Networking to Build Connections

The skill of “networking,” means meeting people who share your interests and who could provide you with guidance or assistance. It is also about you helping others when the opportunity arises. Networking is an important part of academic life, but many students feel they lack the skills to network confidently and effectively. Here are a few strategies that will help you make valuable connections:

1] The most important strategy is to approach networking with the appropriate mindset. Don’t go to an event thinking, “I must meet someone who can advance my career or my studies.” This puts a lot of pressure on you, and may make you come across as a little aggressive. Instead, your mindset should be more like, “This is great! I’ll get to meet lots of people who share my interests.”

 
2] Don’t try to impress. Just be yourself. Be open and curious about the people with whom you speaking. The best connections are made between people who share a passion, so share your ideas, goals and interests.

 
3] When you first meet someone, make eye contact as you give them a firm handshake. First impressions have a strong impact on how people perceive you.

 
4] Make sure to introduce yourself in a way that stimulates conversation. “Hello, I’m Fred” is not nearly as likely to lead to a good conversation as “Hello, I’m Fred Coleman. I’m the student assistant for the Ideas Institute.”

 
5] Always ask for a business card, and also write a quick note on those you’ve connected with, so you don’t forget who is who and what you discussed.

 
6] Don’t feel that you need to meet everyone in the room at an event and find multiple opportunities or pieces of information. Making a good connection with one person who could give you some guidance in the future is a great outcome.

 
7] Remember that sometimes you will feel that you didn’t make any meaningful connections at an event. This happens often, so don’t be too disappointed. And, just being at an event might give you a good opening for a conversation in the future: “Weren’t you at the Saving the Seas workshop in January? I really enjoyed the guest speaker.”

 
8] Understand that everyone at the event may be networking to make valuable connections, and as a student you may not be at the top of their list of people they want to chat with. Don’t be disheartened by this. It doesn’t indicate any problem with you. Some people are simply less generous with their time than others, or are focused on important connections they themselves wish to make.

 
9] Keep in mind that people you speak with may be learning from you, too. Although some of them may be more advanced in their careers, you may have fresh ideas they haven’t yet encountered.

 
10] If you had a great conversation with someone, consider sending them an email to express how much you enjoyed meeting and speaking with them.

 
11] And have fun! You’ll me much more approachable and engaging if you are enjoying yourself.

Online Course on “Learning How to Learn”

I recently finished a great (and free) online course from coursera.org called “Learning How to Learn: Powerful Mental Tools to Help You Master Tough Subjects.” I learned valuable strategies for studying and avoiding procrastination, and I appreciated the professors’ clear explanations of the brain science behind the techniques.

You can check the course out here. Here’s Coursera’s description:

“This course gives you easy access to the invaluable learning techniques used by experts in art, music, literature, math, science, sports, and many other disciplines. We’ll learn about the how the brain uses two very different learning modes and how it encapsulates (“chunks”) information. We’ll also cover illusions of learning, memory techniques, dealing with procrastination, and best practices shown by research to be most effective in helping you master tough subjects.

Using these approaches, no matter what your skill levels in topics you would like to master, you can change your thinking and change your life. If you’re already an expert, this peep under the mental hood will give you ideas for turbocharging successful learning, including counter-intuitive test-taking tips and insights that will help you make the best use of your time on homework and problem sets. If you’re struggling, you’ll see a structured treasure trove of practical techniques that walk you through what you need to do to get on track. If you’ve ever wanted to become better at anything, this course will help serve as your guide.”

I highly recommend this course to university students or anyone hoping to enter university. It took me just a few hours each week, and I learned a lot that I’m still using myself and sharing with students.

Learning More about the MBA at Poets and Quants

I just found a website called Poets and Quants that has a wealth of information about MBA programs. It’s focused on programs in the United States, but it contains valuable information for those seeking an MBA anywhere. There’s also Poets and Quants for Undergrads, so check that out if you’re at that stage of your educational journey. You can find information, for example, on whether your SAT score will make you a competitive applicant.

At Poets and Quants you can ask questions about MBA admissions and GMAT prep. This article could also be very useful for your GMAT studies. It provides a quick overview of free resources online at Khan Academy that can help you prepare.

I’m finished getting degrees, but exploring Poets and Quants gave me an urge to start applying for some top-notch MBA programs.

Avoiding Common Student Mistakes — Timing Your In-Class Exercises

Imagine the following scenario….

There is one hour left in your class. Your professor asks you to do two things. First, spend 30 minutes reading a few of the many posts from a blog she recommends. Then, in the final 30 minutes, practice your writing and thinking skills by creating a short blog post on the same general topic and then email your post to the professor.

You start at 11:00 and at 11:40 you email your blog post off to your professor.

What do you suppose the professor thinks when she receives your email 20 minutes early? “Wow, that student is fast!”??? WRONG!

No, your professor will not admire your speediness in a situation like this. Rather, you’ve sent her a clear message that you’re not putting your best effort into your work. If you completed this one-hour task in 40 minutes, you either didn’t read for as long as requested or you spent very little effort crafting your written submission. Instead of finishing early in a situation like this, you should revise your submission to make it longer and stronger. If you finish that, then read more of the assigned material.

If you truly want to succeed at university, put your maximum effort into everything you do. Use all the time allowed whenever you’re assigned an in-class task. You’re at university to work hard and spend your time improving, not to do the bare minimum on assignments and then spend the rest of the time texting your friends.

At university, as everywhere, effort is rewarded.

Classroom Manners

It’s always helpful to know what your professors and instructors are thinking. Gaining insight into your professors’ perceptions can help you shine in the classroom. It can help you achieve better grades and build your reputation as a committed student with strong potential for success.

Here are a few tips to improve your professors’ perceptions of you and help you avoid frustrating behaviour. These are small things, but everything you do, large or small, contributes to people’s opinions of you. It’s the same in the workplace, the classroom, or anywhere else.

1] When a professor asks you to raise your hand, raise it high to make it clear what you are doing. So if a professor says something like, “Please raise your hand if you have ever taken a philosophy course,” stick you hand right up so it’s easy for the professor to see and for her to count you. Many students when asked to raise their hand lift it about three centimetres off the table. Some barely manage a finger twitch. It makes it impossible for professors to count how many people are answering affirmatively, and it’s frustrating. Don’t make the professor have to waste class time coaxing you “No, REALLY raise your hand.”

2] If you contribute a comment or question to the class discussion and your professor says, “Pardon me?” answer again, but LOUDER. It’s surprising how many students repeat their answer at the exact volume the professor couldn’t hear the first time. If someone can’t hear you, speak up.

3] When the professor says, “Let’s get started,” she doesn’t mean “Let’s get started after you finish your text message and conversation about the Oscars, and then loudly unwrap your snack.” You should be ready to start the instant the professor is ready. It’s just good classroom manners.

Whatever context you’re in, you’ll appear more sophisticated, committed, eager and polished if you work hard to maintain a high standard of behaviour and etiquette.

Quick Tips–Boosting Self-Control

In the 1960s, psychologist Walter Mischel began studying self-control in children. In a series of experiments that became famously known as the “marshmallow test,” Mischel examined the skills and situations that could make squirmy kids hold off on eating one treat (sometimes a marshmallow) in anticipation of a double treat a little later.

Mischel’s new book, The Marshmallow Test, is filled with ideas on “mastering self-control.” I’ve just started reading it and I’ve already come upon one quick tip you can use to help yourself avoid temptations and distractions so you can study.

I love quick and effective strategies for reaching your goals, and Mischel’s explanation of “If-Then implementation plans” is elegant and powerful. All you need to do is plan ahead, and you’ll increase your self-control in the face of temptation. Make a plan. Tell yourself, for example, “At 5:00, I’ll start writing my paper.” Or “If my phone rings, I will ignore it.” Or, “If I get hungry I’m going to finish my chapter before hitting the kitchen.”

The key is to make the if-then plan before you face the temptation, and practice it until it becomes an instinct.

So simple, and yet it helps. Mischel explains the science behind the strategy and it’s a great read, but you don’t need to know why it works to use the trick to your advantage. Good luck! I’ll bring you more from Mischel soon.

Staying Connected

Yesterday, I received an email from a student I mentored a few months ago. He wrote to share the good news that he had been accepted into his ideal program. I’m always happy to see emails like that in my inbox. And, it’s a very smart thing for students to do.

It’s great to express your appreciation for the people who helped you succeed. You did most of the work, but the people who nudged you in the right direction are happy to know you’re grateful for their assistance. Your email makes your instructors, professors and mentors happy, and it also means you stay fresh in their minds. It makes you memorable. That’s key to creating and maintaining a strong network.

Now that I’ve had an update on where that student will be studying, I’ll be more likely to think of him when I hear of events he might be interested in or opportunities that could benefit him.

The bottom line: maintaining friendly, professional communication with those in your academic life shows them you’re the sort of person who values their assistance, it keeps you fresh in their mind, and it encourages them to think of you when opportunities arise.

It just makes good sense. And, many studies have shown that the simple act of expressing gratitude makes YOU happier. That’s what I call a win-win situation.