The allure of college still beckons. For almost everybody, going to college was the best of times. Every Fall we think of the good ole days of alma mater and some of us are yearning to returning to the learning. Our memories have smoothed over all of the anxiety, stress, financial and academic challenges and replaced them with nostalgia. :) But it is my experience that while many people think they have moved far from the days of the ivy covered halls, most still struggle with some of the same fundamental questions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Questions like: What is the meaning of life?; What is my "major"?; and What do I want to be when I grow up?
I have three recommendations that come from college students. Recommendations that will hopefully reinvigorate your free thinking collegiate ambitions and your youthful ideals when the possibilities seemed limitless.
1. Write Your College Essay Over Again--Helping my son and his friends finish their college apps and their essays. Writing these essays are harder than calculus. If you use it to grow and discover oneself, it can be a painful and seminal experience. The essays either tell nothing about the applicant or reveal something special. The "prompts"/questions remain relatively unchanged. Here are the ones my son is addressing:
a. Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.
b. Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?
1000 words for both. Try it. It is still very tough and if done well, very insightful. Nothing like writing down your thoughts, especially if you know someone will read it to decide your fate!What is your concise and compelling story? I meet "professionals" everday who don't have one! Your story matters and you need to craft it in writing to tell it!
2. One of the Worst Mistakes By New College Grad Job Seekers---A few months ago a survey of graduating seniors revealed what they regretted after confronting the challenges of this brutal job market. After all, they are just 21 or 22 years old, so of course they are under-prepared for the career/job search. There is a triad of culprits to blame. First, the parents are pushing their kids to pursue WHAT THEY THINK are "good careers" and have not let their kids develop their own paths. Second, undergrad colleges are woefully bad at career prep, it's embarrassing how new alumni are not "polished and finished" before they graduate. Lastly, the students themselves, take little initiative to get experiences, internships, develop a network, and start to define their own career trajectories while they are in school. So plenty of blame to go around.
Should have networked. The survey revealed this was one of the most regretted mistakes. "Students who spend their time trolling job boards should instead spend that time making solid connections with people who are respected and involved in the workforce, industry experts and alumni, and spend only 30% of their time looking at job listings." More than 70% of jobs are discovered through networking, so why don't students and all job seekers employ a networking strategy? Network as a life strategy, not just to find jobs.
3. Treat Every Job and Opportunity as a College Degree Program---Think about your career in four year chunks, just like your undergrad program (okay maybe 5 years;) The point is approach your work like college. Re-enroll every year. Think about what general ed and major requirements you have to complete. What professors will you take? What goals will you set? What weaknesses will you strengthen? What talents will you further? And maybe as important, what electives will you take?
Life goes fast and it blurs and runs together. College stands out as a distinct chapter in our lives. While we are grateful that we are not 21 today, we can use the regimen of college to focus our future chapters and to make them worthwhile and memorable. Otherwise jobs and time marches on and our present life continues to pale in comparison to our college days.
Re-live your college experience by renewing your urgency about the value of your time and the need to complete your next "degree". It is never too late to start.
College students today are smarter and more worldly than we were. They can teach us many things. Most important, how to be young and daring. How to reinvent ourselves. Yes there are many generational differences. But we are older and wiser, aren't we?
Thanks for reading. John