“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” – Jim Rohn
As a student, I’ve lived two vastly different tertiary experiences;
The first time around I simply drifted through without a goal, without a plan, never doing more than was required, passing (mostly) and graduating, to nothing.
The next time, my ‘do-over’, I had a goal, a focus, and knew that studying ‘full-time’ was an opportunity to maximise my advantages in the industry and areas I was passionate about.
I made the most of the experience, passing and graduating into a dream job. (In fact the job came before I had even graduated.)
If I had to sum up my differing experiences with a word, it would be ‘responsibility’. That’s why I love the Jim Rohn quote above so much.
You must take responsibility for where you’re headed, so that you end up where you want to go.
Are you or someone you know starting, or getting back into tertiary study for the year? If so, then I’d love to share some advice based on my personal experiences that I hope will resonate and be of value.
The first time around, fresh out of high school, I took no responsibility for where I was headed, and what I hoped to achieve. I spent three years studying with no enthusiasm, or goal… so should it be surprising to hear I never even bothered to go to my graduation?
My second chance at tertiary study, came to me eight years later. I took one hundred per cent responsibility for my time and my results and my actions. Not only did I graduate into a terrific job opportunity, but the networks, skills and confidence I built during that time meant that I was able to continue to get employment, and opportunities months and years later.
So why am I writing this? Universities and other tertiary institutions began classes last week, and having been at the polar opposite side of ‘not engaged, and engaged’ I can tell you the later is a much more valuable and rewarding path.
If you are feeling stuck along your course, or have found yourself drifting through study, expecting that everything will click for you in your final months, weeks, or even once you graduate, it not. – Not without taking responsibility.
So what does that mean? Below are some key things I did my second time around at university (and subsequently ever since). I didn’t realise it at the time, but they were things that truly helped me reverse engineer my path to employment in my chosen industry.
If you don’t know where you want to end up right now, that’s ok too. But again, it’s about taking responsibilities to find out. This is actually the perfect time.
1. Time Management
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with your studies and as that stress builds; thoughts of any sort of personal and professional development get thrown out the window, but remember, you have much more time than you think.
· Wake up earlier and head into school before class starts to give yourself time to prepare, or stay an hour after class to get ahead.
· Spend time in the library away from distraction to complete development tasks, assessments and passion projects.
· Maximise your travel time. If you’re not using your commute to listen to lectures or other educational material, then you’ll have to spend precious time from another aspect of your life to catch up. Try substituting out something that wastes your time, with something that will help you towards your goal eg; Ditch Facebook browsing for LinkedIn connecting.
2. Keep learning, keep trying
Consuming content strictly related to your studies won’t broaden your skill-set, your interests, or your understanding of what is out there and possible for you. Don’t get caught-out thinking that you’ll find your niche reading only the prescribed textbooks.
· How do you know if you like creating videos, if you’ve never tried? How do you know if you like running events, or interviewing people if you’ve never tried? You don’t. Now is the time to try all the things you thought might be fun because you don’t want to get to graduation with limited skills and options, when you had the time now to practice, fail, get better, build confidence and then dominate that new skill.
· Youtube, LinkedIn, Lynda.Com and of course Google, are full of mostly free education. It’s never been easier to learn a skill or listen to inspiring and motivating people. Use the Wi-Fi at home or university to download content to listen to and watch as you commute, at the gym, or between classes.
· Try somewhere like TED.com if you don’t know where to start, or search out someone you admire or aspire to be like and follow and consume what they follow and consume. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask them directly for help. Which leads to my next point…
You’d be surprised, but professionals actually want to help students. People like passing on knowledge, insights and advice that they wish they had known at your age. Reaching out is nerve-wracking the first time, but it gets easier every time, so call, email or speak to people you admire – those working in jobs and industries you’d love to be in one day and connect.
· Buying someone a coffee to chat is cheap, and trust me, the value you get from them will be well worth the investment. (I also ask to audio record these catch-ups so I can go back and pull-out the best information for now, and for later.)
· What better excuse to network with someone than under the guise of an assessment. ‘Doing research for an assignment’ is the perfect opener to meet those who may be in a position to offer you an opportunity in the future. I would often interview people I wanted to meet, then, if they had some work experience or employment opportunity down the road, I was on their radar and contacted regularly.
· Talk to your teachers, lecturers, and tutors. They know some things, and are generally connected to great opportunities for development. They can also become great mentors. Again, they want to help those who are showing initiative and taking responsibility.
4. Investment over Expense
It’s an expense to go to a night-club or pub and drink away the hours, it’s an investment to go to a conference or seminar to hear amazing speakers from your industry and interest area. A weeklong holiday to Thailand with mates is an expense, but interning for free at your dream employer instead is an investment.
· Be wise about the limited financial resources you have. If you spend all of your money on leisure, then you won’t be able to invest in the latest book from your favourite author, or networking event with classmates. Try to think long-term in this regard.
· Talk to those whose job it is to help you like school administration and student services staff. They want to help, and there are often some terrific student deals, prices and opportunities all designed to make your life easier.
5. Showcase yourself
Finally, and this one is growing in relevance by the day; think of a way to showcase your personal and professional identity to the world. Increasingly the first impression future employers and those in a position to offer or deny you opportunities get of you, comes from what they can find online. So it’s time to be deliberate, and take responsibility for your online reputation and footprint.
· Create a LinkedIn page, but if possible do more than that. Start an eportfolio on a free website builder like WordPress, that lets you display your passion, interests and skills in your dream industry.
· Create a blog and share what you learn during your studies, re-purpose assignments, or re-cap networking events or internships. Take responsibility for what is found about you online, and don’t make the good stuff hard to find!
Ultimately, you don’t have to do any of this stuff. If you want to continue to drift ignore the above, you’ll end up somewhere. But if you can get some ideas, shape something above into something that works for you, then starting now you’ll build momentum through your studies that will see you bursting into the industry of your dreams.
I hope you don’t get to the end of your course or degree without questioning where you are headed. No one else will ever care as much about where you land as you. Take responsibility and enjoy the journey!
**I summarise the above and go a little deeper in this complimentary video below**
Ryan Mobilia helps athletes and students to shine online. He is a casual academic in the School of Communications and Creative Arts at Deakin University, and the author of ‘Social Media Scouting Report: Helping Athletes to Shine Online’.