10 Tips to Take Back to School and Beyond

college and career ready

Last semester whilst trying to find inspiration for blog posts, I asked my dad some questions that might help fuel a blog post whenever I got around to writing it. As horrible as this may sound, I’ve had these answers for months and I’m just now figuring out exactly how I want to address the information he gave me.

These are especially close to my heart as I think about my impending graduation (8 months) and my leap into adulthood. My dad is a pretty great dude and I wanted to share with you his insight on 1o tips for a student preparing to enter the “real world” and workforce.

1. Leaving school doesn’t mean the homework is over

Finding a company to work for and preparing for the interview process takes just as much (if not more) homework than studying for tests in college. “Finding a job doing what you want to do at a pay level that can sustain you and enable you to grow is more likely to be like prying potatoes out of the frozen ground than picking low hanging fruit.” Before the interview, he said it is important to understand what the job you’re applying for actually is and the best way to make that happen. This doesn’t start the day you graduate college, though. The best, most promising new hires are the ones who have been working during college to prepare for this job. That means talking with people who are currently doing the job you think you want to do, taking an internship and familiarizing yourself with the company. It also means applying for jobs before you throw that cap in the air so you know you have something ready.

2. Know yourself and what drives you

As I am learning for myself, money is NOT what drives me. While I like to have things and go on adventures, I can have just as much doing something free, but it is the company (or lack thereof) that does it for me. During college, my dad says it is important to

“discover the things that make life livable, even exciting for you personally and seek out jobs that enable you to experience those things either on the job, or as a result of where you work.” 

While he says you probably won’t have your dream job the first time around, it’s important to find a job that fulfills you, as well as allows you to live other aspects of your life the way you want to. The more fulfilled you are, the greater the likelihood you will excel, which will open more doors in the future.

3. Set reasonable career goals and objectives

Regardless of how much I want to, I know I’m not going to get a job as a foreign correspondent right out of college, so it is important for me to set career goals that I can achieve, as those that I cannot will just frustrate me. Choosing logical, achievable next steps will make the big picture (reporting for The Washington Post in the Middle East) more manageable. With that said, however, do not be afraid to take changes with reasonable risks.

4. Constantly develop yourself into the person you are called to be

I could not have put it better myself, so here’s some information on this one straight from my dad.

Having the skills, resources and flexibility you need to get access to and then take hold of growth opportunities means positioning and developing yourself.
A. Avoid debt at every turn. It will make you a slave to a dead end job.
B. Live a healthy, sustainable life style. Your health is everything.
C. Make as few commitments as possible that might restrict your career options until you are very sure that you are where you want to be.
D. Continue to develop the skills that you will need for the future.
Chance, and even divine intervention, favors the prepared and unencumbered.

5. Sell yourself

In journalism, it’s especially important to start building your own “brand.” I’m not sure  how important it is in other fields, but selling yourself falls under that heading. Figure out why your dream job is hiring the employees they’re hiring and make sure to focus on those characteristics when speaking with them.

A. Research your potential customers/ employers.
B. Have a crisp/ clear resume which includes your career objective.
C. Seek to interview with companies that need what you have to offer. Know what you have to offer and be prepared to describe your value to any interviewer.

6. Persist

I went back to my high school this week and spoke with one of my previous teachers, who I didn’t realize was a journalist before he was a teacher. The first job he got as a journalist he got before he had even started his master’s program in journalism (he had degrees in history and political science). He went every day to the newspaper and asked for a job, and finally they started giving him (with no previous experience) assignments. I’m reading Anderson Cooper’s autobiography, where, apparently he just went to Somalia with a fake press pass and a video camera and started shooting video and making packages to send back to Channel One, the news station he wanted to work for, until they would hire him as an actual correspondent.

Nothing assures success like persistence: Not intelligence, not raw ability, not looks, not connections, not experience. Fail forward. Failures are inevitable. Failure is not defeat, but rather it is an opportunity to learn and improve. Learn, adjust, adapt, … and move on.

7. Be patient

As cliche as it is, Rome wasn’t built in a day. With that said, you’re not going to become the CEO of a company the very first day. The way to keep moving up and moving on is to work hard, work well and do it every day. No good deed goes unpunished – the same goes for hard work.

8. Live Fully

Live in the moment. Pause occasionally, take a deep breath, experience, and even cherish, the moment.

This is something I struggle with more than I should, so I wanted to make sure you heard it loud and clear.

9. Give

You don’t have to be religious to give of yourself. Many of the most generous people aren’t. You don’t have to be rich either. You can give your time, items you have no use for anymore, your services, and many more things. Give more than you get. “It will fuel your sense of self worth and come back to you when you most need it.”

For a long time in my life I did not devote a lot of time to volunteering. I was just pretty busy doing other things. Through my sorority, however, I have found an intense love for volunteering and the gift of my time. The more time I spend helping others, the more rejuvenated I feel. With that said, however, it’s important to find an organization you enjoy and you “level with.” Some people don’t like volunteering with children, animals, the homeless, etc., but that doesn’t mean they don’t like any kind of volunteering. Take the time to find somewhere you fit.

10. Become love

Love is the source and sustenance of all things. It is a decision to give value to the lives of others. Love is the most powerful force in the universe, more powerful even than the sword or the pen.  If you gain the whole world, but have not love, you are without purpose, like a self-eating watermelon, unnecessary and inhuman.

It’s a rather long post, but I hope you took the time to get through it. My dad is one of the smartest and most successful men I know, though, so I hope some of his insights helped you as much as I know they helped and will continue to help me.

How are you preparing for your future?

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