Three Things I Wish I’d Been Told in College

This week was the last week of classes for me and my students. They are off on field placement now for the next 6 weeks, then they graduate. For me, it’s the end of the school year, which means seeing off a group of students that I’ve been with for the past 2 years.

Back in 2008, when this group started, they were new, green and wide-eyed. Some were just out of high school, and trying to navigate the new terrain of college life. Others were on their second pass of college, having tried other programs before landing on the one that was the best fit. Still others were more like me: having worked for a number of years in various fields, now taking a chance and changing paths midstream. For all of them, it was a bit scary and new. There was so much to learn, so far to go; so many sleepless nights ahead of them. I know, because I went through the program too. You don’t sleep much.

Flash forward to present day. They’ve spent two years learning, refining their skills, and working really, really hard. The achievement is significant… they are now ready to be web developers, designers, writers, video makers and project managers. Some will specialize, and others will take it all, mould it to the best fit for them, and go forward. Some will go to work for companies and excel there. Others will turn their passion into their own business, and succeed.

I wanted to write this post for my class, to share with them a couple of things that I may not have articulated well enough in class. They are things I wish I’d been told when I graduated college, but wasn’t. If you are my student, and you read this and get something out of it, then great. If not, no worries, I appreciate you taking the time to read it. If you’re not my student, and you get something out of it too, then fantastic.

The learning doesn’t stop here. It begins. Yep, you’ve just gone through two years of learning, learning, learning, and yep, it’s finally over. But actually, it’s not—not even a little bit. This is where it starts. I graduated college twice, and each time I walked out the door thinking I knew everything I needed to know. But boy, what a harsh realization it was when I discovered that I did not, in fact, know it all. You don’t need to worry about this, though. You have come SO FAR. You DO know a lot! But what will make the difference between success and failure in your first few jobs (and the rest of them, for that matter) is knowing that you don’t know everything, and that it’s okay not to have all the answers. What is most important is your willingness to keep learning and keep searching for the answers, and not being afraid to keep asking questions. As long as you are still learning, you’re still moving forward.

80% of the game is just showing up. OK, so you’ve got all these new skills, and you’re ready to get out there and take on the world. But the phone is not ringing, and the offers are not piling up like you thought they’d be. Damn—what now? Get a job in retail to pay the rent? Go back to school next year and take Advertising? Ultimately, that decision is up to you. But if you want that phone to start ringing, you HAVE to get out there and start meeting people. Sending out résumés is not going to get you a job—creating a solid presence online, and getting out there and meeting people (virtually or in person) will. Seek out the people who are doing what you want to be doing. Start conversations. Find events to go to, like Third Tuesday meetups and GenYOttawa and Podcasters Across Borders (if you live in Ottawa, but there are probably similar events in your town if you don’t). Get out there and go to them. Meet people. Not sure where to start? Read this blog post from Chris Brogan. Shy (like me)? Then read this one by yours truly. Then go do it. Just show up, and have a fantastic attitude. Be confident with what you have to offer the world. The rest will fall into place.

You’re in charge of your career, not your boss. I worked for many years at jobs where I felt uninspired, under-challenged and over-stressed. I did it because I thought I had to. Then one day I realized that, while it’s all fine and well to be responsible and have a job that pays the bills, there’s more to life than that. That maybe, just maybe, if I spent some time figuring out what my goals were, I’d be able to eventually find the kind of job where I could do what I love AND pay the bills. So, yes, get a job that pays the bills. But if it’s not exactly what you want to be doing, don’t settle. In the off-hours, spend time on defining and revisiting your goals. Come up with an action plan on how you’re going to achieve them. Then put that plan into action. Work really, really, REALLY hard at it. You will get there. Respect your bosses, for sure. You can learn a lot from them. But remember, you’re the only one who can make the decisions about where you want to go in life. You have ultimate control, at all times.

Well, that’s it. I wish I’d been told these things in college. It may have saved me some time and some grief. But, at the same time, I had to walk my own path, just as you now have to walk yours. I wish you all oodles and oodles of success beyond your wildest dreams

Welcome to the whole world.

This blog was originally posted on Mar 19th 2010 by Suze at

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