5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Left College

Today, I will sit on a panel for a local university about life in the real world. We'll cover networking, social media, volunteerism, etc. I've been thinking a lot about what I want to say to these kids. 

College is great for getting your mind ready. Now, it's time to ACT!My message is going to center on leveraging your life experiences into a money-making venture- even if it is not at all what you thought it would be. It has become quite clear to me in the past few months that this is really my niche and area of expertise. I have learned to take what I love, and do well, and make money with it. So many people want this! To wake up every morning and day what they love! How lucky am I?!
These are the things I want the students to leave knowing:
  • Your major is not a guarantee- This is my big point. YOU MIGHT NOT DO WHAT YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING TO DO! Maybe that's good news for you, maybe not. You've got to make money. You've got to pay your bills. And if you can find a way to do that doing something you love (which may or may not be what you majored in), your life is going to be more full, more happy, more exciting, than if you do what you think you should/have to. But, just because you majored in music does not mean you will be a professional musician. You will still use many of those skills- rhythm and flow, working in an ensemble, following a director- but not in the same way. Many students, and definitely myself when I was a student, imagine that the real world will be an extension of college, spending your days immersed in the technical know-how of a field. But college really is only theory. Life is experience. There's a lot more going on in life than just that thing that you're doing. There's paperwork, relationships with employers/co-workers that can make your work life a joy or a drain, clients/customers that make you wonder if doing what you do is worth it if you have to put up with THAT and the ones that strengthen your belief. And through these experiences and lessons, you are going to learn what work fulfills you, what you do well, what you would rather never do again. And, if you are creative, you can begin to arrange your life to do the things you love, get rid of most of the things you don't, and make a living. 
  • Networks matter- I've noticed this mainly since I've moved have have no to very little in terms of network. Business really is who you know, and who knows you. Social media has helped increase our reach, as well as maintain past relationships, but if your social media presence is quality, that's going to be a problem. If social media is the only place you have a network, that's also a problem. You actually have to meet people!
  • Experience matters- a degree is great. And most employers want you to have one. But most also don't really care what it is in. Most don't care what your GPA was. It doesn't matter to them that you've read the best texts. What did you DO- internships, volunteer opportunities, work. EVEN IF this experiences are not in the field your are interviewing for. Experiences speak to your work ethic, your "real world" skills, your employability, your character, more than paperwork ever will. 
  • Working for yourself is incredible. And terrifying. And hard, really hard. Working for yourself is a great option we all have. It is not for the faint of heart. It is not for people looking for the easy way to riches. Working for yourself requires you to believe that YOU are worth an investment. That the risk is worth the reward, because your ideas are that dear to you. 
  • Smile, be nice, be positive. The world needs more of this.
What do you wish you knew before you graduated from college? What has your work experience taught you about life?  Leave me a comment! If I get it before 2pm, I'll try to work your advice into my presentation later!