The late televangelist and pastor Robert Schuller once said, “The secret to success is find a need and fill it; find a hurt and heal it; find a problem and solve it.” And now Saint Leo University student James-Evan Gagliano is doing just that with The Collegiate Networker.
The junior cybersecurity major and his friend Diego Rojas, a student at Catholic University, founded the fledgling business in order to teach college students how to master the art of networking.
As World Day of Online Networking is being observed on October 29, Gagliano notes the importance of connecting and building relationships — both online and in person. “This wasn’t talked about in high school or college,” Gagliano said. “We wanted to bridge the gap and help students learn to network.”
So he and co-founder Rojas created a 2½-hour course, interactive workbook, workshops, a YouTube channel, and more to form The Collegiate Networker. “I spent two years filming this course, building this course,” he said.
And at New Student Orientation in August, Gagliano and Rojas had the opportunity to present The Collegiate Networker at Saint Leo University. Thanks to Vice President of Student Affairs Jen Shaw, who became an ambassador for the company, as did senior Tayhana Taylor, the duo shared some tips on networking to about 125 new Lions during a workshop. Step one, learn to tell your story.
“How are you going to sell yourself?” Gagliano said. “It’s good to have a story about yourself — a time you overcame something and achieved success.”
As for Gagliano’s story, he said, “I’m a full-time real estate agent. I grew up with a speech impediment. I was bullied, told ‘no.’ I failed my real estate exam 12 times. I had to reassess myself. Eighty-six percent pass the exam the first time. I showed my relentlessness. No matter what challenge is thrown at me, I will overcome it. I was never a good test-taker as I have ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder].”
One of the biggest pieces of advice that The Collegiate Networker provides and told the new Saint Leo students, is “start now.”
“Your network starts on campus,” Gagliano, who now is a Student Government Union senator, ice hockey club team captain, and member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. “Go to your Student Success coach, professors, clubs, and more. It opened so many doors for me. Use this as your foundation.”
Gagliano said he tried to show the Saint Leo students that “their golden ticket in life was their acceptance into this university.” Then they have to build on that foundation.
Student Government Union President Khristian Parrish found that even as a senior, he had more to learn about networking. “I’m someone who feels like they have a large network,” said the political science major. “Talking with Diego [Rojas] is engaging. Networking to me was just knowing a person by their name. Now, I know I need to make sure they have the story they can remember. Now, I’m all over LinkedIn [social media platform]. ‘Hello, I’m Khristian, I just connected with you. I’d like to learn more.’”
Looking toward his future, Parrish has put the lessons he learned from The Collegiate Networker founders to use and recently connected with Saint Leo alumnus and former ambassador to Jamaica, Donald R. Tapia, as well as U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), a Republican presidential candidate.
Freshman and Honors Program student Jenna Kunkle also took the advice she learned at The Collegiate Networker workshop to heart. “It really spoke to me,” she said. “I wrote down a ton of notes. I just loved it. I was home-schooled, so my high school education and the whole college experience is something different.”
What stood out for Kunkle was the advice to get involved [on campus] and to do it as soon as possible, she said. “If you cultivate it now, you’ll make the connections.”
Now, Gagliano and Rojas hope to expand the reach of The Collegiate Networker. They’re meeting with Career Services, speaking to Tapia College of Business student clubs, and working to spread the business to high schools and other universities.
Find out more about The Collegiate Networker here.