5 Tips to Optimize Your College Education for Your Career

For most students, college is a time to have freedom from your parents, meet new people, and have blast going to sporting events, tailgate parties, and festivals. Though all of these things are important with it comes to your social life and learning about who you are, at some point your college experience will hopefully become a time to buckle down and focus on your future. In my experience, this change happened for me in sophomore year and I am so glad that it did. As I made my transition from student and intern to my first “big girl” position as a college alum, I realized how thankful I am that I hit my “aha” moment in sophomore year. Starting out, my first job taught me a lot about myself, but also taught me things I never learned in school. For example, I had to quickly learn how to manage my time and others’ times, handle budgets, and find solutions for angry clients – things I was not expecting or thought I needed to know. That being said, if you have hit you “aha” moment and are ready to start utilizing your time in college to be prepared for your first job, check out these 5 tips I have put together to help you out, and maybe make your transition from a student to an employee a little easier.

  1. Stay Focused and Motivated. It can be easy to get distracted in school and procrastinate by binge watching Netflix. Plus, the amount of pressure put on you regarding your GPA can be discouraging. Don’t look at your grades as a measurement of your IQ, look at it as how much you have learned so far and how much more you want to learn. After graduating with a decent GPA I felt like I knew everything there is to know about marketing and advertising. I was ready to hit the road running. However, within my first job here at BLÜ, I quickly found out that my GPA did not have the same pressure on me as it once did and I could not use it as motivation or lack of motivation. In college, I found motivation in keeping my schedule filled and optimizing my time, going to yoga, and checking in with my mentor, which I will talk about a little later on. But, how did this help me for my career in a fast paced, forward-thinking ad agency?Within my position as an Account Executive, I help the BLÜ team by making sure all our ducks are in line. I make sure employees’ weeks are filled with projects and ultimately keep everyone on track to meet deadlines for our clients. In doing this, I have had to stay very self-motived and focused. Some days I have felt overwhelmed with all the things I needed to be working on or completing such as e-newsletters, client meetings, conference reports, client follow ups, phone calls, social media marketing, website reviews, placing print orders, submitting ads to media channels, and more. But then I remember how I motivated myself in college and apply that to my daily work here. I take a lot of deep breaths and I plan my days out ahead of time. Try making a calendar for yourself with important deadlines for yourself and stick to it! Eventually, motivating yourself will become second nature and you will be surprised by how much you can get done in one day!So if you feel like you’re getting a little lazy or distracted from your education, remember where you want to be when you graduate. Find the best way to motivate yourself to get things done to get you to where you want to be in your first job rather than lost and overwhelmed!
  2. Mix Up Your Courses. My biggest regret from my college experience was not taking more courses outside of my major, don’t let it be yours! Many major requirements (mine included) do not stray from courses for that major and a few generals. However, many majors (again, mine included) do not allow for a lot of time for electives. Do your best to make time! Enroll in courses that are similar to your major, but not required. For example, as a marketing major, I was required to be enrolled in many marketing and management courses, but no art or graphic design courses.My senior year of college, I was enrolled in a social media marketing course where we worked on creating infographics. I found myself frustrated with the programs available to me and not knowing how to make what I wanted to visually. Because of this, my last semester I enrolled in a graphic design course for the first time. I could not believe the amount I learned in such a little time and wished I would have had more time to enroll in more classes of this type. I saw how closely involved graphic design is with marketing, which I was not aware of before that course. This seems funny to me now, as I work with the graphic designers at BLÜ directly every day. But that being said, that course helped me be prepared to work closely with creatives and gave me insight into the effort and thought processes needed in a great graphic designer. Having this insight greatly helped me when I started at BLÜ as an employee and was expected to provide graphic designers with direction and projects.I am so thankful that I mixed up my courses my last semester, because it truly helped me be prepared for this aspect of my job now. By mixing up your courses, you can feel more prepared and gain insight too! And hopefully, this insight will guide you in the right direction for your career like it did for me. At the very least, it will give you a better perspective of what other people do to make your job possible.
  3. Get an Internship… or Two. Some universities push internships more than others. Whether your university does or not, connect yourself with career services and apply for an internship. Internships will teach you more than you would think. In my experience, I learned what aspects of my major I loved and which aspects I wanted to learn more. I was fortunate to complete two internships (one being here at BLÜ) during my college career and they both gave me very different experiences, exposure, and connections.I learned that working with the right team is crucial! Your team members help you grow and push you to new levels of abilities. They will also have different perspectives that can help you think outside the box. I also learned the difference of marketing for a single client versus marketing for multiple clients daily. I found out how to work with a board as your superior, as well as a boss and company president. I experienced working effectively with different mindsets and levels of experience and to ask questions. Internships also open doors for you. They provide you with new opportunities for other internships, jobs, and networking as you are more experienced and seasoned. In my experience, some of my friends did not complete internships and found it very hard to get a job out of college (Some are still on the job hunt!). So if you haven’t already, apply for an internship in your field and be ready to learn a lot. An internship experience will help you be prepared for your job in more ways than you can imagine. And who knows, you may even be offered a job when you graduate. And trust me, being able to tell your family at your graduation you have a job lined up at a kick-ass ad agency feels pretty good!
  4. Build Your Mentor/Mentee Relationship. Finding someone who has been in your place and can provide you with advice and support is a great way to optimize your education (and your mental health), especially when you are nearing the end of your education.Mentors can help guide you in the right direction because guess what, they were in the same spot as you at one time! They will be able to provide you with tips that are coming from a place of experience and expertise. Use these tips and advice to your advantage. Learn from what they did and apply it to what you want to do with your career. In doing this, you will be able to make more informed decisions that you feel good about. In my experience, my mentor was my aunt. She worked hard and moved up to be a director of retail corporate marketing. Before I started at BLÜ as an intern, I was asked to go back to my first internship with added responsibility and projects. This was a very difficult decision for me to make. My first internship taught me a lot about marketing for a single company and I had made great relationships with my co-workers. But, BLÜ offered me the opportunity to learn a whole new skill set that would be transferrable to clients within many different industries. As I worked through the pros and cons, I contacted my mentor for advice. And as you can probably guess considering my current position, she suggested I go with BLÜ based off of her past experiences and knowledge of the marketing industry. Looking back on her tips and advice now in my current position as an employee at BLÜ, I could not be more appreciative of her help. Her advice guided me in the right direction for a great opportunity and she helped set me up for success. At the time, I did not know that my internship would turn into a job. But knowing now that it did, I cannot stress enough the value of having a mentor. You will not regret having the help and advice, trust me!
  5. Believe in Yourself. This is the most important tip of all! Believe in your abilities and future. The biggest advantage you can provide yourself with is confidence. Confidence will allow you to step into the world with strength and excitement.When I started college, my self-esteem and confidence came from my social life. I measured my confidence by the number of friends I had made since enrolling, the number of events and parties I was invited to, and embarrassingly by if I had a boyfriend of not. As I hit my “aha” moment sophomore year and started focusing on my education more, I started to realize the way I was measuring my confidence was the wrong way to do it. My confidence started growing when I would do a great job on a test or when a professor would go out of their way to complement my work. Then in my last year of college, my confidence measurement changed again. Rather than basing my confidence off of feedback I received from others. I started measuring my confidence by my accomplishments, progress in my college career, my experiences, and who I was becoming as an adult. Being an intern at BLÜ also helped me grow my confidence. I was given responsibilities. My supervisor trusted me to do good work and that was more empowering than any measurement of confidence I had before then. Now as an employee, I have been able to use this confidence to my advantage. I learn new skills every day, and my confidence helps me achieve new goals and abilities. Learn from my experience and start believing in yourself. Measure your confidence in a way that will motivate you to grow into your skills and abilities. In doing this, you will be ready to try new things and push yourself out of you comfort zone (skills needed for a first job). And trust me, entering the workforce is a whole new experience compared to your daily college life and routine. Always remember, if you want others to see your skills, knowledge, and abilities, you must see it in yourself first. Know that you are smart, you have worked hard, and you are capable of making the world yours.

Hopefully these tips will help you optimize your education and remaining time in college so that you feel ready to enter the workforce with confidence. Good luck with all your endeavors and your future to come. You got this!