Hello all! My name is Erin Wall and I am a 2010 graduate of Westminster College, holding a B.A. in Broadcast Communications.
Now for a quick look behind my life in the corporate world, so let’s get serious for a moment – I’m 27, I not directly working in the traditional broadcast industry, and I still live at home with my parents. I’m not exactly what one would call a shining beacon of hope for future generations nor am I the best example of how far this major can carry someone.
However, we all have something valuable to share with today’s undergrad students.
I arrived at Westminster as a timid, insecure 18-year-old with fresh braces, a perm, and a serious lack of direction. Having made only two college visits as a high school senior, I limited my options and essentially gave myself little choice but to follow in my older sister’s footsteps and become a Titan. Fear held me back from taking control of my own life. Besides, with no real direction, what did I intend to do anyway?
By the time I left Westminster, my teeth were perfect, I said farewell to my curls, and I (fortunately) had cleaned up my act. Many things about me had changed for the better, however, I left campus just as directionless as I had entered. What in the world was I going to do with this broadcasting degree?
Five years later, I still don’t believe I’ve arrived at an answer for that question. However, I feel that I’ve learned so many things that may be of use to those who find themselves in a situation similar to my own. So, friends, here it is —
Advice for the College Student/Recent Graduate for an Easier Transition into the “Real World”
(A.K.A. Erin’s List of Things She Learned the Hard Way):
- Get Involved NOW
I’m no HR professional, but I feel that nothing makes a resume or LinkedIn profile look sexier than when it’s peppered with examples of one’s own leadership, interests, and/or project samples. But how does a newcomer to the post-college world spice things up? By being involved in college activities and organizations, of course!
What’s the best thing about getting involved in college? Most of these extracurricular activities are free and on campus! The only thing worse than having to pay for an activity (and its associated travel costs) in the real world is scoring an interview and then completely bombing it because you have nothing to talk about! How can one prove that they’re a good fit for a position if they have no valuable life experiences or any unique perspective to add to it?
Get out of your dorm room, slap on some socially-acceptable clothing, go the extra mile, and take advantage of these resume-building talking points while you still can! Nobody was joking during Fresh Start…
In that vein…
- Network, Network, NETWORK
Those skills and talking points on your resume mean nothing if the right person doesn’t see them. I personally believe that it’s not what one knows, but WHO one knows upon graduation that helps to seize career opportunities. I likely wouldn’t be where I’m at today if not for the support (and occasional resume hand-off) from friends and other connections.
College is the best place to learn how to talk to people and build relationships because you’re CONSTANTLY surrounded by people! One can perfect their approach and figure out what works and what doesn’t in a safe environment. (I’d wager that the Career Center probably has a few helpful tips to successful networking, too!)
Be bold. Be confident. Don’t be afraid to talk to people.
- Don’t Give In To Envy Via Social Media – There’s Not A “One Size Fits All” Path to Happiness
I feel that the biggest thing I struggled with after graduation (and continue to struggle with now) is witnessing other people’s successes and happiness unfold on social media. Nothing makes me feel awful about myself or question my own direction in life quite like when I log into my Facebook profile and see that yet another friend has landed that dream job, been accepted into graduate school, become engaged to their significant other, or purchased a house. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy for these people – but I often think to myself “when is it my turn?”
It’s so, SO easy to fall into the trap of comparing oneself to people that are set on the same path. Keep in mind that everything posted on social media is put through some kind of filter. Nobody posts status updates or takes pictures of the crappy parts of their lives.
Everyone moves at their own pace. What works for that one friend may not work for you. So what if you’re a late bloomer or are doing things a bit unconventionally? You do you.
Speaking of social media–
- Social Media Can – And Will – Come Back to Bite You
Admittedly, I’ve made some very bad social media decisions. Not only do my social media missteps make me out to look like a just plain terrible person, they’ve upset people and have cost me potentially valuable career opportunities. I very much regret my own behavior and there’s nothing at this point that I can do to alter outcomes.
Always think before posting. Extremely negative or passive-aggressive statuses are most unbecoming and you never know who may stumble upon them.
Trust me – just don’t do it.
- Know Your Limits, Know Your Role
Being a young professional with limited experience in a less-than-desirable job market, I feel that it’s easy for employers (and even fellow coworkers) to take advantage of one’s youth and eagerness to please in whatever position one may find themselves in. In order to protect their own interests, they may try to put a larger workload on an inexperienced employee or rope them into things that are beyond their job description… or authority.
I feel one should always aim to do their best and put in a 110% effort, however, everyone has their limits. Know that it’s okay to ask for help if you’re overwhelmed or check with a supervisor as to whether or not you should be handling something.
On the other hand, I feel young professionals are eager to prove their worth and show off their talents. They may try to take on a larger workload or involve themselves in things beyond their job description… or authority.
Know that it’s okay to lend a hand (or your talents, if necessary) and be involved, but be sure not to step on anyone’s toes in the process.
(It’s a very fine balance.)
- We All Doubt Ourselves
When I need to remind myself of this (which is constantly), I think of a quote by my biggest role model, Gerard Way: “Fake it til you make it, then keep faking it under heavy scrutiny.”
It doesn’t matter how accomplished, rich, or famous one may be – Nobody has their life together. Nobody.
If someone claims to have it all together, they’re probably lying.
- Kindness Gets You Farther
Having worked in a retail position throughout college, I’ve seen how absolutely horrid people can be to complete strangers. When I secured my first “big girl” job out of college and left that life behind, I vowed that I would never treat any person the way my customers had treated myself and my former coworkers.
A year or so later, I was invited to New York City to interview with a large record label. How did I get there? I was courteous and patient with a manager whenever I experienced an issue with one of their artist’s web stores. We got to talking, I had expressed my career goals, and this person mentioned a similar, open position within the organization. It ended up not working out, but I now have a great story to tell!
No matter what situation you may find yourself in, always be as positive, as kind, and as patient as possible. You’ll be amazed at how many doors you can open and how much faster you achieve the desired result.
- Be a Professional. Always.
I feel this point goes hand-in-hand with the previous…
Staying classy, calm, and collected even in the worst situations speaks volumes towards one’s character.
- Be Unabashedly You
I’ve discovered that just being me has worked the best for me thus far. People really seem to react positively to me that way. I think that they would like you for being you, too. (People can easily spot phonies.)
- Everyone’s a Work In Progress…
And, looking back, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve grown with each different experienc!