College students are helping build Boston’s newest startup opportunities. They’re challenging the perception of MBAs, making strides toward solving the world’s water crisis and taking a stance against outdated regulations standing in the way of innovation.
Call Generation Y what you will—lazy, entitled, self-absorbed—but hundreds of students here in the Hub are heads down working, developing change-the-world ideas from the confines of their dorm room for no other reason than to make a positive impact.
All that said, there’s still one problem. For the dozens of students quietly coding and humbly networking, there’s another dozen bragging about how hard they “hustle” or how little they sleep. They’re the one-uppers. The ones who scoff, roll their eyes, puff out their chest and say, “Oh, you have an internship there,” later reminding the person standing across from them for the umpteenth time they’ve interned at Facebook, Google or some other multi-billion dollar company.
To you, my response is: I don’t give a flying fig. Stop talking and keep working, because unless your next announcement is that you’re becoming the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, you still have a long road ahead, my friends.
Now, before those of you who have been given these great opportunities start screaming, let me just congratulate you. Breaking into a big company is no small feat. Neither is landing an internship at a startup, for that matter. Every college student is looking to make moves—turning the landscape into an incredibly competitive one. I commend anyone who’s able to land an internship in this environment, especially those who are able to turn that internship into a job. But, how you carry yourself is key.
Earlier this week, the Harvard Crimson published an editorial talking about “Harvard’s Whiny One-Upmanship.” The author wrote:
Here is a conversation I overheard yesterday:
“How’s it going?”
“You know, getting four hours of sleep, but whatever. This week sucks. I have two midterms, a paper, a date event, and elections for this club I’m in.”
“Yeah, last week was like that for me and next week will be even worse. But that’s Harvard, right?”
This conversation may not seem abnormal to you. In fact, since arriving at Harvard over three years ago, I have sadly grown accustomed to hearing conversations like this. Their distinguishing feature is that they mask bragging with complaining. And let’s face it: A great deal of Harvard’s social interactions fit this mold.
Yet, this isn’t a Harvard problem, this is an every college problem. You’re not complaining about how little you slept, you’re boasting about how hard you work. And let’s face it: Now isn’t the time to be bragging. You’re nowhere near the peak of your career, and you’re not guaranteed, nor entitled to, anything. It’s too soon for you to start thinking you’re the cat’s meow, the bee’s knees or whatever else you hip kids are saying these days.
Networking as a college student is hard, that I get. Your résumé is bare and, stereotypically speaking, forty-somethings still have a hard time taking twenty-somethings seriously. So, you get nervous, and fidgety, and you start talking yourself up. There’s a difference between confidence and cockiness, however, and nine out of 10 times, I’ve discovered the people genuinely sharing their story and not trying to convince me of anything are the ones I want to write stories about.
So, students, think twice before you open your mouth. You might have already accomplished a lot, but you’ll accomplish more in the future. College students can change the world. But the ones that are, aren’t the ones talking about it.