Juan Escobar, is, in a word, visionary. I connected with him through a social network he created (yes, created) on LinkedIn and Facebook, called the Hispanic Students and Professionals Network (HSPN).
For example, Juan is currently developing Latinnect, a network dedicated to connecting Latin cultures & communities. “For the last couple of years I’ve noticed a huge need in the global Latin community for more awareness and collaboration among all the groups and resources in it that truly represent Latin cultures & communities,” says Juan. “Through Latinnect, I hope to provide a global solution to that need.” Follow Latinnect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and yes, even Google+.
If that's not cool enough, Juan also has:
- during college, interned at DreamWorks Animation, IDEO, Kellogg's (think: L'Eggo my Eggo!) and Symantec Corp. (the largest maker of security software), and Intuit;
- was a leader in the National Society of Hispanic MBAs as an executive vice president and vice president of education; and,
- after college, worked for Google and LinkedIn.
Find out who you are and what you love
In talking about his college experience, Juan emphasized the importance of embarking on a journey of self-discovery: finding out who you are and what you love. Here's how Juan did it:
- Use internships to learn about your interests. Juan didn't always know what he wanted to do and found that he had many interests. He took a job with the career services department of his university and learned about the different types of positions and their responsibilities. He was also often the first to find out about internships and jobs.
- Get involved and work with diverse teams. Not only did Juan build his capacity for leadership by getting involved on campus (president of the Latino Business Students Association), but he also learned about his strengths and passions by overcoming challenges within diverse teams. In addition, Juan was able to apply those team building and relationship skills to his professional positions.
- Build a community you can turn to. Juan stressed the importance of a community, a network of people you can turn to for guidance and support. He added that you should not only build but also maintain relationships. He also said that he wouldn't have had to figure everything out on his own had he had mentors to help him. You can and should build community with your peers, professors, administrators and professionals (for more tips on how to build and maintain relationships for college success, read Isa Adney's book and blog).
Juan's advice boils down to finding out who you are, what you're passionate about and building a community of people around you that will provide the guidance and support to help you get there.
A word on interviews
Juan also gave me some pointers on how to approach interviews. Besides researching the company and getting a good sense for the industry, the second most important thing is coming up with some questions specific about the job.
You want to know three main things about the employer:
- Team dynamics (organization culture, mission and values);
- The skill set required for the job; and,
- How success in the position is measured.
How to create value when building professional relationships
Juan lined up six interviews in one week without a single application, simply by tapping into his network. He built his network through mutually valuable relationships, based on creating a positive experience.
When I set out to be a paralegal, I approached my local paralegal association. I attended networking events, got on the board and attended conventions. This allowed me to build a community of supportive professionals. When I had a difficult career decision to make, it was my network which I turned to. In fact, it was this network that helped me land the job I have today!
The message, Juan says, is simple: "I know you and you know me, let's keep in touch and we can help one another." But what if you don't talk with the person for a while? "Make it a positive experience so that when you're ready to communicate, that person is there for you."
As an example, I keep in touch with freelance reporter Walter Villa, who covered the 305 Rise story for the College Forum. To this day, I check in with Walter from time to time when I find an article I think he'd enjoy and I comment on his stories published online. By doing so, I am creating a positive experience simply by being genuinely interested and willing to share information.
How do you create value in a professional relationship? "Think about what your passions and strengths are. You not only bring your network, intelligence and experiences, but you also bring your unique personality."
Well, said, Juan.
There is no one like you in this world. You bring as much to the table with your enthusiasm, dedication, experiences and ideas.
What is a start-up looking for? Should I work for one?
In creating groups like HSPN and Latinnect, Juan developed an interest in startups that add value to society. I asked Juan what kind of person a startup would be looking for and when it's appropriate to work for a larger company instead.
Simply put, startup companies look for people who are entrepreneurial -- "people that want to create something and do it." People who are self-starting, curious, passionate and motivated who are willing to create systems and processes where there are none.
As to whether you should work for one, Juan recommends looking at two things:
- Look at the opportunities around you. What's available and realistic for you? Check out this Mashable article with links to startup job boards.
- Determine what you're trying to achieve. Is your objective to manage a multi-million dollar budget, or are you more interested in creating something new from scratch? If you want to create something new, startups are a great place to learn and grow.
What is a social entrepreneur anyway?
According to Juan, social entrepreneurship is "using entrepreneurial means to create something of value for society." It is building something for the common good. You're not only meeting the needs of your clients or customers, but you're also giving back to the community or society at large. It could be a small business or a department within a multi-million dollar company. Juan mentioned a mountain hiking gear company, Patagonia, which sold hiking gear but also funded ecological causes through their work. See FastCompany's 25 best social entrepreneurs here or BusinessWeek's 25 most promising social entrepreneurs here.
If you want to learn more about Juan, you can find him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+. He is an open book, willing to answer questions and with a wealth of knowledge to give!
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