With the new academic year in full swing, I thought it was appropriate to look back and give some advice to those beginning a new college journey. The following advice illustrates traditional thinking verses my personal advice. It’s a list that is comprised of recommendations that I would have benefited from having when I went off to college (or at any point along my career). If any of these ideas speaks to you, I encourage you to share it with others who may find this information valuable. Without any further ado, here’s my 8 pieces of advice that will put you ahead during your college career:

  1. Join an organization/club -> Create an Organization/club

Joining an organization is GOOD. Joining multiple organizations is GREAT. But, creating your own organization is AMAZING. This is the kind of achievement successful people seek and obtain. Don’t get me wrong, you should join multiple organizations. Perhaps after a year or two of “settling in,” you should definitely begin to develop your own organization or club.

Where should you begin? Well, what are you amazing at? What’s your passion? A personal example is that I had a passion for business and reading while I was in college. If you put them together, the perfect idea would be to organize a business book club. No Harry Potter or 50 Shades of Grey here. Bringing together a group of people bi-weekly to discuss non-fictional books relating to business or management is not only fun, but educational (at least in my eyes). Each member could then summarize key points from their book into a five minute presentation. Not only are you learning the material from the book that you’ve read, but other group members readings as well. Why is this a solid idea?

    • Knowledge
    • Networking
    • Presentation skills

Unfortunately, I never organized this club as I began an Entrepreneurial Society at my university instead. If you’re feeling really ambitious, feel free to run with my idea!

  1. Get an on campus job  -> Seek a CO-OP/Internship or start your own business

I held a part time job on campus, but unless I wanted to transition into the educational system after graduation, I personally could have better spent my time.

What some of my acquaintances did was seek out a cooperative education (Co-Op) with local companies. These companies often provided paid work while being flexible with student’s class schedules. The work you perform is typically directly correlated with your field of study. If you’re lucky and take my advice of constantly networking, there just may be a full-time offer letter waiting for you once you graduate.

  1. Commute locally -> Live on campus

To this day I’ll argue that ¾ of your tuition dollars goes towards the “college experience.” The other ¼ goes to the knowledge you actually retain after graduating. I left my home town to attend a small private business college where I knew absolutely no one walking into my freshmen orientation. After being prom king and football captain in high-school, this situation it’s like being thrown into the deep end of the pool and being expected to swim laps (and fast!). Let’s just say I learned how to swim very quickly and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

I had other friends who went to much larger universities where they knew at least two other people. They had the opportunity to room together or spend a majority of their time with one another. Although that makes the transition easier, the social skills were slow to be developed (if at all).

The situation forced me to become involved on and off campus, join organizations/clubs, and develop a new network of friends. After graduating, I learned that these skills proved to be more valuable than I ever imaged. My career took me many new places. But, unlike my friends who never had experienced this, I was more than prepared to tackle this obstacle the second time around.

  1. Meet the guy/girl of your dreams -> Remain commitment free

I’m sure this will raise some eyebrows. I experienced both worlds while I was in college. I spent my first year in a relationship and the remainder commitment free (as I like to put it). Although relationships are great in college, there are simply too many variables during this stage in life that could end up resulting in misspent time. I could elaborate, but for the sake of this blog, I’ll leave it up to certified relationship coaches.

Looking back I realized that if I had maintained the relationship I had during my freshmen year, I would have missed dozens of opportunities that I ended up being able to take advantage of during my last 3 years of college. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve known some students who would balance two commitments. But, more often than not, it’s often a choice between maintaining a healthy relationship and committing to your personal and professional growth.

My advice would be to wait until after you graduate and land your dream career before becoming fully committed in a relationship. I can promise you that you’ll meet AMAZING people who share very much in common with you along your journey after graduation.

  1. Create more Facebook friends -> Build you LinkedIn profile

Facebook is a great way to connect with classmates. It’s also a GREAT place to be unproductive and adds very little value to your life. Yes, it took me four years to realize this! (and I still fight it to this day). Three years after graduating, I finally find myself spending 75% of my time on LinkedIn compared to the 25% on Facebook (thankfully I’ve avoided Twitter and Pintrest). The value that I obtain from LinkedIn far outweighs what Facebook provides me, thus warranting more of my time.

Advising you to not go on Facebook is impractical. Now that I look back, I wish that I would have grown my LinkedIn network more than I did while in college. I encourage you to spend more time on LinkedIn, connect with local business professionals, and follow organizations that you would enjoy beginning a career with. Start early, build your PERSONAL BRAND, and begin creating value for those who are connected with you. I promise that it will pay off a lot more than posting what you did last weekend (oh, you know what I’m talking about!)

  1. Never stop studying and achieve 4.0 -> Get out, get involved, and build your resume

How much room on your resume does “GPA: X.X” take up? Not much. Truth is, as long as you’re over a 3.0 or perhaps a 3.5 for some companies, you’re through the gate. Regardless, you’re still viewed as “entry level” with no experience! And unless you had one of those important co-op’s (or internships) I was talking about earlier, your retail or server experience probably won’t score you many point either (sorry, it’s the truth!)

No hiring manager has ever admitted this, but I’m fairly certain the only reason my resume made it past the shredder is that I began my own business while in college. Granted, I had a 3.5 GPA, but so does a majority of recent graduates. Unfortunately, it’s no longer good enough and a decent GPA is a dime a dozen. If you want to work for a great company, you have to be a rock star and differentiate yourself from the pack!

Get involved and build the meat and bones of your resume. Set yourself a part from the other students in your graduating class by always pushing yourself to be different. I remember Friday and Saturday nights when I was developing a marketing plan or visiting my businesses accounts while my friends were……Well, you know. Strive to be different, do the best in everything you put your mind to, and do A LOT!

  1. Live (party) up Freshmen year -> Focus your freshmen year and slowly begin to relax afterwards

Going into college, most freshmen are so focused on living the idealistic lifestyle of “college life.” Most focus on where the next party is or what friend they’re going to visit next. School is often the LAST thing on their minds. Again, I was lucky that I didn’t know many people when arriving at college. Freshmen year is the time where I had a majority of my friends drop out or change schools because they lacked FOCUS. More nights were spend more drunk than sober, and classes seemed more like an obstacle before the weekend than a commitment.

My advice is to focus freshmen year. Don’t ever stop focusing, but after your first year you become more aware. You realize the amount of effort and time it takes to become successful in college. From there you can adjust your work/life balance and enjoy the social aspect of college life. Too many incoming freshmen fail to realize how difficult it is to dig yourself out of hole until it’s too late. Come out of the gate strong and maintain consistency until you’ve reached the finish line (ahead of the rest).

  1. Take life one day at a time -> Set goals, objectives, and own them all

“If you don’t know where you are going,
you’ll end up someplace else”

~ Yogi Berra

When you meet someone new, the typical questions is “what do you do.” I tend to ask a different question and at time, it can catch people off guard. I ask “What’s your dream?”

You would be amazed that the majority of people have no idea!  I then proceed to break it down even further for them by asking “well, what are your goals?”

Again, very few have a well thought out answer. Although you should never stress about the future and especially the past, I do encourage you all to set goals and create dreams. Be sure that you have short term and long terms goals. Both of which should both be challenging, but attainable.

Develop milestones and reward yourself for all that you accomplish. Based on my first hand research, I can promise you that by taking this advice, you’ll be well ahead of the majority of the population in achieving your end goal (whatever that may be).

And, if I ever run into you on the street, you better have one hell of answer to my question “What’s your dream?”

Blog Post by Kyle Johnson, Owner, Personal Fitness Agent at Professional Fitness Consulting

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