Social capital is not networking. Networking is an activity. Social capital is an outcome. A growing body of research points to the importance of social capital for economic and social success. Yet, most educational institutions and workforce programs don’t provide the training or tools to help young people from underserved communities build the social capital needed to thrive.

As a result, most of us, black and white, young and old, remain oblivious to the priceless value of this overlooked asset. Meanwhile, every day, the social capital estates of millions of Americans go on untransferred…just like my friend’s almost did.

It’s time to change this. If schools can’t (or won’t), then it’s up to each of us. We have the power to assist young people and help them identify their social capital assets—of which, each of us is one!

Consider the teens and young adults in the networks of those who don’t look like you. It’s time to reach out and offer them some career development support and labor market information. How? Through the colleague that often sits right in front of your face, even if virtually.

Social capital isn’t “networking.” It’s about building bonds of trust, genuine compassion, and ongoing communication channels. So, in the spirit of the holidays, we at Social Capital Builders offer you this list of five ways to serve as a social capital asset to a young person normally not in your network!

Six Ways to Be a Social Capital Asset

Here are some ideas…

  1. Think about what information and skills you possess that could assist young adults’ career development efforts
  2. Determine what information/skills you want to impart
  3. Decide how you want to present yourself – as a social capital asset, in-person, on the phone, via emails, Zoom, blogs, presentations/lectures, classroom visits, etc.
  4. Consider Black and Latinx connections in your network and their young adult children who may benefit from your career development support.
  5. Reach out to these connections: individuals, groups, and community organizations in your area, offer yourself as an asset, and set up a time to be introduced to their young adult.
  6. From a place of compassion, present the labor market information you have to share and the support you are willing to extend. If accepted, set up a monthly 15-minute check-in.

Edward DeJesus is the Founder of Social Capital Builders (SCB). For more information or to book Edward and the SCB team, please call 202-913-2420.