So you are all moved into your new dorm room; towels and wash cloths folded and stashed, full body mirror attached to the door to ensure freshness as you exit (which will prove far less important than you anticipate), a tub filled with room-temperature snacks and, of course, all of the boring academic necessities like your backpack, pens and such. With classes right around the corner (if not yet underway), you’re already enamored by the mega-slumber party feel of college as you plunge into a 24/7 living arrangement with a bunch of strangers from all over the country who had a remarkably similar but significantly unique high school experience of their own. And there are no parents to be found. Rejoice!
You are smart. That’s likely a large part of how you got into college. So you default to the long-term plan of getting good grades and graduating so you can get a good job. As for the short term plan, it’s make friends, make “more than friends,” figure out your go-to items in the dining hall, flex on social media for your old friends you’re no longer near and have lots of fun! But there is one thing I want you to be mindful of, think about and never forget…
NETWORK. Let your entire college experience be the start of you building a PROFESSIONAL network to the point that you have to actively choose to suppress it rather than remembering to employ it. In other words, you should be thinking about when to “turn your hustle off” so to speak rather than remembering to turn it on. And those times will come (and be plentiful) when you need to cut loose, have fun and be completely present in the moment. But the reality is who you know will most likely be as important, especially early on, as what you know in terms of navigating the professional world of business and career. From there, you can springboard using the individual gifts you have cultivated and developed over the years. But there are very few significantly impactful things that were done completely by just one person, even if just the opportunity itself was provided by another.
Show me a person who declares themselves completely self-made in the world we live in and I will show you a liar. Always keep that in mind as you interact with your peers, professors and other professionals in fields of interest and beyond because you never fully know the course your life will take. Don’t be a robot who’s impersonal. Don’t be a user. Do not lead with seeking a potential come up, gain or benefit.
Make strong first impressions though. Do not suppress who you are and the strengths you carry. Genuinely connect with people and be authentic, follow and trust good energy and be sure not to waste quality connections and relationships and take for granted what they can one day provide on a professional level. This is the game inside the game and it’s one that you can play with integrity.
I’ve told many parents and kids fresh out of high school this: “The C student who networks well will get further than the A student who doesn’t in almost every instance.” And perhaps if you are as smart as I believe you young people to be, you’ll pull from both.