Full text of entrepreneur Liz Wessel’s talk: 7 Things To Do Before You Graduate College at TEDxRutgers conference. In this talk, she highlights 7 things she believes each student should do before they graduate and how these actions will affect who they grow up to be.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: 7 things to do before you graduate college by Liz Wessel
Liz Wessel – Entrepreneur
So I’m here to talk to you guys today about seven things that I hope all of you do before you graduate.
So I’m passionate about this talk for two main reasons:
The first reason is that I quit my job at Google, as he mentioned, to start an entire company just around one of these seven things and it’s the seventh one.
And then the second reason is because I have too many friends who have graduated from school, after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on their education, after spending four years of their life, if not more, on their education… and then they come and they tell me how much they regret not doing something.
And I don’t want anyone in this room to feel that way ever.
So I’m going to tell you the seven things that I hear most often.
So the first one is cold email.
So I am obsessed with cold emailing. So first of all what does it mean to cold email?
So a cold email is when you send an email to someone who you’ve never met. You could email me and we’ve never met. You might be hearing me talk but we haven’t met. And so you could find my email address online and there’s a million tricks and hacks to do it. Just google it.
And then you can cold email me. And when you cold email someone who maybe of respect, a role model, someone you want to get advice from, someone you want to hear their story about! I’m telling you right now it’s something that’s so special.
Because you realize that everyone in this world just wants to help. Most people in this world just want to help each other.
And so I’ll give you my example. I’m in college senior year, I had two job offers. One was at Google as a Product Marketing Manager, and one was at a Venture Capital Fund. I didn’t even know what marketing or venture capital was for the most part.
But I knew I had these two job offers.
All I knew was that a few years after that I wanted to start a company. So I couldn’t figure out which would be the better path. Would it be going to venture capital where I’d get to work with entrepreneurs?
Or, would it be going to a big tech company that is far from startup?
And so I actually cold emailed a big venture capitalist, this guy named Roelof Botha who’s like top 10 in the world. And I’d never met him; I’d heard him speak at conferences. And I cold emailed him.
And I said:
“Roelof, my name is Liz! I’m a college student. I go to Penn. I’m a senior. I’m trying to figure out what the hell to do with my life and I don’t know. Here is what I want to do in a few years – I want to start my own company. So which one should I do?”
And he immediately told me to get the operating experience.
And that email changed my life. If he had told me to go the venture capital route I’m telling you I probably would have done that and my path would not have been nearly the same, and I might not be where I am today.
So I’m telling you guys cold email. I’m telling you to do this before you graduate for one main reason. You all have a huge advantage that no one in the room who’s not a college student has.
And that’s that in your cold email, in your first sentence, you should all be saying, “Hi! My name is ‘blank’, and I’m a college student at Rutgers!”
The fact that you can say you’re a college student is huge, because everyone in the world wants to help college students. Like they do. And so please use that to your advantage, include that in your first sentence.
The second tip I’m going to give is: To befriend five people who you would bet on.
Now what do I mean by bet on? I mean, five people, who you think will change the world.
- Maybe they’re going to be a politician.
- Maybe they’re going to start a non-profit.
- Maybe they’re going to start a business.
Five people who you think will truly change the world. And I’m telling you there is never going to be a time again where there’re going to be tens of thousands of brilliant minds around you, learning alongside you, except when you’re in college!
And you can befriend the person to your right, the person to your left. There’s a ton of people at Rutgers, who are going to change the world. And I’m just asking you to befriend five of them.
And what’s going to happen is that if you are truly friends with them after you graduate, they’re going to help you and you’re going to help them.
I would not be where I am today at all had I not made the friends that I made in college – who truly helped me get to where I am, who I look at, even though they’re my age, twenty-five as role models. And sometimes I think I inspire some of my colleagues as well.
The next tip I’m going to give is: To take class that teaches a practical skill
So this one might be a little more controversial. But I studied Political Science, Mathematics and Japanese.
Now in Political Science class, you learn a lot about politics and you might learn a little bit about debating. But not really that much.
In Math, I love Math. I’m a huge Maths-junkie! But honestly when was the last time I did an algorithm, you know, like it had anything to do with Math class, in my day to day work? Almost never.
And Japanese is – it’s a good skill. But I don’t actually live in Japan and I never have to speak Japanese. Thank, goodness! Because my skills really are not that at par.
So what I will say is that I took one graphic design class in college. And that one graphic design class has helped me in my day-to-day life more than all of my other classes combined.
And I’m not saying that those classes aren’t extremely valuable. I learned so much. And I had a great time in college, because I studied what I loved.
But at the end of the day that graphic design classes helped me so much.
My co-founder took a Negotiation class. He’s the guy who negotiates, when we get term sheets from venture capital funds. He’s helping me negotiate the terms on those term sheets, because he knows, like, the actual method that you do and, ‘Oh, it’s a secret, but you actually do this!’ etc.
So I’m just telling you guys, if you take one very practical skill class which could be a computer science class, negotiation, a writing class, it will pay off dividends! And it’ll be really cool when you’re in the workplace after college to be able to say, ‘Oh! I’m doing this because I learned it two years ago!’