Professional networking for students – Pick Dave’s Brain

This week’s question comes from Reilly in Harvard, Massachusetts. He asks:

Q: I’m a sixteen-year-old entrepreneur. I watched your course “Building Your Professional Network” on LinkedIn Learning, and was curious if you had tips for someone who’s younger than most other business professionals. I find it difficult to connect with people because of the age difference.

Click to tweet this: Don’t fear an experience gap. The wider it is, the easier it is to get your foot in the door. @DaveCrenshaw

What if the generation gap is secretly an advantage?

This week’s question comes from Reilly in Harvard, Massachusetts. He asks:

I’m a sixteen year old entrepreneur. I watched your course “Building Your Professional Network” on LinkedIn Learning, and was curious if you had tips for someone who’s younger than most other business professionals. I find it difficult to connect with people because of the age difference.

Dave:

Thanks for the question, Reilly. It’s always exciting hearing from future leaders looking to learn and improve. It shows how you are excited about having a successful career!

I’ve definitely been in your shoes before. Now, I wasn’t quite as young as you; however, when I was fresh and starting in college I struggled networking with business professionals. I can tell you that the answer lies in the word HELP—but in two directions. First, the help you give to others and second, the help they give to you.

First, look for ways to serve others. You may remember this from the “Building Your Professional Network” course: Give first. Look for and ask about the things that people are working on. What can you do to serve them? And perhaps it’s not a matter of knowledge or your expertise. Instead, just the fact that you are eager and willing to help them, gives you ways to help.

Look for opportunities to do a short-term internship and say, “Hey, I see that you are working on social media,” for instance.

“I’m really familiar with that. I’d love to help you for a few weeks, maybe give you some advice, or even just give you man hours to help you be more successful with that.”

The second option is help, but the other direction. Can you help me? I’ve said in the past that you shouldn’t reach out and try to get free help; but, as a student, as someone who’s young, you’re in a unique position.

If someone is well established in their career and they’re asking for free advice, that’s just not very attractive to anyone. But if you’re young and you’re aspiring, it’s flattering to people to want to help you.

I participate in a program like that called Take a Student to Lunch from my alma mater, BYU. Occasionally, students reach out to me. I take them to lunch, we discuss their career, and I give them some advice. I’ve built a lot of positive relationships from that. And it’s rewarding for me to help someone who’s young in their career.

Take advantage of the unique situation that you’re in, to learn how to do what they do and become as successful.

One last piece of advice—in all of these situations when you interact with someone, be sure to express gratitude. It’s a small thing to go back to them and say thank you. And even to create an appointment for yourself six months from now, a year from now, two years from now and reach back to them and say “Thank you so much for taking the time to work with me.”

Not only will that strengthen the relationship. But it will create a positive pattern in your life of expressing gratitude to others.

Thank you for the question, Reilly!

And if you have a question you’d like me to answer, all you have to do is go to davecrenshaw.com/ask. I am ready and waiting to answer your question!


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