Although it’s been nearly a decade since I technically was a part of my undergraduate program at Georgia Tech it seems like only yesterday that I was walking (or running) down Skiles Walkway trying to get to my next class before my teacher would lock the door (I failed at this more than a few times). It still gives me shudders to think about. Although I would never willingly-return to an undergraduate college experience, I have thought about what I could have done better to prepare myself for the professional world that would quite literally eat me alive when I left. But this advice isn’t just for the current undergraduate at Georgia Tech (or any other fine institution for that matter), it’s also applicable for all of us in the field today.
So here are a few things that I would change about my college experience that I hope can encourage you to be vastly more productive than I and thus set you up for even greater success in the very near future:
Over-Indulgence is Real
How many times have we all looked back on the things that we spent 100’s (perhaps 1,000’s) of hours on and ask ourselves why in the world we ever chose to do those very things? I know that I spent personally spent countless hours playing video games while in my dorm room when I now realize that those many hours could have been utilized in a plethora of different activities. Now, I’m not one to slam rest and relaxation – but all of us are adults and know when we’ve crossed “that line” into wastefulness. It’s not a matter of counting the hours but rather what amounts to an activity that rejuvenates us and one that’s beginning to drain hours of productivity.
Part of the benefit of going to a university is the natural collision of talented people in close proximity. This happens adhoc and all the time. But there is a significant difference between casually bumping into people and making acquaintance and pro-actively engaging people for networking purposes. I didn’t know the difference until I left and realized that a lot of the relationships I had could have (should have) been more intentional.
Professionals in the field know this all too well as every person we meet can quite literally open new doors for us personally and professionally. It can lead to such direct things as sales, hiring, and even new startup ventures.
One of the other things that I wish I had done more is find opportunity to risk more while in college. You see, there was never a better time to experiment with new ideas than in the relative safe confines of a university campus. Sure, finding your alcohol consumption limit can be (but not a recommendation in any way, shape, or form) a risky-yet-rewarding endeavor but I’m talking more about experimenting with new ideas that really didn’t have any obvious market potential.
Being in software specifically I could have spent more time experimenting with small programs and applications that really interested me instead of telling myself that they had no real-world application (I was probably wrong). It’s harder now that I’m out in the “real world” (which is a lie, by the way) and where I feel the incessant pressure to prove an obvious return on investment.
So students I encourage you to make use of your time and create a deep network while on your college campus for you’ll never have an environment quite like it!
[Photo credit: Whitlock/Hypepotamus]