May 21, 2020

Relationship Building 101 for Students

Yi Su
Relationship Building 101 for Students

I was very fortunate to have a virtual world trip with The Hacker Exchange and Draper Startup House during the pandemic. The Global Venture Exchange was a three-day virtual conference with speakers from all over the world. We got to experience the beauty of AI in music in America, the idea of e-residency in Estonia, and hear the journeys of start-up founders from Singapore, Thailand and The Philippines, to name a few.

Here are my key takeaways from ‘How to manage relationships with clients and leads in the New Normal' by Lirone Glikman, CEO @ The Human Factor by Lirone Glikman, who spoke to us from Israel.

As a student, you want to form new relationships both authentically and strategically.

  1. Think about the roles and companies that might be relevant to you, now and in the future;
  2. Get to know the types of people who have large networks, for example, community managers, reporters, professors, service providers;
  3. Start building relationships with anyone who might be able to assist you, or who might help you gain access to those people;
  4. Think of how you can provide value in these relationships (positive attitude, offering assistance);
  5. Find non-official mentors and ask their advice;
  6. Understand and acknowledge that everyone is busy and stressed, especially in these times.
  7. When the right opportunity comes, ask for a recommendation.

Lirone shared very helpful tips, especially for us international students who are building a career in a foreign country. Family networks within our home countries may not be that helpful for us. It is who we know that matters, rather than who our parents know. It is more important for us to build our own network and have a support network for help and advice.

It can be very daunting to reach out to professionals at first. Before I started networking, I thought I had no value to offer and people were wasting their time talking to me.

But my mentor asked me two questions:

  • Can you think of a situation when a high school student came to you for help, or to ask your advice about uni life?
  • How did you feel?

Yes, and I felt good because I felt I could help somebody. The same is true for many professionals when given the opportunity to help someone with the right mindset.

The point here is that you may not be able to offer much at that moment, but you can provide an opportunity for a professional to talk about their journey and feel good doing it.

For me, I am an international student and I am a student at Monash University. I find it very easy to start a conversation with international graduates and Monash alumni. So perhaps start by finding somebody on a similar journey to you, but a bit further along the path. Expect some rejections and don’t take it personally. Perhaps they are just busy.

Prepare well if you get the chance to have a call: do some research about them, the company and the industry. I have received positive feedback when I’ve sent an agenda before the meeting, so they know what to expect and have a bit of preparation.

I normally send a thank you email with my takeaways after the meeting. After all, they learnt their lessons through experience; we don’t know how much effort and time they have spent for this small lesson that they’re sharing for free. I always tell myself not to expect a reply, because they are busy.

We might not be able to offer much, but we can access information, and good information is invaluable. I try to note down my contact’s main areas of interests and send them some relevant articles or news if I see any. At the very least, it shows determination and drive, and, as Lirone might say, provides a valuable ‘touch point’ to build future interactions.

One lesson I learnt recently is to ask for a recommendation or if they know any opportunities. This needs to happen at the end of the conversation, if it goes well. Nobody likes getting a message asking for a job from a stranger. Again, expect rejection most of the time. They might just not know at that point. Keeping the relationship is more important for the long run.

I want to share one sentence I heard recently: It is not companies that give you jobs, it is people.

Have fun and I wish everyone a bright bright career!

Thanks for reading!

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