I remember this day vividly - Wednesday, March 27th, 2013. I was sitting in my office at work when my phone rang. It was a non-Rutgers number that I didn’t recognize.
I answered it on the second ring. When I answered, the young man introduced himself, saying he was given my name by a former FDU friend of mine, Joe Paris, who now works in admissions at Temple University. The gentleman on the other end went on to say how we was looking to enroll in graduate programs and when he visited Temple that morning, he met Joe. While visiting Temple, Joe told him that he was unsure if this was the right program for him and he was still unsure of his career path.
That’s when Joe told him to connect with me. Well, this young man, Shyam Bhoraniya, got on his phone and started finding ways to get in touch with me. When Shyam explained this story to me on the phone, I was super impressed by his ambition. He took the initiative to not only immediately look up who I was, he searched for a phone number to make a personal connection. Shyam had such a great story and personality that he convinced me to meet him that same evening for coffee since he was going to be on campus.
While we talked face to face, I could see the passion in his eyes to make a difference in the world. Shyam shared stories of how he traveled to India to help young children, what he wanted to accomplish in the field of social work, and how he was working to motivate others. I then shared my vision to end employment unhappiness for college students and some projects I was working on with The Niche Movement. My vision resonated with Shyam and he wanted to help out in anyway.
As I drove home that evening from the initial introduction with Shyam, I knew that there was a reason I picked up the phone earlier that day. Meeting Shyam, led to so many other opportunities for the both of us.
A week later, Shyam and I spoke and I mentioned what I was doing with the 6 week Niche Movement cohort and I told him that the last week was focused on motivation and following your passion. On the side, Shyam was working on a passion project called Motivate My Day, a daily newsletter and social media account to inspire others. I knew his experience and the skill set he had in his early-twenties would add value to the students in this program. I invited him to do an online guest lecture on motivation as well as how to get through the “gatekeepers.”
Gatekeepers, in the world of job hunting or launching an initiative, are the people or things that control access to something or someone getting noticed. In Shyam’s world, there are no gatekeepers.
Later in the spring of 2013, Courtney and I came across WOW Talks, a community of people (started in London) that love what they do and are given a platform to share their passion from a variety of disciplines (10 min or less TED style talks & more informal). We found out that there was going to be the first WOW Talks held in the United States in New York City that May, so we bought tickets to attend. About a week out from the event, Shyam and I were talking and I told him about this event. By coincidence, he said he was attending the same event.
Shyam using his skills to connect with anyone, was already in touch with the founder, Gal Stiglitz. That night, Shyam helped anyway he could with the event and introduced us to Gal and several of the speakers. Throughout the summer of 2013, Shyam and I stayed in touch and we continued to talk about the WOW Talks. He knew that an event like this could succeed in the Rutgers/New Brunswick area and benefit college students. With some networking and ambition, Shyam partnered with Stephanie Cywnar, graduate student for the Student Life leadership office, to get the ball rolling on planning an event.
A few months later with the hard work of Shyam and Stephanie, they launched a WOW Talks event in November 2013 revolving around the theme of Education and Start-Ups. Because the theme connected with my efforts with helping young adults find their niche, I was invited to be one of the featured speakers and deliver a 10 minute speech. I have been very grateful for this opportunity to share my message with another 100+ students and help them connect the dots for their future.
Since November, Shyam and I have stayed in touch, periodically updating each other about one another’s endeavors and accomplishments. Today, as luck would have it, on the day I am featuring him, the two of us finally caught up and had lunch. We hadn’t seen each other in four months and one hour wasn’t enough to re-connect. However, I learned that Shyam is now going to be helping WOW Talks as their North America Events Coordinator to help spread them throughout the United States.
What They Taught Me:
There are very few people in my network that are as great at getting through the gatekeepers and connecting with others as Shyam. He has taught me a lot about myself, has connected me with influential people, and offered significant helpful advice. When I reflect on the 16 months I have know him, he has taught me that momentum is key and that hard work pays off.
How They Inspired Me:
Shyam has been a great sound board for me and has the ability to listen to several ideas at a time. I see the opportunities he has created for himself from all of the networking he has done and his fearless can-do attitude. This alone has inspired me to take risks and not be afraid to pick up the phone and connect with someone new. I learned, the worst that can happen is they say no.
When Shyam was given my name and told about The Niche Movement, many people would have either brushed it aside or put it off for a day, a week, or a month. The majority of those that take the next step to reach out will often send one email. Unfortunately, it’s easy to not reply to emails so they will often get buried in inboxes. With the resources available to us and access to anyone’s digital identity, it is easier now more than ever to find a way to stand out and get noticed. Send a note through LinkedIn, tweet at someone, find their phone number and give them a call. Be persistent and don’t be afraid of the gatekeepers because they no longer exist.