Your time in college and grad school is a golden period. While you will be taking many jobs after this and spending next 30-40 years in professional life, the freedom and opportunities of student life shall never be back; even if it does, it probably will be the two years you spend in a business school. And the worst part, the time in school flies by. Before you know it, the school will be over and hopefully, with a job offer in your hand. But what seems a craving to go out in the real world on to your dream job, the reality is that the job is not the dream job for most of the students. Not automatically, that is. You need to make efforts to ensure you achieve what you had set out seeking when you entered the school.
This is how you can maximize your time in school:
1. Start early
Between settling in an alien setting, dealing with the course load and making new friends, first semester will fly by and before you know, you will be standing clueless at career fairs. Focus early on, get a hang of recruiting calendar and be prepared for a long and grueling internship and job hunt.
2. Seek what you want but respond to opportune moments
There is a reason why good schools ask you to write an essay on your short and long term goals. If you do this part diligently, you will be more grounded in the school. With various people recruiting for different fields, it is easy to fall for herd mentality. Knowing what you want is very important so that you don’t start chasing things that seem lucrative but are not what you want.
On that note, a good career is a balancing act of planning and serendipity. There will be opportunities coming your way which may not be part of your plan but if they look right for a reason and appeal to your passion, perhaps you can give it a try. Now, this may sound contradictory to what I said in the previous paragraph but if you follow closely, you will understand.
For example, there comes an opportunity where a team is looking for one more member for a startup pitch contest. You meet them and let’s say you like their idea – you can try it out. Who knows what it might lead to? Grabbing opportunities on the way ensures you expose yourself to what is out there but it does not mean trying things which will suck all your resources and may cost you your original dream. The key is to be nimble and only you can find the right combination for you but you get the idea.
3. Have a hearty breakfast before starting your day. Never eat alone
Expect long days out and getting a healthy fulfilling breakfast will ensure you have the stamina required for it. For your other meals, try to always go out with other person or a group. Preferably try to meet at least one new person every three days. Lunches are a great way to help you make friends!
4. Do not take menial jobs to pay bills that do not add to your skills
A lot of students end up taking demanding on-campus jobs and assistantships that do not add much to their learning just because they pay something. You are already spending time and money to attend the school. Understand the value of your time and resources. Make sure you spend those on something worth engaging in.
5. Work for free if you get to learn
You are here to learn and grow. If an exciting opportunity is knocking on the door but it is not paying you, work for free. Yes, working for free in a research lab or an unfunded project is better than cleaning cafeteria tables.
6. It is okay to feel lost
Many students feel overwhelmed in first few months so much so that they lose track of what matters and what not. They put so much pressure on themselves to find the right assistantship or the courses or friends that it becomes disheartening when things move slow. Remember, it is okay to feel lost. Give yourself time to settle in the new surroundings. You will be fine, don’t panic.
7. Invest in relations. Connect with people from diverse backgrounds
You will probably never make as good friends as you can find in your classrooms. Go, talk to people. Hang out with those who are interesting, inspiring and make you think. Build bonds that can last a long time. Of course, you have to nurture every friendship and relationship but to start with college friends is way easier than making friends in professional circles. This is also the time to widen your lenses. Talking to people from other backgrounds will give you humility and lessons in open-mindedness.
8. Experiment in your internships. Take those jobs that will teach you helpful skills and not the highest paying ones
Another big mistake students make is to choose the highest paying job after graduating. Remember, you are recruiting your employer as much as he is recruiting you. The cost you will pay by taking up a job that will not help you advance in the direction you wish to go is way higher than what any employer can ever pay you. Do not give yourself away for a salary. Your future is worth much more. Do you dream of being an executive of a tech company someday? If so, do you think that job in a big MNC with no hands-on learning is the best way to learn how a company is operated? If not, think what will get you closer to your dream and take jobs where you can develop those skills.
9. Engage in clubs and extra curricular activities. Travel and have fun
A lot of learning comes from outside the classroom – learn on street, hone new talents, experience life because this time will never come back. While a lot of emphases is on building good relationships and connecting with people, it is useful to spend quality time alone to introspect and reflect upon this splendid journey.
10. Take classes with Professors who teach well as opposed to a course that looks great on paper but has an uninspired Professor
Ask your seniors for recommendations. You can learn more from a good professor even if the subject is slightly off track. I have personally experienced that being knowledgeable and a good teacher are two separate things. Look for people who know how to teach and communicate a concept. Choose your electives wisely. Engineering Professors can be quite drab and what seemed a relevant curriculum is reduced to awkward lectures and tiresome assignments.
And, those are a few easy hacks in a nutshell that will keep you on track in the school. Which ones resonate with you the most? Reply in comments!
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