College: 8 Things You Will Actually Take With You

6:30:00 PM

College students hear this all of the time-- "We are preparing you for the real world."  What does this even mean?  What "real world" were our professors talking about?  Lacking complete certainty of my career path, I spent a lot of time wondering what I would actually use after college..... what I would actually take with me.  If you find yourself wondering the same things, I think I have some helpful insight.

1.  Be aware of your habitual working style.  Some of us procrastinated all through college, waiting until the night before a due date to begin an assignment.   Some of us would finish a week's worth of assignments ahead of time.  Some of us felt that a D equals diploma.  Some of us petitioned until that A- became an A.  The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior..... and your working style is something you will likely carry with you into your career.
My favorite professor at the business school, Professor Metcalfe.
2.  Build strong communication with your professors.  Consider professors like your boss.  They have more power, more authority, and are responsible for giving you feedback that you can use to improve your performance.  Your boss is the same thing.  Set up meetings with your professors, bring ideas to the table, and don't be afraid to speak up.  You will use the same principles with your future boss or manager.

3.  Lean into your weaknesses.  It's easy to lean on your strengths, but in the long run, eliminating as many weaknesses as you can makes you a well-rounded, valuable employee.  Personally, I always felt insecure about math.  I try to lean heavily on math at work every day so that it doesn't become a limitation.  In college I would recommend focusing on subjects that you lack confidence in and foresee as potential limitations.
4. Force yourself to go to the awkward [and totally contrived] networking events.  While they seem really silly and like a total pain, they will help you become more eloquent when you encounter awkward situations in business... which you will!  The more times you face uncomfortable situations, the more comfortable you will become with them.

5. Get help job-searching before you graduate. Job-searching is a much easier when you have a career center 20 feet away.  Furthermore, your professors are great resources, as many of them have worked 10-20+ years before going into education.  My alma mater had business school professors from many Fortune 500 companies or who were on the Board of Directors at such companies.  This could at least get you a conversation. 
6. Practice a work-life balance.  In college, you essentially determine your schedule.  In your career, usually you don't.  Figure out your balance now, as it will only be harder to figure out in the future.  What are priorities?  Do you know that you work smarter when you exercise for 30 minutes a day?  Do you know you need to give yourself and your significant other 1 night a week to have dinner and reconnect?  Do you know that the Bachelorette is a necessary part of Monday nights in order to help you sleep well?

7. Excel, Excel, and Excel.  If you don't know Excel and you are in college, then PLEASE do yourself and your future employer a favor and take some excel-centric classes.... computer science, computer skills for business, etc.  While it may seem very dry, it offers a SERIOUS return on your investment of time.  I wish I would have taken more excel courses.  Excel is like a magic wand.  It's capabilities are endless.  And the more "spells" you know how to do, the more power you have.

8.  Fine tune your "people-reading" skills in relationships.   In college it's easy to casually "date" people and "hang out" as you please, but after college, your free time is valuable, and you don't want to waste this precious time with losers who detract from your quality of life.  Harsh?  Nah. I'm serious!  Know what kind of person you're dealing with before you invest your personal life with them.  Are they trustworthy?  Do they attract drama?  Are they simply attention-seekers?  Do you know you'll gel well with them, or do you know you'll butt heads?

Hope this is inspiring or helpful if you are heading back to college this fall!

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