The University of Networking

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When I look back on my college career it was a waste of time and money.

This doesn’t mean college isn’t valuable (although that’s debatable), but it comes down to personal expectations.

Will college prepare me for my first job?

Will it provide me with the real world skills I need to succeed?

Does it give me an advantage over the competition?  

Answer: none of the above.

College is what you make of it. Looking back I should have cared less about passing my classes and more about who I was talking to in them. I’m not saying a classmate could get me a job, but they may be able to connect me to someone who could.

It wasn’t until several years later I learned the value of networking. Success always comes back to who you know. The smartest people aren’t always the most successful, but the most connected ones are.

Don’t confuse networking with manipulation. True networking is building a relationship. First impressions matter, but trust and rapport happen over time.

All my business mentors and professionals I respect have tremendous support systems around them. The right connections open doors you can’t.

You and I crave connections, we just don’t think of it in business terms. For example, if you have a better idea than an existing one instead of studying the competition, connect with them. If your solution is that great, customers will come to you.

I make it a goal of mine to reach out to new and re-connect with existing contacts weekly. Not because it’s something to check off my to-do list, but because I value knowing more people.

Focus on quality over quantity and networking becomes more about fostering relationships than increasing your connection count. Technology has allowed us to connect with people we would never have access to before. Take advantage of that and follow up.

Why College Has Lost Its Mojo

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Someone recently asked me, “If you could go back and give yourself advice what would it be?

My response: drop out of college

With a perplexed reaction to my comment, I began to explain:

A college degree isn’t worth much anymore…just ask your next employer. Experience matters, where you got your degree from doesn’t. The sad reality is most college grads take a job outside of their major and spend the next 5 or so years working just to pay off student loans.

Also college doesn’t teach “real world” skills. I spoke to USC freshmen and sophomores in a career workshop before and said the 3 most important skills to learn in college are: networking, gaining experience (usually through an internship) and learning how to sell (product, services and yourself). Ironically, those tasks aren’t taught in college unless you take advantage of resources as a student.

Lastly, flexibility is the new definition of success. Money isn’t as valuable as controlling your time. Millennials are the most entrepreneurial generation because they want to make an impact and be happy doing it. Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Kevin Rose prove college isn’t for everyone.

Trade schools and incubators are on the rise because if you have an idea that can potentially make a lot of money, why put it towards an education that doesn’t translate to much? As a Bachelor’s & Master’s degree holder, I may sound like a hypocrite, but if I could do it all over again I’d pass college and jump directly into entrepreneurship.