I recently attended my goddaughter's graduation from a school in Connecticut. Speakers, teachers and guests alike focused on one essential theme for children: entering the world of adults. Whether you go to college or not, you should find your passion and follow it, wherever it leads. I sat there thinking, “This is all well and good – if you can afford to find your passion and live it.” However, what is of primary concern in today’s world and job market is to become self-sufficient and able to support yourself. In other words, you need to find a job.
Build the Stepping Stones of Your Future
I was reminded that nothing is carved in granite. You can begin one career while searching for another. Life experiences build upon each other. Many students abandon their major once they graduate, but nothing is lost or wasted. Sometimes mistakes take you to your greatest successes. Each life experience prepares us, enriches us and expands us, for better or for worse. If you are alert and paying attention, you will be ready when the next opportunity presents itself. This is how you lay the stepping stones toward your future.
For example, I prepared to be a teacher, knowing that in the end, I wanted to be involved in both education and psychology. I took psychology courses, along with my education courses, so that after I became a teacher, I continued in school studying psychology. Interestingly enough, the best training I ever had for life, came from those education courses, and the experience of teaching. The most important thing is to listen to your inner voice and find your true vocation by aligning yourself with your authentic self. This will allow your actions to reflect your thoughts and feelings. This will lead you to your destiny.
Remember, not everyone is interested in college. However, recent studies indicate that college graduates get a broad and general education that prepares them for life, and as a result, they do better on almost every level.
Six Steps for Success
To prepare for your future upon graduation, it is important to remember six steps that will increase your knowledge and help you skillfully discern where to begin your journey:
1. Prepare and do your homework. Research what is out there in the world that resonates with your interests. Are you interested in music, science, math, art, computers, engineering? Explore colleges that not only relate to your subject area, but also have a good reputation in that field. This way, job recruiters will have your college on their list, which will enhance your opportunity for employment.
2. Try out different classes that you find interesting. Many people wait until their junior year to experience their major and are disappointed when they find out that they don’t resonate with it, at all. Use your first two years of college to experience introductory courses that you find exciting or appealing. Use your high school subject matter as a starting point. If you liked a particular language, you might explore languages in college. If you liked math, science or technology, you may find courses that are interesting in that subject. There are so many varied job opportunities that can connect to the subject of your choice.
For example, Steve Jobs dropped out of college but continued to monitor a calligraphy class. He later credited that calligraphy course with helping him design the letters and body of the Apple computer. He was the first person to think of beauty in the same category as technology, which set his product apart and made it desirable.
- Curriculum subjects required for graduation, regardless of your major, may inspire you by exposing you to something that catches your fancy.
- Check out campus bookstores and check out books that relate to the courses that you are interested in. See if you really like them and if this is the right subject matter for you.
- Read up on your teachers. All schools have a biography of their respective professors. Many times a professor can change the course of your life by mentoring and encouraging you.
3. Prioritize. The first year of school can be the most difficult for some college students. It is during the first year that colleges weed out the good, the bad and the ugly. Grades do count and it is important, as a standard, for instructors to let you know how you are doing and what you need to do to remediate.
- Prioritize your time so that you strike a balance between having fun, which is important, and doing your work. At the end of the day, employers will look at your grades and class ranking. If you keep up with your studies each day, you won’t have to cram or pull an all-nighter. Like everything else, good grades are built one study session at a time. If you can study with your classmates, that’s even better.
- Know what your teacher is looking for. Sometimes you can study hard but miss the point.
- Try study groups. By studying in a group, each participant shares what they think is important and you have a better chance of focusing on what your professor is looking for. This will give you a better opportunity to get the big picture, an overview of what your professor might be looking for.
4. Persevere. “Anything worth having, is worth working for,” Andrew Carnegie said. The one characteristic that will serve you the best is perseverance. Teachers respect that quality as it reflects a strong inner core, an authentic resource.
- Develop study skill sets. In general, they will serve you regardless of your major. In fact, there are classes you can take that enhance study skills, which can transfer later on to the workplace.
- Be flexible so that you can adapt to the different personalities of professors and the requirements of your varied courses.
- Never give up! If you hit a road block in your studies or some research you can’t find, keep looking.
5. Promote. In the end, be your own best cheerleader. Override the inner critic with a positive and successful inner dialogue. This is how to actively and deliberately take control of your own school experiences. Get involved- you never know who can help you.
- Network through personal introductions, email and social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
- Keep a record of your successful high school and college accomplishments.
- Stay open to new relationships. You never know where a new contact can lead. However, it is important while making new friends to keep the old.
- Introduce yourself and make yourself useful to your professors. A good mentor can help you in a myriad of ways, not only through advice but also with those important recommendation letters that may help you with a higher degree or future job.
- No risk, no reward! Sometimes you have to leap without a net and take a chance on social connections. But remember what you put on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media outlets can be viewed later on by an employer.
- Look for internships, find part-time jobs and dress for success. The first critique anyone makes of you is their impression of how you look. In a sense, a professor or an employer sees your clothes and personal appearance as a reflection of your self-esteem, your maturity and your authenticity.
- Dare to be different. Dare to be yourself. Only the outcasts can lead! There is a disturbing pattern developing in our college culture which punishes dissenting opinions. This lack of tolerance can stunt college education and life lessons. False humility is immaturity. No one gravitates to weakness, but rather to strength and certainty. Don’t underestimate your capacity you often project onto others, which lies inside yourself.
6. Be focused and have discipline. Be alert, stay alert and stay on task. Real change comes from small adjustments. Acknowledge and recognize problems early, and you can change and adjust to get back on track quickly.
- Have a plan going forward that keeps you on task.
- Keep a calendar to make sure you’re on time for appointments, and pay attention to that structured word budget.
- Remember to stay balanced and to incorporate healthy habits such as eating the right foods and getting enough exercise and sleep.
Focusing on life skills prepares you to take your place in an adult world. And three essential words, obligation, commitment and responsibility, form the most important framework for that adulthood.
Final Words of Advice to High School Graduates
In the final analysis, what you are meant to be, you are becoming. This is your moment to figure that out. Have fun, stay balanced and enjoy the journey. This is your time to test yourself against your environment. Do it with passion, and you will find your gift.