Since I was a first year student in college, I have had a strong passion in business and helping people. However, I didn’t know how to develop these passions into a lifestyle. So I tried to read all the business and career materials I could get my hands on. Luckily, my campus offered Young Money magazine to any student interested in such a field. Through the magazine, I learned about stocks, entrepreneurship, networking and successful students across the nation. This greatly inspired me and encouraged me to step into the business world when most of my friends were enjoying college with computer games and parties.
Today, I have started two companies, a non-profit, and have consulted for various business startups. After I acquired some amount of business knowledge, I especially felt that students like us should learn much more about networking and how it helps our careers. Understanding the importance of such a "craft," I started my non-profit organization, the FD Network.
How online networking can help you
The FD Network was started to help people become more successful through connections and resources. When the network just started, I thought that, since I’m at a formidable university, theoretically most of my friends will become successful. It then seemed like a good idea to keep contact with all my friends and what they do throughout life, so I can help them with all my other friends when in need. I found some friends that appreciated this service and we created a database and website for it. Soon after, professionals started to sign up too, and it became a real organization.
Today the FD Network has more than 400 members, including both well established professionals and students from well-known universities throughout the U.S. We also have a team of 12 people called the Nexus that helps in running the FD Network and making it better. Unlike professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, FD is meant to be much more personal. The network acts as a friend itself that knows you, cares about your success, and is completely designed to get you connections and resources to achieve that success.
The goal of the network is to make everyone successful, so everyone is able to help other members more. Our motto is to "Be Personal, Professionally." Instead of just giving help that you ask for, we also take initiative ourselves to refer you things you might need to help out your situation. This philosophy of enhancing your network by making everyone successful, we call it "Vertical Networking" (instead of horizontal networking, where you get as many people as possible).
Why traditional networking often doesn’t work
The idea of FD is very simple. When a student just gets out of college and into the workforce, his/her network is most likely limited. In this situation, the recent grad would wish he/she knew a friend who already has massive connections and resources reaching into all kinds of fields, and the recent grad could approach this friend with any kind of needs. The problem with such traditional networking is that these kinds of mentors are usually very busy, and more often than not, they are unable to put in the care and energy required to help youngsters out. The FD Network, however, is a friend designed to help people out, hence many doors and opportunities will open through this. Even if one is already are an established professional, he/she would know that one of the key principals of networking is to connect to hubs. The network is a hub to help people out.
A free resource for students and young professionals
As the network is designed to help people, there is no charge in the service. We are also very careful in selecting our sponsors and promotions (currently we are targeting staffing companies.) However, we also expect members to have the will of helping others too. There are only two obligations of being a member in the FD Network. The first obligation is to update one’s information every year, and the other is to be friendly to other FD members. When someone asks for help through FD, there are no obligations for you to offer assistance, but you are asked to just be friendly to that person. Treat him/her like a friend’s friend. Very simple ideas, but I feel they are not emphasized enough in today’s world.
To this date, FD, though still building up, has helped a good number of members. We have helped people get jobs, project opportunities, build teams, provide resources, to even help some members start their own company. It is through these means that I find joy in my life, and that both my passions in business and helping others become a harmony.
College students today have their right to take advantage of this time between being controlled by parents and controlled by the boss. They should have some fun and socialize often. However, there have been too many lost connections when students graduate and leave the region. Students should value the time being together and turn that friendship into strength into society. The simple action of staying in touch often with classmates and friends takes one a long way. Connections are essential wherever you go.
Nothing you see around in this modern society was created by the effort of one person only. But when you think about your network, be willing to help others first without expecting anything in return. Ultimately, your network is not a cash cow that you need to exploit, but it goes back to the core structure of what it really is – friendship. And as we all know, friends help each other out and try to enjoy life together. Be sincere to your network, and you will have an enriched life with those that you care about and who care for you.
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