With Commencement right around the corner, I haven’t been able to stop myself from reflecting and reminiscing on the last four years that I’ve spent at NYU. Not all of my memories are happy ones (i.e., writing research papers until 5 AM), but I can say with confidence that I’ve learned some useful things inside and outside of the classroom that I’ll be taking with me as I move from college to the start of my career. Here are the Top 10 things I’ve learned:
1) Uncertainty isn’t always a bad thing.
While it’s definitely nice to know what you’ll be doing work-wise after college, that’s just not the reality for each and every student. If you find yourself in that situation, you can use the time to continue cultivating your interview and networking skills while considering possible career options and opportunities.
2) Explore the unknown.
At NYU, this meant traveling during the year I studied abroad in Madrid as well as taking a variety of classes. At my new job, it’ll mean allowing myself to experience things that may be outside of my initial job description or relocating to an area I’ve never lived in. Don’t be afraid to explore new opportunities!
3) Know your limits and push them wisely.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s always great to remind yourself that you can only do so much. Get involved, but remember: committing to a million and one things will not only stress you out, but it could also keep you from getting done what is necessary for your career.
4) Make long-term goals but don’t lose sight of the present.
Just two weeks ago, I was so excited planning for Commencement that I nearly forgot about a final assignment that I needed to hand in! Looking at the future is fun to do (and necessary when planning out your career), but don’t take for granted everything that you’re doing now. You build a career, meaning it’s a process so even if you have your eyes set on a higher position in the company, keep in mind that you can learn transferable skills in any assignment.
5) You’ll never know until you ask.
Whether you’re in need or a due date extension for a paper or seeking a pay raise, you’ll never know until you ask! If your employer doesn’t know you’d like something to change, odds are that your situation or problem will stay the same. Be vocal!
6) Reward yourself.
Whenever I receive a great test score that I know I deserve because of all the studying I’ve done, I like to treat myself to something small, like a cup of fro-yo at 16 Handles or an afternoon of Jamba Juice-filled people-watching in Central Park. In your career you should also take the time to reward yourself when you’ve completed a tough assignment. Celebrate your victories and use them as reminders/motivation when you’re faced with a difficult task.
7) Don’t network just for the sake of getting business cards.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t network, but the situation is a lot less awkward and much more personal when you approach networking as a conversation rather than a business opportunity. People (especially your potential higher-ups) are much more likely to remember you down the road if you make a unique connection.
8) You can never say “Thank you” enough.
I’ve given a lot of thanks lately—to my parents, siblings, friends, coworkers—for all of their help with getting me through the late nights of thesis writing and tough midterm weeks over the last four years. Showing your appreciation for someone not only makes that person feel great, but it also reminds you to never be too proud to ask for help. Plus, it follows the Golden Rule: Do unto others what you’d wish done unto you.
9) It never hurts to be nice.
Going off of my last point, manners will always go a long way, whether you’re a Sternie going into Investment Banking or approaching a career in Social Work. It could be as simple as a “hello” and a smile you give to the security guard at your workplace or a “congratulations” email to a coworker receiving a promotion, but people (especially those in New York!) will remember that act of kindness. And who knows, that one running person for whom you held the elevator might just be on the board that determines whether or not you get that promotion and raise you’ve been wanting.
10) Always remember where you’ve come from.
Don’t forget your family or the friends you made in college; they’re the people that helped you get to where you are today and the people that’ll hopefully be there to celebrate all of your future success, in both your career and personal lives.
With that, I’d like to end this post with a special congratulations to all of my fellow graduates. I wish you all the best with your future endeavors!