This Friday several of my friends will be leaving their undergraduate careers behind. While I only graduated in August myself, it feels like it’s been years because I’m doing a lot of things I never thought I’d be doing.
Going to college and getting a degree does not prepare you for the real world. Some people may tell you otherwise, but for me, college taught me a lot of things on the back end of things. I’m not sure what you took from your college experience, but this is what I took from mine:
On the other hand, I’ve taken away a lot of things from my college, and I’m sure high school, careers.
First things first, I’ve learned how to catch on really quickly. If nothing else, I can memorize things pretty quickly. If someone shows me how to do something, I can generally regurgitate it the next time it’s needed. If I skip a step, I immediately know and double back. This is a really handy tool. I’m sure some people will think, “well, everyone can do that.” Nope. They can’t. I’ve run into quite a few people who do not have this on their side, and trust me, it’s really helpful.
Secondly, I understand that hard work is requirement for life. Now this one, I KNOW a lot of people didn’t learn in college, because they didn’t do it there and still (somehow) graduated. Maybe I should correct it and say that hard work is a requirement for my life specifically, but I feel as though it should be generalized. I understand that sometimes it just comes down to circumstance, but if I didn’t work every single day, no one is going to pay my bills or help me get where I want to be. Don’t get me wrong, I know I have people in my life that would be willing to pick me up if I really fell on hard times, but I know – as well as they do- that I’ve been putting in my all in order to keep going. While I may not have the job I thought I would be now, at least I’ve been applying everywhere and putting my time in. I’m definitely doing what I need to do.
Next, education is both overrated and underrated. Job requirement says you need a bachelor’s degree and 5 years experience? They’d rather have the experience because it doesn’t require training. Don’t know what a SWOT analysis is? No biggie, Google it. Don’t know how to interact in the business environment? Oops. There isn’t a class for that. After each interview I send a Thank You card. Some of peers have no clue that you should even think about doing that, so what about when they get in the work environment and then get stuck? Who helps you out then? Google may to an extent, but it might be best to have a mentor, someone you can ask those silly questions to.
Or maybe have a few mentors? I can’t stress it enough, but networking really is key. This was one of the big things professors really pushed, and I’m glad I started early. I’ve seriously met some awesome people by going to events and local professional clubs, that it’s allowed me to have some big relationships – ones where I can ask questions and not feel stupid for not knowing the answer.
Also, keep reading and writing. It’s important to be able to articulate a thought or an idea. You’d be shocked at how your spelling and grammar go down the tube when you’re not in school…even your handwriting! In college I learned MLA, APA and AP style. It’s something I hope I never forget, even though I know it updates regularly.
Education is important to me, but it’s not necessarily the answer. I know quite a few people that are much smarter than me in several ways. While it’s quite obvious, everyone has their strengths, but sometimes you don’t think about it because they didn’t continue on to college. While math isn’t quite my strength, I can figure out a lot with a calculator, but other people can quickly get it done in their heads. On the other hand, slap a mess of papers in front of me and they will be organized, filed, digitized and done in no time. Just remember that everyone has a focus, it’s just specialized.
It’s okay not to have job right after you graduate. Or to not immediately go to grad school. I felt like college really pushed the idea that if you didn’t get a job or decide your life before you walked that you were a failure. For a few weeks I really did feel like a loser, because I wasn’t doing what I thought I was supposed to do. Looking back, I know college taught me something entirely different. Instead of pushing me in one direction or another, it was just allowing me time to gather some resources. Whether it was through meeting professors and faculty, or those on campus groups, I know now that I can manage my life in many ways and go in several directions with some of the tools I was given – even the ones I thought I’d never use.
Finally, college taught me to appreciate everything you have. While you can’t do everything, taking 5 very different classes easily filters out your strengths and your passions. I always thank those that have been kind enough to help me, and I make sure I make mental notes of everything they do, so that I can pay it back later. No one is required to help you or answer your questions – remember that. Remember that no one has to call you back or be nice to you. Keeping this is mind allows me to always pay it forward, because it keeps the cycle going. I’m much more diligent about returning calls, texts, emails, etc. While you might not think it’s the most important thing, the person who reached out to you might, and you never know when you’ll need something in return.