The Most Valuable Lesson I learned in College

by | Aug 1, 2015 | NAAAP Blog | 0 comments

Written by Li-Xing Chang, Product/Digital Marketer
Originally written for LinkedIn on Li-Xing’s blog


College. A time to find yourself. A time to explore your interests.

During my current undergraduate career at the University of California, Irvine, I had the wonderful opportunity to be exposed to a young business community that is currently thriving in Orange County. From networking mixers across Irvine/Costa Mesa to early Saturday morning phone calls with alumni based in New York City, one common theme has permeated the different interactions I’ve had with people on campus at the Paul Merage School of Business or elsewhere.

Out of the 1000+ LinkedIn invitations, 1500+ intro emails, and the 100+ phone calls during these past 3 years, it has always been about one thing… the giving culture.

So what is the giving culture?

The Power of Giving 

I first learned about the giving culture as a college sophomore through a retired Fortune 500 manager. He explained to me over coffee that although the giving culture has many personal interpretations, the core of this culture focuses on helping people. And what separates this from networking is that the giving culture isn’t about finding a “win-win” right away. It’s about helping the other person without a win-win in sight. It’s about sharing your knowledge and passing on your wisdom to the next generation.

So that got me thinking, “Why would someone get involved in the giving culture if business is about finding win-win opportunities for both parties?” After spending months thinking and experimenting with the giving culture on campus, I realized that every business professional got to where they are today because someone somewhere spent an hour of their time to answer their questions and/or make an introduction.

And now as I look back, that makes total sense. As I begin my senior year at UCI, I was able to grow and find my passion because people took a chance with me and were interested in answering my questions (regardless of the ambiguity).

I’m sold! How do I become a part of the giving culture?

Simple! The first step is to create your own version of the giving culture. Here is mine:

The core of the giving culture is to create a ripple effect by sharing your passion of helping others. Through your interactions with other individuals, you lay the seed for other people to become passionate and eager to help others with their careers. And although the chances are slim that a single individual you help will carry on the giving culture, the more people you help will increase those chances.

You can give back to your community in the following ways:

  • Give your skills – As a way to help aspiring entertainment artists with their careers, I provide free management/marketing consultation to artists who are looking to grow their careers. One of the most fascinating individuals I’ve ever met through this was an Asian American hip hop artist with a background in philosophy from Yale University.
  • Share your story – There is a belief that we are the average of the 5 different types of people we surround ourselves with. I’d like to also add on that the more life stories we hear from other people, the more knowledge we gain which help formulate our own personal perspectives. One of the most interesting stories I ever heard was from an entrepreneur who sold his company and drove all the way to Canada (sleeping in his car) looking for inspiration for his next venture.
  • Mentor a younger professional interested in your field – Although I am a marketing professional, I have helped coach finance/accounting students and a cyber security student during the past 3 years. The best part is that each mentee has shared with me their passions and the mentorship has always been a 2-way street where we learn from each other.
  • Make an introduction – A simple introduction can go a long way and help that individual with their career. The best way for any young professional to grow is to have dozens of informational interviews with people across different industries.

In the end, giving back begins with a strong interest in learning about each person’s story. Each person has a story and it is through their life stories that we grow as individuals and professionals.