“I just want to let you know that I’ve read all about you [online] and I think you’re an incredible genius. I’ve always dreamed of one thing and that’s to do business with a man like you.”
–Adapted from Bud Fox’s address of Gordon Gekko, in Wall Street.
This past week a number of entrepreneurs showed up at Stanford to speak with the support of couple of mentees to BASES (Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students) intern group on a talk titled “How to Get an Internship the Entrepreneurial Way,” but it might be better titled “What they don’t teach you as an undergrad and EVERYONE in Silicon Valley should know (if they don’t already).” While the talk was based around internships, the true insight was into the social workings of the Valley and how to make the most of being in the center of world’s continuous technological revolution.
Coming from the East Coast where twitter among my friends is near unheard of and people thought I was referring to fixing my car when I said I wanted to work on my “startup,” the West Coast has been somewhat of a shock. Execs wear jeans to business mixers, professors introduce themselves by first name, and I have yet to see a tie outside those hanging in my dorm room closet. The lessons on the Valley are another eye opening experience into the completely different fast paced, mile a minute, culture that is the West Coast:
We’ve all heard the catch line that it’s not enough just to be good in school; you need to be street smart. How is the car salesman who never when to high school successful? Being clever, quick to verbalize, knowing how to read what people are actually thinking rather than saying, and getting connections in to the right places is just as valuable as being able to talk about anti conformal matrices. If you’re honest, ethical, and transparent about who you are while doing all this, you’ve hit the nail on the head. One speaker used an example of his father who went to MIT, but learned a great deal from an uncle who only graduated from high school.
Tips for making in into that business event of the year:
Getting in: Tell people you want to go!
-Pre-network the event—Facebook and/email to get initial attention
-Blog or pre-blog the event
-Add yourself to the party’s waitlist by calling/emailing the event organizer
-Show up 5-10minutes before the party starts
-Own up that you weren’t officially added to the wait list, and talk to the gate keeper—Have an elevator pitch ready for who you are and why you want to get in.
When you’ve got in: Be a good guest!
-Almost everyone who crashes brings friends, avoids the host, and eats all the free food. DO THE OPPOSITE
-Seek out the host, introduce yourself, explain that you are crashing their party, and explain why you went through all the trouble to attend their event. If you are genuinely enthusiastic and transparent about what you’re doing, how would the host look if they sent you out the door?
After the party: Show you’re appreciation! (Remember the manners your parents taught you in middle school)
-Say goodbye to the host!
-Mail in the thank you card afterward or follow up in another way to show your appreciation in another way:
Emailing is a campaign. If someone important doesn’t get back to you after your first attempt, it probably means they have so many emails that they never saw it. It can’t hurt to send them another email (even the same one) a day later. Send emails in waves, until they get back to you. As Cameron Teitelman, one of the panelists and the founder of the SSE Labs start up incubator explained, if they don’ t get back you in 24 hours and you’re persistent it’s okay until they get back to you. Being positive, asking questions, and inviting people you’ve met to events can only help your case.
Planning Three Years of Internships in Person
According to another panelist, you can hack three awesome internships in sequence using much of the same strategy as crashing a VIP party. The major thing is to decide what you want to do and then go for it:
- Look for mentorship from an executive: work email
-Genuine compliments can go a long way. Everyone likes to hear positive feedback.
-Tell them about yourself, what do you have to offer them?
-(Oh, and see Bud Fox’s quote at the beginning of this post.)
-Define your expertise:
-Have something specific to offer for their company and talk to them about it.
-Ask if they’re the person to talk to about working on your project for their company or if they can refer you to someone else.
-Asking for a five minute phone chat to tell them about yourself and ask a couple questions can go a long way and lead to further opportunities to get to know your role models better.
-Genuinely telling someone, “I’m interested in learning about what you’re doing and learning more about your company” can sometimes be all you need to start a conversation.
-The Kicker: Have an “AWESOME PROJECT” (startup, research, recent related experience) to talk about as well!
-And as is always stressed: SEND A THANK YOU afterwards!
The Ultimate Networker: A Really Cool Guy
Finally, what I realize I got most from the talk were the things left unsaid: The panelist were an examples of ultimate networkers and connectors because the were genuinely good people who wanted to help others.
How many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs do you know that would offer to give an undergrad their number the minute they met them? or offer to be your first follower on twitter? The panelists were invited to a range of events—from VIP Silicon Valley mixers to the Stanford Dinning Services (which tweet them afterwards)—because at the most fundamental level they are people who other people want to be around because he helps them as much as they help him.
What anyone who has met a good networker and gotten to talk with them a bit realizes is that the true value and secret to being a good networker is being someone not who just knows a lot of people, but who helps a lot of people as well, and gives back as much as he or she receives.
I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to have met the panelists and look forward to learning more from them in the future.
Also, here’s an excerpt of the Q & A session with Cameron Teitelman of SSE Labs and Stephanie Sy of the Stanford Daily: