I want to talk a bit about networking with new acquaintances or renewing old contacts.  Networking is often dreaded because it sounds like being disingenuous or insincere. Good networking is genuine and sincere. I made the point in Week 1 that communication skills are crucial, and they can be learned. Warren Buffett has said that “public speaking” is the most important skill he ever learned.  So let’s discuss a few ideas on how to make networking less stressful and more successful.  In this video, I will list three key things to remember when networking and expand on why they are so important. My UBC Management students will remember this from my Management Communication course.


The genius of Steve Jobs lies in his hippie period and with his time at Reed College, the pre-eminent Liberal Arts college in North America. To his understanding of technology, Jobs brought an immersion in popular culture. In his 20s, he dated Joan Baez; Ella Fitzgerald sang at his 30th birthday party. His worldview was shaped by the ’60s counterculture in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he had grown up, the adopted son of a Silicon Valley machinist. When he graduated from high school in Cupertino in 1972, he said, “the very strong scent of the 1960s was still there. After dropping out of Reed College, a stronghold of liberal thought in Portland, Ore., in 1972, Mr. Jobs led a countercultural lifestyle himself. He told a reporter that taking LSD was one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life. He said there were things about him that people who had not tried psychedelics — even people who knew him well, including his wife — could never understand.


The unwritten promise of a post-secondary education has been to earn a degree in an applied field such as engineering and you’ll end up with a good, stable job, but the millennial generation is finding that can no longer be counted on. I have been thinking about this issue for some time. Last year, I posted an article on this blog by Robert Reich, Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley and former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton. I was stimulated to share that article by what I was seeing with my own students from the University of British Columbia, and contrasting that with my own experience years ago, walking into my Silicon Valley dream career by sheer chance. That simply no longer happens. Grads must begin plotting out a plan early, no later than the beginning of their third year, and begin to execute on it in order to find an entry-level position commensurate with their education. Networking and cold calling is imperative, but as this article points out, even that may not guarantee solid employment.


My own odyssey in choosing a major and a career is probably not a great guide for today’s students. I had only a vague idea that I wanted a quality “liberal arts education,” to equip me with the thinking skills necessary to guide my career. I chose an undergraduate major in Speech-Communication with double minors in Philosophy and Photography. In retrospect, despite the disadvantages of my choice, it turned out well at that time, primarily because being able to communicate and present yourself is perhaps the most important skill in any career. Warren Buffett agrees with that. But in today’s much more competitive environment, I am sadly less confident that it would work. This is the dilemma for today’s students.