I’ll be honest: I’ve been a total overachiever in college. I do extra credit when I have a 97% (just in case), Skype in when I have to miss class, am graduating a semester early for the heck of it, and have a cumulative 3.989/4.0. (Yes, I know it off hand… out to the third decimal & the A- that brought it down from a 4.0 kills me every day!) Do any of these practices or achievements matter in the real world? I like to think so, but likely not enough to be worth the amount of effort they required throughout the last three and a half years of attending school, working, RA-ing, interning, and juggling five million tasks at a time. Seriously, it’s no wonder I need yoga and meditation in my life.
That all being said, after talking to a lot of amazingly successful individuals inside and outside of my field, I’ve recognized that the most critical skills I’m taking away from college aren’t my GPA, or the immediate Google Analytics or social media experience I’ve gained. What I’m taking from my college experience are a lot broader, and (despite my digital focus) have probably been valuable college lessons for at least the last century:
1. How to give a good presentation
Before starting college, I would literally forget to breathe if I had to speak in front of a class. The marketing major quickly beat this out of me with a minimum of 5 presentations my first semester, and I’m very thankful for that – despite my tendency to still speak 200 words a minute. (But I blame speaking quickly on watching too much Gilmore Girls growing up, which I also blame for my unnecessary, overachieving tendencies.)
2. Writing for business
I haven’t always been an easy-to-read, concise writer. (I’ll face it: I’m still not completely!) But let’s just say I read a lot of Harry Potteras a child, and really enjoyed creative writing throughout middle and high school. However, after many crossings-outs of unnecessary sentences, overly formal verbiage, and requests that paragraphs be broken down into lists, I’m on the right path.
3. Leading, delegating, following & working in a team
When any overachiever enters college and has to work in a team, it kills us. I can’t tell you how many times my goal of getting an A on the project was not shared among my teammates, but I’ve grown to work with that and really allow people to use their strengths. Also, I’ve worked with enough people that really have no idea how to ask something nicely, that I believe I’ve also gathered a better understanding of maintaining positive morale.
4. Multitasking and remaining organized
I’ve always taken at least 14 credits a semester, and worked between 18-40 hours a week between part time jobs and internships. If you partner that with the widespread belief that college is a full time job, I’ve worked 58-80 hour weeks for the last three and a half years. I’m a multitasking queen, and a strong believer that jobs actually make students work more and work harder on school assignments.
Finally, my 5th lesson has a little to do with technology and my degree, & I’ll actually be dedicating a whole blog post to it soon:
5. How to use social media to help my job search
Most college students hope, pray, and do everything they can to keep potential employers from finding their party pictures onInstagram and Facebook, or their inappropriate (or strong politically opinionated) posts on Twitter. As a digital marketing major, it’s kind of a sign that I can’t do my job well if my social media isn’t top notch – so I worked this entire semester building my own personal brand, and sharing it on my favorite social sites, from LinkedIn to Pinterest to Instagram. I have Professor Elaine Young to thank this one for!
You don’t have to be an A+ student to be succeed in college, or to take away what you need to be an amazing employee (or create an amazing business), but I do feel you need to work hard in your classes in order to really get the most out of what you’re paying for, and that will allow you to gather your crucial college experiences and essential skills.