Nobody is fonder of their college experience than I am. I went to the Virginia Military Institute and my education and experience there has in so many ways defined my life. I am now a Board Member of the Athletic Foundation which helps fund athletic scholarships and I love what the college experience means to people. But the sad truth is that there are 2 things that they don’t teach you in college that you just have to know to succeed in life in a big way: how to build valuable business relationships and how to set and achieve stretch goals.
Now, I know you are going to say you know how to develop relationships—you have lots of friends….we all do. But we are talking about business relationships. There is a big difference between the two. Unfortunately in a business setting, many people assume because someone is friendly with them or they have “rapport”, it means that they have a relationship with that person. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Some people are naturally friendly. Others feel that they need to be nice in a business setting—but that is all that it means more often than not.
To develop a business relationship requires going beyond friendship. Business relationships are built on the foundation of business and the actions we take to demonstrate that a relationship with us would be valuable. There is a business need. You (or your product /service /position) bring real value to another individual. No matter what area of the company you are in, you depend on others to get your job done. Developing relationships with those people can help you do your job better. Invariably a situation will arise when there will be a need to do something out of the ordinary: you need approval right now and can’t go through the normal two week approval process, or your boss gave you an assignment and you need help from colleagues to supply the data. What can happen is virtually unlimited and hard to predict. But the basic truth is that you will need the help of others to succeed. When you ask for help from another person, that person is more willing to help you if the two of you have a relationship. It is just human nature.
Another point to make about relationships is that there is a process that you can learn to develop those business relationships. (It is one we have taught to thousands of business folks.) Knowing what to do is only half the battle. Knowing how to do it is the other half.
In every company there are people that will ask for favors who don’t bother to establish relationships. Often they develop reputations of cropping up only when they need something. Those on the receiving end have been known to go out of their way to avoid seeing that person because they know the only reason for the interaction is to do something that the other person will request. You don’t want to be that person. So take the time to develop business relationships. Help others when you can and get to know them personally. You will find that it makes your job easier and life more rewarding.
Setting goals is also something they don’t teach you in college. I’m not referring to a goal of writing a paper by a certain deadline but setting goals in terms of what you want to accomplish. It is hard to achieve success if you don’t know how to get there. Goals enable you to visualize what it is you want to accomplish. Creating goals also helps you realize the steps that you need to do to achieve your objectives.
Let’s take a simple goal of becoming wealthy. How do you define wealth? Is there a certain income level that you need to achieve? Or is it defined by a dollar amount in savings? How do you plan to achieve this goal? You may learn that you need to define interim goals—such as getting a job that pays X amount. Or starting your own business. How will you save the amount you need? Goal setting involves not only defining what you want to achieve but also timelines and the steps that you need to do to attain a goal.
From my point of view, stating your goal is to be wealthy is a poor goal. I’m just using it here as an example. My advice is to find your passion and then find a way to incorporate your passion in your career. It is more important that you spend your time doing what brings you fulfillment. Yes, you need enough money to survive and live in the manner you desire. But those who chase money find they never have enough. You don’t want your goal to consume you. You want to be in control of your destiny and that’s what setting goals can enable you to do.
Part of being human involves the need for validation. Help supplant that drive with venturing outside of what college provides and seek to broaden your education. Learn how to develop business relationships and set goals. There are courses, books, webinars that you can take to teach you how to do this. You can go to our website and watch a video about relationships that I’ve recorded. Or read my book, “The Relationship Edge in Business”. And don’t stop learning when school ends. Life is a continual process of learning that doesn’t end with formal schooling. Enjoy your time at college. Just recognize that it will not provide you everything that you need to succeed.