siprelles_blog-headerBy Scott Sipprelle

Over a recent lunch that my wife Tracy and I hosted for a group of students we are sponsoring through Give Something Back, I asked the group about the topic of networking. After an extended silence, I followed up, “You know, how do you leverage people that you meet to develop insights and contacts and other resources to help you achieve your goals and get you to where you want to go?” Again, silence.

Slowly the students began to speak and what I heard from each conveyed a relatively consistent message:

“I mostly keep to myself and try to work hard.”

“I don’t really know that many people so I wouldn’t know how to do that.”

“Sometimes I talk to my school counselor.”

“I wouldn’t really know what kind of questions to ask.”

“I spend most of my free time babysitting my sister while my mom is at work.”

These responses painted a stark mosaic of a group of rugged, self-reliant and cocooned young scholars struggling to find new avenues for achievement and success in a world that presently lies mostly outside of their own personal experience and understanding. And within this observation, I instantly recognized that the biggest impediment that stands in the way of today’s young people and success is a lack of self-confidence. They need to know they can reach out and ask for help when life’s challenges inevitably arise — which is why Give Back’s mentoring program is crucial.

What these students were craving to hear that afternoon was that the world of opportunity was truly within their grasp, no matter how far out that notion currently seems. What all aspiring scholars need to be reminded incessantly — and to be trained to understand — is that networking is essential. I concluded my conversation with the scholars by describing the networking imperative in three simple steps:

  1. People want to help you succeed. It is rare that any person in the position to help a scholarship student would not respond effusively to a question that begins with, “Can you help me to understand…”
  1. Each contact you make expands your network exponentially. A good contact will always have ideas about other people or events or avenues for learning and growing. Every person you meet moves you up a rung on the ladder of life.
  1. You are good enough! As Judy Garland said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of someone else.” You cannot hesitate based on a belief that you don’t know or that you don’t belong. Every successful person is composed of completely different ingredients based on their own beliefs and experiences. The key is to build that self-confidence that what you bring to the world is valuable and necessary.


Scott Sipprelle is the founder of Westland Ventures, which provides growth capital and strategic advice for emerging companies. He and his wife, Tracy, are Give Something Back donors.