Hello, Gentlemen and stewards of manliness!

My name  is Silviu and I am in need of some advice, not from family, because that advice has not changed and, though helpful, is somewhat narrow, but from a  community of achievers, doers, and mentors.

I'm on the verge of entering my 20s in June. So far, I have only had one job, for almost two years, till present, as a cashier at a Pharmacy. My social life is minimal, I have 3 or 4 real friends that I could count on, and I don't know many girls, though we get along fine as acquaintances. I'm physically average, I visit the gym about once a week. I don't have any particular hobbies, though I watch Formula 1 racing every weekend, so I might like karting.

My problem? I don't know how to find opportunity, I don't know the ins and outs, I have no insider knowledge on pretty much anything. I've always felt like an outsider, at work, at church, at school, even among my own friends. I know my job is costing me opportunities, theoretically, but (you've heard this before) "the economy is so bad I'm just sticking to what I've got." I don't work hard and I don't laze about. All I know is that I'm not living my potential. Yes, I'm working 40 hours a week and going to community college, but it's not getting me anywhere.

I've applied to George Fox University in Oregon and will be attending there in the Fall.

What should I know about networking?

How can I find a mentor? Who can I trust? Who shouldn't I trust?

How can I be myself, keep my principles and yet make progress in my career, hopefully find a spouse and get real things moving along, like a marriage, a house, my own car, my network, hobbies, etc.?

I feel like I've no leads to anything anywhere.

So, based on what you've read, what should I be doing and what should I not?

I appreciate your input

Tags: 20, advice, counsel, future, guidance, hobbies, life, networking, school, social, More…twenty, work

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1. I can relate to the feelings you express about being an outsider. I never made friends easily. I don't have the out-going personality favored in the US, especially among young adults. I was often overlooked for parties - not, I don't think, because I wasn't a nice person, I was just quiet and easily overlooked.

2. You're actually ahead of a lot of people your age. You've got work experience in a growing sector. You're going to a nationally-ranked school.

As someone with less than 10 years' experience over you, here's my thoughts:

A. The key to networking in college is just to keep it in mind and make a basic good impression. For peers, just be yourself. For older people, mostly just be sincere. You don't have to be as suave as someone with 30 years' experience in business. Be able to talk about yourself un-self-consciously. For everyone, get contact information and touch base periodically - I'd say once or twice a year for people not directly related to your day-to-day life. More often for people who are local and in your field.

B. I think you've got the cart before the horse on career issues and mentoring, though. Do you have a career chosen? If not, what you need is an older person you get along with who's seen a lot of the world. My college mentor was a prof who'd had about 4 careers before his last stint in graduate school. A professor with a long academic career, but with administrative experience would also be good. If there's work-study programs that introduce you to business people off campus, so much the better.

If you do have a chosen career, it's still about the same. You want someone you get along with, with lots of experience. In 2013, it doesn't need to be someone nearby. Look around among your parents' friends, at church, etc. for someone in the profession with whom you already have a connection.

C. Trust for what? Career advice? Life advice? To feed your cat? On advice, I'd say the most trustworthy people are the ones who don't have all the answers. Who say, "I don't know, but you should ask X about that" or "Once, I did this, and it was a mess. Don't do that."

D. I find that romantic partners and hobbies find you. You don't just decide one day to find a wife and start a set of hobbies; you try a lot of things, meet a lot of people, and stick with what you like. Don't be afraid of being the new guy or not very good at something. The point of hobbies is not excellence at the activity but forming yourself into an excellent person.

I appreciate your response, Rebekah, and I found point C interesting, I'll take your word for it on D.

I met my husband on the subway. We were both engaging in our favorite hobby - reading classical philosophy. My whole undergraduate program was philosophy, so I can't really say the hobby found me, but I've stuck with it more than my college friends.

Rebekah's got  a point, you never stated what it is that you are majoring in or what career field you are headed toward, at the moment.

Networking:  Requires making contact with people and talking to them.  One of the main issues with networking is remembering that it isn't about you it is about them.  What I mean by this is that when you're meeting them don't jump in and talk about yourself, you have to get to know them and they have to get to know you.  To do this you have to listen much, much, much more than you talk.  Ask them questions about them, their jobs, and what they like about their jobs and then listen to the answers, use those answers to continue the conversation. And that's what it is about, conversation.  Don't only ask questions but discuss non-confrontational topics related to their position.

One of the best ways to start your network is to get to know the other people in your class, your professors, and, if you decide to Rush, your fraternity.  You can also get to know the school and department administrators.  Make friends outside the classroom, join clubs, do things with other students.  If your department holds mixers between faculty and students go to those mixers.  Get to know some of the alumni while at football games or other sports.  Basically have fun, get to know people, and do things.

Thanks for your input, Rick.

I have decided to major in Business management, but I'm keeping my options open to computer science, as well. I found your mention of student-staff events interesting. I didn't know anything about that. And your comments on conversation were also insightful.

Again, I appreciate it.

Most schools have some (relatively) small budget for faculty to host students. In my experience, these budgets are never used up because both sides are shy. At my tiny college, the money went to faculty hosting students in faculty's homes. At my larger graduate school, there was that, as well as money for students to take professors out to lunch. GFU is small enough that the "mixers" might not be by department, or even formally announced. Keep your eyes and ears open.

Another great way to network in college is to become a leader in a student organization. This gives you an excuse to call up anyone with any knowledge of any of your organization's interests and invite them to come speak to your group. The worst that can happen is that you get no response. The best that can happen is you meet the President. There's usually some budget for this kind of thing too, as often times such guests expect their travel expenses to be covered, and there can be speaking fees. The budget may come from student fees through the administration, or the student groups may have to fund raise through bake sales, etc. or some combination of these set-ups.

Wow! That's really interesting, I mean about the student organization. I thought about it before at my community college but it was towards when I was getting ready to leave (this quarter) so I never involved myself in that. And thanks for the heads up!

At my alma-mater, at least in the physics department, there were several mixers for faculty, undergraduates, and graduates to meet and mingle.  In the MBA program there were also several 'more formalized' mixers between faculty and students as well as some informal 'gatherings'.

One of the best ways to start your network is to interact with fellow students, this can hone your conversational skills and you'll meet new friends.  In some of your classes in business you'll be doing group projects; use those projects to shine.  Don't take over the project but do your part, do it well, do it on time, and do it extra (don't just do the minimum).  You never know who your fellow students know or even who they are; for example I had a guy in my MBA program that I thought was just a regular guy, it turns out that his family was very wealthy (gave millions to Children's Hospital and had a wing named after their family) and he was day-trading also making millions of dollars a year, another was from a family that owned four of the best wine and specialty foods stores in Western New York.  And these two guys knew politicians, actors, sports figures, and other high-level business people.

Another way to start a good network at college is to get to know your professors (I've said this before but here's a different way).  Find out if there is a professor who could use some help on a research project that he/she is working on and volunteer to help, now once you've volunteered you have to deliver.  Here again don't do just the minimum, do the work, do it well, do it on time, and do it extra.  At first you may be doing drudge work (work that is intensely boring) but you have to deliver otherwise you won't be building your network you'll be tearing it down.  Under promise and over deliver, always try to make it better than was asked for.

Getting to know your classmates is a great idea, and so is finding a professor with a research project. I never thought of that second one!

I appreciate the advice and examples. You've been really helpful!

Talk to classmates and profs; that's a common way to polish networking skills; and pick a major that will get you a good job (and that you can stand to do).

Getting a job is also why I switched from Architecture to a Business degree. Thanks for the input

The good news is you are average, the better news is you want to do better.

You have a new future at George Fox University, the hardest task you will have is managing your grade and getting out of the school with minimal debt.  The GPA does not care if you took a hard writing class or an easy A class.  Your Major will determine your future options.  A hard Science & Engineering major is worth more.  But ONLY if you and a 3.0+ GPA It is worth much more if you have a 3.5+ GPA.  That opens the first door your career and future.

Before you hit the University figure out how you wish to portray yourself.  Dress well for degree you wish to go into and the professors will notice.  You want "inside", you want a mentor, dress for it.  I have a friend who is getting his undergrad in business information systems.  He ALWAYS wears a suit and Tie or bow tie.  Maybe not the jacket every day but at minimum dress casual with a tie.  He had a professor hunt him down in the hallway to offer him a scholarship and mentor him.  Why? Because from day one he cared and respected the class he took.  If you don't understand something bloody well ask.  Someone else in the class is also lost and is too afraid to ask.  YOU will be remembered they will not be.

All of your professors will know who you are in your core classes, it is how you present yourself that sets up your future.  That is your in.

Your class mates will form the core of your network, do homework with them.  Join whatever club is in your field of interest and get a leadership roll.  It will help in your interview process later.

As to having only a few real friends, that is the way it is and should be.  You need a few real ones for support and many casual friends and contacts.  Don't think that people really have 20+ real close friends, no one does or could.

Take solace in the fact you are thinking about it now and not at the "I wish I had..."  You are really in a great place in your life.  

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