How to Find Your Cheerleaders

There’s a common saying that goes, “it takes a village.” This means it takes a collaborative effort, a support group, a community, to get things accomplished. When it comes to accomplishing your dream, this is no exception. Accomplishing a dream requires months and years of hard work and dedication, and no individual person can do it on their own. It doesn’t matter what your dream is; human beings need each other for support as we all walk our own paths.

I introduce this concept in my book Dream Big! How to Reach for Your Stars, in Chapter 2 when I advise readers to “figure out who your cheerleaders are.”  At my nonprofit, The Mars Generation, we have spent years building a community to provide the “village” that young people (and people of all ages) need to dream big, act big, and inspire others (our mission statement!). While your dream will be propelled by your own passion, dedication, and hard work, everyone needs help to turn their dreams into reality. You’ll need mentors, role models, peers, and even competition, but in this post, I want to talk about cheerleaders.

What Are Cheerleaders?

Cheerleaders are the people who are not necessarily experts or players within the realm of your dream (although they can be!), but are people who support you from the sidelines. Cheerleaders are there to tell you to lift your head back up when you fall down. Cheerleaders remind you of your dream in moments of self-doubt (which we all have) and support you on your journey to success. They are the ones chanting “you can do it!” when you fail, and flipping with excitement when you succeed!

Even if you have a mountain of confidence in yourself and your dream, the road to achieving it is hard and there are bound to be times where you need an extra push to keep going. There’s also times where you get a really exciting breakthrough towards your dream and want to celebrate it with someone. That’s what cheerleaders are for!

How to Find Your Cheerleaders

In order to be a cheerleader for you, a person needs to

  1. know about your dream
  2. see your steps and passion towards accomplishing it and
  3. and believe in your ability to achieve it!

Cheerleaders are also there to support you if your dream changes or grows – which is totally normal and happens all the time!

In this blog post I’m going to go more in depth and tell you how to find your cheerleaders! Remember though, people are not going to be your cheerleaders right away. They need you to take action first! Don’t be shy – look for and approach potential cheerleaders in the following areas of your life.

Finding Your Cheerleaders at School

In my own life, school has been one of the top places I’ve found my cheerleaders. Remember, teachers and faculty members are there to support you! Along my journey to becoming an astronaut, I was fortunate to have really dedicated teachers and professors who helped me learn the material I needed to get my biology degree and pursue my dreams.

But how do you form a relationship with faculty and teachers? 

Participating in class and presenting your best self every day is definitely a great foundation. That way, they can see that you’re passionate and hardworking. You enjoy the material and you are someone who shows up and puts in a real effort to learn and succeed.

Beyond class, joining groups, organizations, research, etc. that the teacher or professor
runs can provide added opportunities to show them that you will go the extra mile to reach your dream. Stay enthusiastic and involved! Over time they’ll get to know more about you and the skills you have. But don’t worry if you can’t join extra opportunities with them outside of class! One of the easiest ways to have a teacher or professor become your cheerleader is to simply reach out!

It can definitely seem intimidating to reach out. I know when I first started college, taking advantage of the office hours of a professor who was a big expert in their field was pretty daunting! But here’s a secret: teachers and professors by large start teaching because they genuinely love helping students! This was especially true at my college, where professors were asking us to meet with them outside of class, not the other way around!

There’s also the misconception that you need to have a really good question or reason to go to office hours. This isn’t the case! Professors (especially if it’s a smaller class) tend to really appreciate students just coming in and saying hi. Nervous? Here’s a quick script I liked to use.

“Hi Professor French! My name is Abby and I’m in your first-year astronomy class. I came by to introduce myself. I’m really interested in astrobiology, potentially going into research, and even applying to be an astronaut. I’m excited for the semester and would love to learn about how to dive even deeper into astronomy!”

This breaks down into:

  • Who you are and what class you’re in
  • What your dream is and why it ties into their class
  • That you hope to learn more about the subject! (This is a subtle way of asking for advice or resources to progress your learning)

Building a relationship with your professors is really valuable because professors can point you in the direction of what classes to take next, suggest outside opportunities for you, write letters of recommendation, give advice, and help you in their class!

For instance, Professor French was a Wellesley Professor who was a former NASA scientist who worked on the Cassini mission. He was a great person for me to talk to given my specific dream! Locate the professor or teacher who may have the best advice or connections for your dream, and approach them. You won’t regret it!

Finding Your Cheerleaders in Your Job Supervisors

Another really excellent place to find a cheerleader is in your place of work. Whether you’re working an internship, a part-time job, doing a research opportunity, or more, you’re bound to be supervised by someone. In addition to working hard and being a great intern/employee/researcher for them, here are some tips on how to make them a cheerleader!

Let them know early on what your dreams are and how the work you’re doing with them
is helping to support your dream. Most employers, supervisors, or managers like to help their employees progress in the field! Especially if you are a young person or a student, they’ll know you are just starting out and looking for support. If you show hard work, intention, and passion, they’ll be even more likely to be your cheerleader!

After completing the opportunity (for example, a summer internship), it’s a great idea to write a personalized thank you note about the experience. Show gratitude for any skills, lessons, knowledge, or mentorship you received on the job and tell them how you hope it will help you go from there.

Then, when you get a new opportunity (like the job that you landed because you had that particular internship on your resume), reach back out and thank old employers, mentors, or supervisors. They’ll likely be really happy that the work you did with them helped advance your dream! This is also a great way to stay in touch with them and have them be one of your cheerleaders. Staying connected will allow them to 1) provide mentorship in their knowledge area if you ever need it, and 2) find new opportunities. The world is a small place and you never know where your next opportunity will come from. Don’t knock down any bridges!

Finding Your Cheerleaders Among Your Friends and Family

The earliest and in some ways most natural place you’ll find cheerleaders is among your friends and family. These cheerleaders will likely be there to provide moral and emotional support along your way instead of field-specific advice or opportunities. But don’t discount this! Everyone needs a boost of confidence when pursuing their dreams.

For your friends and family to become cheerleaders you need to do just two things:

  1. Confidently let them know about your dreams! ! Let them see your passion and how excited you are! (Learn more about this in Chapter 2 of my book Dream Big! How to Reach for Your Stars: “Be Loud, Be Proud!”)
  2. Demonstrate to them that you are serious by creating a plan and taking actionable steps to achieving your dreams. (for detailed information on how to create a plan see Chapter 3 of my book Dream Big! How to Reach for Your Stars, titled “When Rubber Hits the Road: Making a Plan – and Sticking to It”.

For instance, when I was a little kid and I told my mom I wanted to be an astronaut, she
supported me but didn’t think I was serious. She thought that this would fade over time. (I had also wanted to be a unicorn at one point so I do not blame her.) What turned her into my cheerleader was when she saw that my dream was not fading, but growing. Moreover, I was taking actionable steps to create a plan to become an astronaut.

Since then my mom has been one of my biggest advocates. Even though she did not have a background in space, she has given me the emotional support, confidence, and life advice to pursue my dreams. She also co-founded The Mars Generation nonprofit with me when I was 18 and has been a big inspiration to me. Moreover,  the STEM outreach work we have done together since I was 13 years old is the basis for my book Dream Big!: How to Reach for Your Stars. Not only has she helped support me becoming an astronaut, but together we’ve worked to help show young people how exciting STEM and space are and have helped them reach their full potential!

How to Keep Your Cheerleaders Cheering

When you are pursuing a dream, it typically can take years (even decades!) to accomplish it. That means your cheerleaders are in for the long-run. Here’s a few helpful tips to help keeping them cheering throughout the years:

  1. Always let your cheerleaders know how grateful you are for them and their support.
  2. Be sure to give what you can in return! For a Professor who is an expert in their field, this might be a dedicated, amazing student in the classroom. For a supervisor, this might be an excellent intern and employee. For your friends and family, this means being a cheerleader and supporting them too!  When you have a victory, they do too. Your cheerleaders are excited to see you succeed, so be sure to share your victories with them!
  3. Your cheerleaders are there to support you, not just your dream. This means if your dreams morph and change, that’s ok! They’re there to support that as well! Still, be open and honest with them about where you are at if your dreams are changing. Show them that you’re not merely giving up on your last dream, but have found a path that is truly better for you, and they’ll be excited!

When you’re pursuing a dream, you’re in for the long haul. While it can be fun and exciting, everyone hits a wall from time to time. When you’re missing your confidence to keep going, it’s your cheerleaders who will lend you theirs to keep you on track. Cheerleaders can be found anywhere you can find humans, but some of my suggested places to look are at school, at work, and at home! Wherever you find them, hang on to them, listen to their advice, and be sure to thank them for their help and return the favor when you can!

So go out there, be proud of your dream, find your cheerleaders, and form your cheer squad!

For more information on how to reach for big dreams and make them a reality check out my book Dream Big!: How to Reach for Your Stars here.  With the tips, strategies, and stories included, you can replace your feelings of fear and uncertainty when looking at your dreams with ones of positivity, determination, and passion!

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