If you’re a professional, I’m sure that you’ve received at one point or another an inquiry from a college student asking about jobs, internships or advice. I respond and I think you should too. This is why:
1. People answered my emails when I was a college student.
I’ve written before how I got my first job in Boston. I sent a lot of emails asking people about their companies or for informational interviews. Granted, it was just one of those informational interviews that turned into a job. But all the coffees and email exchanges I had with other professionals provided me with motivation, direction, momentum and confidence. I am so thankful to the people who helped me, in every little and big way they did. 2 or so years later, how could I not pay it forward?
Granted, I can’t offer a ton of long-term career advice or hindsight. I’m too young still myself. But I can offer a pep-talk/confidence boost/talk about what has or hasn’t worked for me so far. Considering similar conversations I’ve had with people just a few years older than me, I know how even that can be quite helpful.
2. The college student you meet today is the employee you hire tomorrow.
In startupland, we talk a lot about how tough it is to hire talent. The right culture fit and the right skillset is tough to come by. Then we also talk about the importance of networking. There’s a missing link, though. We emphasize the importance of networking with people who can help us, like VCs or more experienced professionals for mentorship. I don’t think we talk enough about the opposite end of that spectrum, which is spending time with an up-and-comer who is that future talent you can add to your team.
3. I remember where I came from.
It seems like everyone wants a developer or a community manager/social media whatchamacallit/something-or-other these days. Where are these people? Well, they’re in college. They’re young. They’re doing annoying things that 20-year-olds do, like joining fraternities and drinking for any special occasion possible, like it being laundry day or Monday or maybe signing their emails to you with emoticons. In addition to internships, yes, that’s what some of Boston’s most promising young entrepreneurs did merely four or so years ago. They might not immediately come off to you as a child prodigy in that email or by a first glimpse at their LinkedIn.
That doesn’t mean they’re not an “A-player!” (And seriously, what the hell is an “A player?”) What it means is that they just don’t know what they don’t know, but they want to know and that’s why they reached out. It also means that ambition and drive can come with a lack of focus, because young ambitious people want to conquer the world. But if you have a conversation with someone and steer that motivation towards a clear direction of the right internships and experiences, they grow into the “A-player” people so dearly want to hire.
My favorite interns, and in my opinion the most successful ones, have been those that were hungry to improve – not necessarily the ones that did everything perfect. Perfect plateaus.
4. I’m busy. So what.
Social media/internet burnout is real. I haven’t blogged here in two months, and I’m inundated with a lot of “communication” in general per the nature of running social media accounts for work. Just like you, there are a ton of DM’s, @replies and emails coming at me. Maintaining ownership of my own time, timeline and inbox is important so I have time to communicate and spend time with the people I love offline.
We’re generally too busy and say yes too often, when it really should be a choice between “Hell yeah!” or “No.” I wish more people saw responding to college students as a “hell yeah!” kinda of an opportunity.
Respond to college students. Don’t just reply to the rockstars. Reply to the hot messes who need honest feedback and give honest feedback. Have coffee with someone. It won’t kill you, actually it’s kinda fun. Expect some of them to flake on you and not even respond back to your advice. Roll your eyes and move on, because there’s another student who will take your feedback and could make an absolute rockstar developer or community manager/social media whatchamacallit one day. If we want to find talent, we can’t forget the source of it.