Last weekend, my friend Zac introduced me to his friend from college and we started talking.
He asked questions that one would ask every time you meet someone new and are slightly uncomfortable, like, "How do you know Zac?" and "Where are you from?"
Then he asked me "What school do you go to?" to which I confidently replied "Lehigh."
Suddenly he had 1,000 percent more interest in me.
He was like, "Lehigh? What's your name again?"
Now he had to make sure he remembered my name. Then he told me his name again so I would remember his name, too — He had to do the whole introduction again.
A similar situation happened last week when I was in a meeting with the rest of my intern team and everyone was going around the circle saying what school they go to.
Everyone said their respective schools, and when they came to me I said "Lehigh" and then the director stopped and said “Oh, you are a Lehigh guy? We love Lehigh guys in this office.”
It's funny to me sharing these stories, because as just another Italian kid from Staten Island, most of my friends or old coaches have never even heard of Lehigh before; they may get Lehigh confused for a club in the city. When I tell them I go to Lehigh their only response is, “Where is that?”
After hearing that, it feels like you are doing something wrong, and you give up on explaining it to people.
But, like any dream in life, you don’t stop because others don’t see the value of your dream. You have to do what is best for yourself, and if people don’t understand then that doesn't mean you stop.
When hustling all the time in school it can get hard to see the value of your education, because you don't receive any immediate rewards. You sometimes doubt that your efforts are going to be recognized or that you are ever going to be rewarded for them.
Therefore, if you are at school and feel discouraged, then you have to get out of your inner circle.
The way I have come to see the power is all through networking: by meeting people my age and professionals in the industry. Going to other schools and making friends, taking classes that put you in front of alumni every week, going on Linkedin and picking up the phone.
When you say "Lehigh," people listen to you, especially your ideas.
The reason I am at a top 10 internship is because my college unit director graduated from Lehigh.
When I went into his office to interview he told me that “He only recruits Lehigh people and wouldn’t take anybody else.” He said it is his way of giving back to the school that gave him so much.
But if I hadn't expanded my network, I never would have gotten my foot in the door.