Not too long ago, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of super sharp students at the Texas Venture Labs practicum. In short, the TVL provides direct links to the entrepreneurial, business, technology and legal resources available on the University of Texas at Austin campus and the Texas entrepreneurial ecosystem. Their mission is to accelerate start-ups in taking their innovations to market in order to transform grad students into entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Basically, entrepreneurs within the Austin community are invited to come chat to a group of kids who are eager to make waves in a myriad of industries. The format for which you will speak is completely open, so I simply spoke of the BuildASign.com story (even the part where I hung my head in my hands and cried on the floor), and offered some nuggets for growing your entrepreneurial presence.
Like, for instance, the golden nugget of all things professional: One-on-one networking.
Let me first just say that it would have been really awesome if an established entrepreneur had come to one of my classes and said “Hey, start networking one-on-one with everyone. Immediately. You’ll thank me later.” Let me second say that networking is the most valuable thing one can do when starting a career. And one-on-one networking is the proverbial icing on the cake. Here’s why (then I’ll maybe stop talking about it for a while):
- You have nothing but everything to gain. Going into one-on-one meetings can be incredibly intimidating, especially for my fellow introverts. And while the build-up may be miserable, and you might be digging for any excuse to bail, resist. I guarantee you’ll walk away from that one-on-one feeling inspired and accomplished.
- Autonomy is the best policy. Networking has an incredibly beneficial chain reaction. The more you choose to overrule skipping a meeting or blowing off a networking opportunity, the more you’re giving yourself the chance to be widely known in your community. People love to name drop – so why not let them drop your name?
- You’re not that smart. And there are other people in this world who know things you don’t. No matter how experienced, professional, or well-versed you may think you are on a topic, there’s at least one person out there who can teach you something new. If for nothing else, utilize one-on-one coffees to find that person who is going to blow your mind with new knowledge.
While speaking at functions with a crowd of already-established entrepreneurs is always great, speaking to a group of hungry, curious students just can’t be beat. Especially when the students are destined to be forward-thinking industry leaders. Getting opportunities to spread the word of entrepreneurship, like TVL, make me wonder who is actually teaching whom.
Now, who wants to meet for coffee?