My Advice to ANY High School/College Student
I've had the opportunity to visit a ton of high school and college classes lately to speak about marketing and entrepreneurship, and every single discussion has included this question: “What is the best piece of advice you would give to a college/high school student like myself?”
My answer has consistently been the same in each class:
You, as a high school or college student, have one thing that is more valuable than ANYTHING I have access to, every other business professional has access to, your teachers and professors have access to, etc. That one thing is your school-issued email address.
Here’s the thing. People LOVE to give advice. People LOVE to be considered the expert. People LOVE to answer questions. People LOVE to talk about themselves and tell their stories. All you have to do is ask…
So, here’s what you do. You log onto your email service provider and you begin to compose an email.
“Dear Mrs. ______,
I am a marketing student at the University of XYZ and I truly believe that I want to go into the marketing field upon graduation. However, I haven’t really had the opportunity to experience the “real world” of marketing. I’m wondering if I could buy you a cup of coffee sometime and pick your brain, learn from you, and hopefully gain some valuable insight into the world of marketing!
I know you are extremely busy, so I will be 100% flexible on the timing. Is there a time in the next few weeks that works best for you? Thank you so much! I truly appreciate you taking the time to meet me and share your story/give advice.
Okay, don’t copy and paste that. That would be silly. But you get the point. Be humble and start networking! This is going to pay off BIG TIME in the long run.
Next step: you get the chance to meet this person. Wow! Be early. Show up at the coffee shop. Offer to buy them a coffee (most people will flip the script on you and buy you the coffee, but it’s polite to ask!). Then start asking questions. This is 100% a learning experience – NOT a sales pitch. Don’t use this opportunity to ask for an internship. Don’t ask for a job. Don’t sell them any of your entrepreneurial services. Just ask lots of questions. Ask advice.
Before you leave, get one piece of advice from them that becomes a homework assignment. Something like “I would recommend you read this book, watch these two videos and get certified in this platform”
OK AWESOME! Now you say something like “I will definitely do that! Do you mind if I reach out to you again in a few months and update you on my progress on this task, share more about where I am in school, and ask some more questions?”
Then you walk out of that meeting, you grab your phone, and you say “Hey Siri!” (your phone pops up and asks what it can help you with) “Remind me in 3 months to contact Suzy Smith (or whoever you just met with) and invite her to coffee again!”
In three months your phone lights up and reminds you. You reach out, have coffee again, and build a relationship/mentorship. Rinse and Repeat.
Think about it like this, if you are able to meet 2 business leaders per month during your first year of college you will start relationships with 24 business leaders. If you do that every year of college you will have 96 relationships by the time you graduate! You will have built real relationships, real mentorships, real friends. Now, upon graduation you decide it’s time to go get a job and you now have 96 people to contact!
Imagine how quickly you could jumpstart your career if you had 96 executive level friends.
Imagine if you could start a business, have 96 executive level mentors or potential prospects…
A few things to keep in mind as you do this:
1) Don’t be lazy. These people are busy, so if they ask you to meet them at 8am or 7am for an early breakfast, you respond “ABSOLUTELY!” and you get your lazy butt out of bed and get there!
2) It’s going to take time!!!! This is not a quick task. It’s not easy to find email addresses for business professionals. Spend time looking for emails. Spend time crafting emails. Spend time tracking meetings. Yes, it takes time, but that just means you might need to sacrifice going to one college party each week so you can stay home and prospect. Sure, you might miss out on that one killer kegger in an unfinished basement of a friend’s house where you can drink Natty Ice out of a solo cup…But if you can jumpstart your career you’re going to be drinking expensive beers on the top of the freakin’ Empire State building in no time! So suck it up and invest in yourself.
3) It’s important to follow up. Send personal thank you cards. At the very least send a quick follow up email. Don’t hound these people. Be sure to wait a few months before reaching out again, but don’t let it go too long without contact.
4) Use your student email address! Remember, people love to give advice and hate being sold. Don’t sell. The student email allows you the opportunity to state your case even stronger by legitimizing your stance as a student…not a salesperson.
5) Don’t be discouraged. There will be a TON of people who don’t respond. There will be a ton of people who reject your offer. There will even be a few jerks who take the time to respond to you and say something rude or demeaning. Ignore them and move on. For every @$$hole in the business world, there are 5 kind, brilliant, and caring business leaders who will show you respect. Don’t be discouraged by the losers.
This is something I wish I would have started earlier in my educational career. However, it is something I did use to my advantage. I met a lot of business people while I was in college. I leveraged those relationships when I started my business, and some of those people are still helping me today.
Cyclone Social was jumpstarted by amazing, kind, caring, and compassionate business leaders who were willing to take me under their wings, give me advice, and support my entrepreneurial dreams. I promise there are other amazing leaders out there who are willing to do the same for you. It’s just up to you to find them.
"BE REMARKABLE or be ignored."