I had the pleasure of attending a tea at the elegant Carlyle Hotel in New York City recently. The invitation came from LaGuardia Community College’s (LAGCC) President’s Society and the evening was sponsored by a benefactor of the school who had the excellent idea to expose the LAGCC students to aspects of life that were typically unavailable to them until now. The attendees were a mixture of LAGCC honor students and working professionals in a variety of fields. The evening was designed to give these students (most of whom are the first in their families to attend college) the opportunity to network and practice their social skills with professionals in a beautiful setting. In addition, a guest speaker, Gregory Mosher, spoke to the group about his career trajectory.
I had intended to write a blog post extolling the many benefits of hosting such a networking event for students. And there are many. But I hadn’t anticipated that the talented guest speaker would give the students such creative and interesting networking advice, so I’ve decided to share that as well.
For a theater lover like myself, hearing that Gregory Mosher was going to speak at the tea was exciting. Mosher has been involved in the theater since the 1960s and has won every theater award imaginable. He was the director of Lincoln Center Theater, and has directed dozens of plays including “Six Degrees of Separation,” “Hurly Burly,” and “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
Mosher won the students over immediately with his humble and honest confession that he was never much of a student, and that he really had no idea what he wanted to do with his life as a student and a young adult.
He told the audience that he stumbled through school (many schools actually) and had no real career calling. A friend invited him to a theater performance and rather than saying no, he said yes—and was forever hooked on the theater. This was the first piece of advice he imparted to the students: Say yes to new opportunities—even if those opportunities sound a little scary or are out of your comfort zone. Saying yes allows you to explore new options, new fields, and to meet new people—opening up all sorts of new possibilities.
Mosher also advised the students to “put it out there.” He encouraged students to speak to as many people as possible about their passions, interests, and ambitions. Whether it is an internship, an informational interview, or a mentor, he advised the students to let their friends, professors, employers, and family members know what they want, because by putting that message out into the world, results will come. I love this advice, and have seen it work time after time.
Finally, Mosher told the group about a fascinating phenomenon called the “Three Degrees of Influence,” which is a proven theory about the mechanics and importance of human networking. Nicholas Christakis, a sociologist at Harvard University, and James Fowler, a political scientist at the University of California, wrote about this theory in their book, “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives—How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do.” The researchers found that our community and social network are like a honeycomb in which people influence one another. The remarkable finding is that we are not only impacted by our friends, but by our friends’ friends as well. Mosher told that group that by surrounding ourselves with a positive, strong network, we are both contributors to and recipients of that positivity, and will benefit accordingly.
After Mosher finished his talk, the room was abuzz with chatter. The students were palpably inspired by his advice and were circulating the room, speaking to each other and the working professionals with a strong sense of purpose. Business cards were exchanged and promises of keeping in touch were made.
So what has happened two weeks post-event? I have a lunch date with a student who wants to speak to me about her career plans and two students contacted me asking me to review their LinkedIn profiles (as a career coach, that’s an offer I often make). I am glad to see that the students were already putting some of Mosher’s excellent advice to use, and hope that they continue to do so.
Please share your student networking tips here!