4 Reasons I Answer College Students’ Emails

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.

13 comments
Doug
Doug

this applies to other industries as well. I can't even count the number of times I asked for help with difficult web development problems when I was learning to code and build sites. Even as a student, I noticed that the web community was especially accepting and willing to spend time reviewing code, providing some tips, and just generally being supportive and cool - paying it forward is always a great idea - regardless of industry - thanks for the post

Arienne Holland
Arienne Holland

"Social media/internet burnout is real. ... 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." Smart, smart woman. (And no need to reply to this, of course.) Ha!

Daniel Lieber
Daniel Lieber

Well stated, Janet. At it's most basic level, it is just polite. There is a direct relationship between the amount of time I spend on my response to the amount of effort shown in the message I receive, regardless of medium. This transcends age, gender, and other perceived differentiators.

Janet Aronica
Janet Aronica

Great point re: effort. Thanks for reading/commenting!

Elisabeth Michaud
Elisabeth Michaud

This post just reminded me that there are 1 or 2 college students' emails in my gmail inbox right now. Excited to respond to them, meet up with them, and learn more about their hopes and dreams! (Cheesy? Maybe. But oh-so-true.)

Janet Aronica
Janet Aronica

Glad to hear you're also willing to help out Liz! You certainly would have great feedback and advice to give. :) 

Jenna Glynn
Jenna Glynn

This is great advice. If it weren't for the people who replied to my emails I wouldn't be where I am today. Great blog post girl!

Allie E Boyer
Allie E Boyer

Some of your reasons are also why I enjoy working with interns. I love to give them feedback and help them on their way. But often, I find I can learn a lot from them even though it wasn't too long ago when I was an intern myself.

Rachel M. Esterline
Rachel M. Esterline

Janet,

This is exactly why I am always willing to talk to college students, review their resumes and connect them with others. Other people took the time when I was a student, and I truly enjoy taking the time for them. I hope this post inspires others to work with students as well. 

Janet Aronica
Janet Aronica

Absolutely Rachel! You're definitely an example of a young pro always willing to give her time. You're not only paying it forward but it will pay off for you when it comes time to hire a PR coordinator or intern of your own. :)