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For those of you who are adults: Remember what it was like back in your early 20s? The excitement, the possibilities, the ability to stay up late (having fun) and get up early (and still get some work done)?  (Boy, those days are pretty history in my life!)

For those of you in your 20s: Excited about your future?  You should be!  So much potential and so many possibilities in the years ahead.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Along those lines, I had the pleasure of presenting an interactive session at Texas State University’s McCoy Business School recently.  It was Business Leadership Week and both undergraduate and graduate students gathered in various sessions to take in lots of advice and wisdom from business leaders from all over Central Texas.  I was pleased to be among these seasoned leaders and to work with these bright young minds.

Before I set out on the short drive down I-35 from my home office in Austin to the Texas State campus in San Marcos,  I asked my LinkedIn and Facebook connections for a few tidbits on what they wish they had known about networking (as well as work and life) when they were students and about to embark on their careers.  Below are a few of their offerings. I had planned to incorporate them into my presentation, but realized they’d make a terrific blog post. I’ve taken the liberty of editing them down for brevity and clarity.  I hope they are helpful to you, no matter what your age!

  1. Focus on giving more than getting.
  2. Care about other people.
  3. Don’t keep score.  As Julia Cameron, creator of The Artist’s Way course and book says, “Karma is not linear.” Just keep doing good work, helping others, and doing the right thing.  You will be rewarded in ways beyond measure.
  4. Consider what you have to offer others: time, attention, skills, an interesting article,  a lead, an invitation, an introduction, a second chance…
  5. Volunteer, serve on a committee, or become a leader of a organization.  This gives you the opportunity to learn and to test and prove your capabilities. You’ll also build reputation and priceless connections.
  6. As wonderful as giving and being generous is, don’t become a doormat who gives endlessly to the point of burnout. (Trust me, I know this!)
  7. There are plenty of “takers” in the world. Learn to recognize them. Set boundaries.
  8. There is power in being a thoughtful connector of people. Learn the art and science of making thoughtful, spot-on introductions to people who need to know each other.
  9. Don’t use people.
  10. Be present. What conversations can you be having?  What opportunities can you spot and jump on?
  11. Ask good questions. Then be a good listener. A really good listener.  (This is a lifelong practice.)
  12. Earn trust by doing what you say you will do.
  13. Learn to be a confident, competent presenter.
  14. Diversify: network with and get to know people who are in different fields and have different experiences and points of view.  Listen to and learn from them.  It will enrich your life and career greatly.
  15. Be authentic and truthful; align your words with your feelings.  Don’t try to B.S. your way to success or be untrue to yourself.
  16. Not everything you learn from a textbook or a lecture will be applicable in the real world. (But, then again, some of it will!)
  17. There are so many important things in life beyond work: friends, family, health.
  18. Money and status aren’t everything.
  19. Learn critical thinking.
  20. Evaluate what’s going in the world for yourself.  Don’t believe everything you read.
  21. Learn to respond, rather than react.
  22. Clarify and continually fine-tune your beliefs, values, philosophies.
  23. Hold tight to that which is precious to you.
  24. Follow up with people.  Very few people do this. It will make you stand out from the crowd instantly!
  25. The “knowledge is power” credo is inaccurate. APPLIED knowledge creates value.  Just knowing things does nothing.
  26. YOU are in charge of your career, professional development, relationships, and life.
  27. Be patient: great things, wonderful experiences and adventures await you!

Do you have a bit of wisdom to add?  Share it here!  And whether you’re a student or a full-fledged adult, I highly recommend you read my award-winning success guide The Intentional Networker: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business.   It could be the smartest under-$20 investment you’ll ever make in your future.