For the first time in my existence, I boarded a plane for New York City. I was headed for Student Voice Live! 2014, a convening of education stakeholders from all across the United States.
As I was struggling to stay awake during the board meeting, one of my colleagues shared about how the work that Student Voice does should be actionable and foster tangible change.
I hesitantly wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Hesitant because I know that making a tangible dent in the face of global education is not only a daunting task, but an extremely difficult one. The education system is one of the largest systems in the world, interconnected with just about everything else and encapsulating over a million different issues. And it’s challenging to even imagine how a small team of students could even make a difference in such a space.
But as the day went on, and Student Voice Live! happened, my eyes were opened to conversations and more importantly the potential of impact in a way I have never seen it before.
Even though Student Voice is a relatively vague concept that tends to spark more discussions than action or results, it still is a determining factor in how the students of today are prepared and empowered to take on the problems of tomorrow.
There’s been some research done into this idea, but the challenge today as it has always been, is figuring out how to arrive at a goal that is so seemingly abstract.
I don’t necessarily have a good answer for that at the moment, but I do know that this past weekend was an example of students coming together and using their voices to put something on that was tangible.
Imagine the following scenario:
There are two students. Student A is a 4.0 student, studies endlessly, and is at the top of their class. Student B is lucky to have a 3 preceding their GPA, but actively has conversations and connects with leading individuals in various industries, trying to help these people in whatever way he can.
Student A will likely go on eventually graduate school, and graduate with all sorts of degrees. He will then start looking for jobs, using his education to get his foot in the door.
However, Student B has already built relationships with the people that he is considering a career with, giving him an advantage over Student A.
The difference between Student A and Student B is the difference between perfecting your craft and surrounding people who are doing your craft.
How To Network Effectively
I’ve heard countless excuses when it comes to networking with people. Anything from “It feels sleazy and manipulative” or “That’s just not my thing” or “I’m not good at talking to people”.
What most people don’t understand is that effective networking boils down to one simple thing: Providing value.
At the beginning of August, I met a new friend and spent a couple hours into the night listening to him talk about his startup video company, ideas, and outlook into the future. I gave him pointers on how to network and meet people by cold contacting them through facebook, twitter, or email. A couple months later, he told me about how he had started working for a significant blogger and was getting plugged into various events in his area.
Providing value is all about helping the other person achieve their goals. It’s a cycle. The more resources and connections that you have, the more value you can provide to the people that you meet, and the better you will be able to network.
When I meet a new person, I approach it from a mindset where I want to help them. I listen to what they are working on, the areas they need help in, what their goals are and how they feel about their work. I listen not only to the words that they are saying, but what they mean.
Then, if I am able to help them, I will direct them to books, articles, or people. And if I don’t know enough to address what they need help with, I make a mental note to do some research and networking in that area.
Try it Out
If there’s someone that you’ve been following online for a while, whether it be their blog or twitter or youtube, send them a quick message (I read every email)! Let them know what their work means to you, and ask them any questions you may have, and try to provide value in whatever way you can!
Then share about it in the comments.
To Lynbrook High School Students: Sometimes, you may just be sitting at school, perhaps stuck in class, and you’re itching to get on facebook. After all, your class isn’t really doing much and all your senior classes are wasting time anyways. I mean, who really expects seniors to do any work? So you might as well just kick back and use your University-To-Be’s VPN to access facebook.
I mean, everyone knows there are other ways to get past the iprism filter, such as the extremely trashy piece of software known as “Hotspot Shield”, but seriously, if you want to avoid glares of judgment from the highly technologically savvy individuals, don’t do it. Please don’t ever install that flaming piece of uselessness on your computer.
VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”, and it is designed to allow students to access the Internet from anywhere as if they were browsing from the physical location of the VPN server, in this case, your university. Now, you’ll have to double check to ensure that your university has a VPN, because it may be different for each school (UCs all have a VPN).
Go ahead and Google the steps to set up a VPN with your school, going through whatever authentication is necessary.
UCSD’s can be found here: http://blink.ucsd.edu/technology/network/connections/off-campus/VPN/index.html
After you get that set up, you should be able to connect to an unfiltered Internet connection anywhere you go! Not only is this useful for bypassing Internet filters, it is also recommended to use a secure browsing whenever you are connected to a public network, such as libraries, coffee shops, your neighbor’s Wi-Fi, or the random “linksys” you find on the side of the street.
Feel free to contact me if you need help setting up a VPN!