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The best advice I received from networking with successful UNC alumni

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Prof. Ted Zoller (left) and Travis Wold (EMBA ’15). Photo: Megan Shortle/Soul Pine Photography

Professor Ted Zoller gave me a simple piece of advice on networking:

Get around people who have something of value to share with you. Their impact will continue to give you guidance long after they have departed.

That conversation was the catalyst for my networking tour. During my time in the Executive MBA program, I spent three months meeting with successful UNC graduates who are years – or decades – ahead of me in their careers. I met with successful millionaires and billionaires, as well as entrepreneurs that have failed.

I walked away from these meetings with great advice, book recommendations, new connections and lifelong friendships.

My biggest takeaway from the experience was this:

Successful people are usually more than happy to help those that have the courage to ask.

Perhaps it’s because they see a little bit of themselves in you. Often, it’s because they feel a responsibility to help others because someone helped them along the way.

Everyone I connected with shared similar qualities – gratitude, courage, resilience, curiosity, compassion, integrity, creativity and loyalty.

Here is some of the best advice I received on my networking tour:

  • Think about who you hang out with and why. Surround yourself with people that have high expectations for you and will hold you accountable for your actions and decisions.
  • Ask questions instead of giving orders, advice or opinions. Benjamin Franklin was a master at this.
  • Work hard and play hard – but make time to relax. Give yourself something to look forward to.
  • To expand your skill set, teach your skill set.

Challenge yourself to expand your network and connect with high-caliber individuals who you can learn from. And when you achieve success, be willing to help others.

By Travis Wold (EMBA ’15), co-founder/idea generation, Suit Squares