Blog post by ELP student Hayley Vassallo (Business Administration | Class of 2021) Interning at the U-M Economic Growth Institute

I joined the Entrepreneurs Leadership Program (ELP) with very few expectations and have been pleasantly surprised throughout my time as a member. It has taught me important lessons that a typical class cannot teach. ELP has emphasized the importance of being prepared to meet with someone new, how to react quickly and be successful when thrown into a new situation, and how to push myself out of my comfort zone.

Being Prepared: 

Receiving the advice to always search someone up before meeting with them seemed unimportant to me at the time. Once I began meeting with people for coffee chats, I realized how much this can help me. When you meet someone in a coffee shop, it is very helpful to know what they look like beforehand.

It is not only important to be aware of what someone looks like, but to also have a bit of knowledge on their background. This can be a great way to start a conversation or to figure out what you can learn from them.

Additionally, showing that you have prepared for a meeting will almost always impress the other person. Demonstrating that you cared enough to put time into preparing shows that in general you can be relied on.

React Quickly:

Things tend to work a bit differently in the entrepreneurial world. Instead of applications coming out months in advance, it tends to be a much quicker timeline when looking for jobs. When I went on the NEXT Trek in Washington D.C. with ELP I learned this very quickly. Being pulled out in the middle of the day to interview with a company I barely knew anything about was not something I expected.

This experience taught me how valuable it is to be able to go with the flow and react quickly. When I realized this was happening, I had no idea what to expect.  I had to figure out how to prepare for the interview and what the company did on the Uber ride over to the company. Being able to react quickly and learn on the go has been an important lesson ELP has taught me.

Pushing Myself Out of my Comfort Zone:

ELP has taught me to push myself, and though I may not always be comfortable, I know things will work out for the best. ELP hosted a kickoff dinner for the newest cohort and I went knowing only one or two people. Instead of only talking to those few people, I was pushed to meet other people, especially the other people in my cohort. I am so happy that ELP pushed me to get to know the other members of the cohort because I have been able to meet such fun people because of this. The people in my cohort and previous ones are constantly pushing me to be better. Whether that be helping me professionally or teaching me to take a break every once in a while to enjoy my time. ELP is filled with people who are always willing to try new things.

Professionally, the ELP projects have pushed all of us out of our comfort zones; whether it be presenting on a topic that is relatively new to us, or cold calling and emailing CEOs. Learning how to reach out to people with no introduction was tough because I never wanted to come off too strong, but nearly every time I got a reply and the person was excited to share their knowledge. Additionally, ELP has helped me improve my public speaking skills by giving me consistent opportunities to present to the class and receive feedback. I have realized that presenting is a large part of the business world and being confident while presenting is extremely important. This practice has also taught me how to respond to tough questions. We have had professionals come into class to view our presentations, give feedback, and ask questions. This is something that typically is not easy to get, so learning from professionals in this aspect has helped me improve my public speaking greatly.

Overall, the lessons I learned in ELP have been more in depth and applicable to my daily life than what a typical class can teach you. These are skills that typically people have to learn on their own. Having a group that is willing to assist with these skills and push each person to be their best is very important to me and ELP is there for that.