Relearning the ABC’s After College

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It is common knowledge that college is the time for learning. It is the time to explore your interests. It is the time to redefine your boundaries. In short, it is about learning about yourself and where you fit into the context of the wider world.

But once you walk across that stage in your cap and gown to get your diploma, learning does not stop. Learning is a life long process that continues even beyond college, even after you’ve landed that amazing job at a Fortune 500 company.

I can even argue that the six months after college graduation is even more vital than the entire four years put together. Yes, you are learning essential skills in college. But after college, when you are thrown out into the real world, you have to put those skills into practice.

You’ve probably landed an internship, a freelance gig, or an entry level position. This is the time when you have to not only use the skills that you’ve gained, but continue to build upon them. Knowledge is never stagnant. Knowledge will continue to build upon itself, in almost every field.

With that said, after college, you will find yourself going ‘back to basics.’ Essentially, you will relearn the ABCs:

Affirm your desires.

College was about figuring out what you wanted to major in. Post-college (and sometimes even before) is about figuring out how you want to use your degree. Once you know what you want to do, then go for it. Knowing what you want is the easiest part. Let the knowledge of what you want fill every bone in your body. Embody confidence that you will do well and that that will be your calling.

Brand yourself.

Whether you are prepping for that job interview or working on your social media presence, make sure that you are conveying your best self. Be honest and authentic. Be intelligent and creative. Add a little bit of spontaneity. Be professional and relatable in your communication style. Be truer than your best self.

Continue to enhance.

So, you might not be successful at that job interview. Perhaps it wasn’t a good fit. Whatever the reason, don’t give up. The six months after college are the most important months. Keep applying to jobs. Seek out assistance from the career office at your alma mater. Use LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with industry experts and get new job leads. Become an entrepreneur. Start a blog. Write. Create YouTube videos. Host Periscope videos. Become an expert in your field. Keep practicing your skills. Eventually, the right job will find you.

Where are you in your job search? Or, if you’ve landed that perfect job (kudos!), any words of advice that you’d like to share?

 

Life After College – Thoughts

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College is a bubble. So, what happens after graduation? Well, that bubble bursts. Suddenly, that protected world that you’ve known for four years is no longer there. You are suddenly tossed out into the real world.

Twice in my life, I left college. And twice in my life, I was no longer in that college bubble, forced to live on the outside with no communal showers and surrounded by a random assortment of kids. But most importantly of all, both times, I was forced to face the reality of student loans, getting a job and adjusting to life after school.

Having been part of the thousands of kids who go to college right after high school, it is hard to envision a life in which the world of academia does not exist. I’ve been in school for nearly my entire life. However much I might complain about the unfairness of grading and classes and professors, at the end of the day, it is undeniable that I start to miss it.

I miss taking classes that may or may not have anything to do with my degree. I’ve taken Greek Mythology and Writing Poems even though I am not a Classical Studies or Creative Writing major. I’ve taken so many German courses that I’d like to say that I’m nearly fluent. I simply took those classes because I wanted to. College presented an opportunity to take those classes that my high school might not have offered due to limited budgets. And, I admit, once I got to college, I embraced it.

The same goes for extracurricular activities. At college, I could join the Yearbook Club or the LGBTQ club or whatever. At college, I could take  or do whatever I wanted to (as long as it was legal, of course). Indeed, what separates college from high school is the freedom to choose. The freedom to be independent. But, of course, with that freedom comes a certain responsibility. That responsibility is our first foray into adulthood. Some of us embrace it. While for the rest of us, it might take awhile…

But however long it takes, we all grow up in college. College is designed to test us. To test our strengths and weaknesses. To connect us with new people. To allow us to grow in a way that we never conceived of in high school.

But sooner than you think, college is soon over. You put on your graduation cap and gown and walk across that stage to get your diploma. But just because you receive your diploma does not mean that the growth has to stop. Instead, use college as a starting off point to continue learning and growing.

Getting your college diploma signifies that you accomplished four years of college education. It signifies that you have the discipline to study with no immediate gratification. After all, there is no guarantee that a college degree will get you rich.

But once you get your college diploma, you discover that the real work is yet to begin. You have to find a job. Hopefully, you find a lucrative opportunity in your industry. Hopefully, you will rise up within your company in the next ten years and become an industry thought leader.

Or, you might end up working as a barista at Starbucks or retail clerk for a few years working minimum wage, while relentlessly filling out job applications. You might have to work two jobs just to pay your rent, car payments and student loan payments.

But eventually, you will launch your career. It’s not going to be easy. I daresay that it might even be hard. But who said that life is easy? And those four years of all-nighters at college will be worth it.

But until then, we hope. Whatever we majored in, whatever experiences we had in college, we are all driven by the same ambition: to find a well-paying job and be a worthwhile member of this complex and intricate society.

I Like to Make Believe

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I’ve decided to begin my new year by looking into the past. Specifically, my childhood. And even more specifically, I’d like to explain why I enjoy writing and how it all began. After all, you can’t start or continue something without knowing the very root or essence of it.

I can’t exactly pinpoint the very first day when I decided that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. All I can say is that I was drawn to the very act of writing. Perhaps it is because I’ve always enjoyed reading books. I’ve always been fascinated by the very people who wrote the books that I was so enthralled by. While other kids were learning how to write cursive, I was dreaming about my name — my name— being on the front cover of a book, either as an author or an illustrator, although I’m not much of an artist. But I suppose that’s normal. I suppose that is instinctive for anyone who enjoys reading as much as I did do.

Why did I enjoy reading? It was entertaining. I could escape into another world, a world that often times was much more interesting than mine. It was fascinating to inhabit the mind of someone else or watch as someone went through life. It was even more fascinating when that person was as normal and average as you and I — just someone who’s trying to fit in and find their place in society.

Simply put, I like stories. I like things that have a nice beginning, middle and end. I like to be entertained. And I like to entertain. Even when I was a child, I liked to make-believe and make up stories. I liked to act out stories with my stuffed animals and dolls. I still remember the very first story that I ever wrote. It was called “The Little Boy” and it was about a boy who wanted a party.  I had an imagination, definitely. In fact, I still do.

I guess that’s why, in the end, I majored in Communications in college. But on my journey of getting there, in all of the courses that I took, I enjoyed telling stories. In high school and college, I enjoyed creative writing courses the best. I loved it when my history teacher had us write a creative writing piece about a fictional person who lived during the Bubonic Plague. And when I had to take standardized tests, 9 times out of 10 I chose to write a narrative essay. In college, I loved my PR and social media courses. I enjoyed writing feature stories and press releases and blog posts. Hey, what can I say, I like to tell a story.

And that is why my Communications degree led me to want to pursue a career in content marketing, social media and PR. I haven’t yet found that dream job in my chosen industry but I have hope that I will in 2016. I have hope that I will find work with an amazing company where I am allowed to thrive, learn, and most importantly, make believe.

But until then, I will continue blogging. I will continue writing, specifically working my Nanowrimo novel. I will read more and learn from experts in the writing industry. I will do all this because I have hope.

I have hope. And I will continue to make believe.

 

A Dream Wrapped in Silver

When I first decided that I would go back to college after taking a four year leave of absence, I had to figure out what I wanted to study. Like most college students, I kept changing my major, going from English to Art History to Classical Studies and then, finally, to German.

I chose German then because I really enjoyed my German language courses. I loved speaking German. I loved to conjugate the verbs. I had all of my German prepositions memorized in song-form. I really, really liked German. After all, weren’t you supposed to choose a discipline that you were passionate about? I’ve always been interested in European history and culture, particularly Germany. I have a tiny, slightly unhealthy, obsession with Anne Frank. In fact, that’s why I wanted to learn German (and then, eventually, Dutch). I wanted to read her Diary in German. I wanted to get a feel for her Diary in that language. I thought that I would understand some of the phrases and cultural expressions better in the German (and Dutch) than in the English. Translated books are never as good as the original. I know that the German edition is translated too. But my college did not offer Dutch and I figured that I’ll learn German first, and then learn Dutch.

So, I learned German. I even studied abroad in Berlin, Germany. That was the best experience of my life. I loved living outside the U.S. I loved having the opportunity to speak German everyday in a different country. I relished in the opportunity to study and live in a different culture. I loved taking the U-Bahn and S-Bahn. I loved my host family. I loved the food (sauerkraut!) and the Weihnachten Markt in December. I loved everything about Germany.

So, why did I eventually change majors again?

Well, after four years of working retail, I’ve grown (not that I didn’t in college). Much as I loved German, I did not know what I wanted to do with it. And, not all colleges offer German as a major. I knew that when I went back to college, I would choose a major that was practical. But at the same time, deep down, I wasn’t sure if there was another so-called “dream major” for me.

I think researched colleges for a year. When I did so, I also scanned their list of majors and tried to find one that interested me. My first thought was English. Why not? English was my favorite subject in high school. I am a pretty good writer. At least, I think I am. At least, I’ve always enjoyed writing.

But, as much as I enjoy English and writing, I also know that I do not enjoy analyzing literature. I love how it is open to interpretation. And who doesn’t like getting to read fiction for homework? But I knew that I would not be happy staying up until four in the morning, working on a paper for Pride and Prejudice or some other book.

Eventually, I stumbled upon Communications. I used to always dismiss the subject. But the more I read about it, the more interested I became. When I discovered SNHU, I read through the Communications courses. They all looked interesting.

And they were. I’m nearly done with my undergrad degree and I’ve enjoyed every one of my courses. I loved learning about public relations, journalism, social media, Adobe Illustrator, technology and SEO. As someone who has so many different interests, communications seemed like the right one for me. I wanted something focused and yet broad enough to allow me to explore my interests. As a shy person, communications turned out to be my “soul mate” of majors.

When I first enrolled at SNHU, I not only knew what my major would be, I also thought that I wanted to become a copyeditor or an editor. But college changes people. I took on other roles. I became a Peer Leader for SNHU and found that I really enjoyed helping students. I love to connect with them via email and help them with an assignment. I love watching their minds grow and flourish. I would love to continue and develop this role further and hope that I would have an opportunity to do so in the future.

Recently, I started an internship with the Borgen Project, working as an editor. I edited a few articles and found that I really enjoyed it. I always knew that I have an eye for detail and I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing. What I mean to say is that becoming an editor is not on the back burner anymore. It is a possibility, a dream wrapped in silver that is starting to sparkle.

Top 6 Things I Learned at SNHU

6 Things That I Learned at SNHU

 As I approach the end of my time at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), I would like to share the top eleven things that I have learned. (Note: These eleven things are not in any particular order).

1. Time Management

Since I take online classes at a brick-and-mortar college, 95 percent of my education is dependent upon me and how well I can get my work down on time. Like most online students, I have extremely busy with work, personal life and school. This means that I have had to learn how to prioritize and plan. I have to plan my work in advance. I have to take it one assignment or task at a time. Once one task is done, then I can move on to the next. This is the key to managing my stress level. I’m glad that I have had to learn how to manage my time because this will be extremely important post-graduation.

2. Teamwork

Taking online classes at a traditional brick-and-mortar school, it may seem as if I don’t have many opportunities for collaboration. Not true! In my Writing for Public Relations class this term, my professor divided the class up into two groups. I am a member of group A. Every week, we work on a different project together using a Wiki platform. One week, we created a flier for an organization. Another week, we wrote news leads. It is an interesting experience as we all learn to set aside our differences and work together to create a project. It has helped to bring new ideas that I alone would not have thought of.

3. Leadership

Teamwork is tied closely with leadership. Teamwork cannot happen without leadership, and vice versa. On SNHU’s social media site, I am one of the Peer Leaders. I motivate new students by giving advice and sharing personal stories. I learned that being a leader is not about giving orders. It is about setting an example, accepting and receiving feedback, and working as part of a team. It is about motivating others and holding others accountable. Leaders are the first people to get up and do something. They set the bar high and expect others to follow.

4. Motivation

I have to stay motivated at SNHU to succeed. Since I don’t have to attend class three or four days a week, it is up to me to make sure that I know what the assignments are and when they are due. It is up to me to make sure that I do these assignments. For me, motivation comes in the form of my impending graduation. I have three classes left, after this one, and then I am done. When I am that close, that’s even more reason to keep going. Another way that I get motivated is (call me crazy) is by watching SNHU commercials. Those commercials are really entertaining.

5. Networking

Since starting at SNHU, I have tried to cultivate my online presence by polishing up my personal brand. I have a LinkedIn profile, which I use to connect with fellow SNHU students and alumni, as well as connecting with people in my chosen field. I also have a Twitter account for networking and promoting this blog. Networking is about making friends, connecting with industry experts, and putting myself out there. I communicate until I get heard loud and clear. I make a name for myself so that I am not just some random person out of a million with a Facebook page.

6. KISS

Chances are, you are familiar with this acronym. KISS stands for Keep It Simple, Silly. As a Communications major, I do a lot of writing for my classes. I write news releases and articles. I create brochures and write memos. In each of these assignments, I am realizing the value of using short sentences and common words. I have to write to be understood and not just to impress.

How I came to major in Communications

Since I started college in 2007 at age 18, I’ve been through at least five different majors.

I started college with the intent to become an English major. I love the written word. I love reading British lit (Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist). I wanted to become a published writer. But then college started, I took a couple of introductory German classes and I absolutely fell in love. I loved the words, the grammar, the nuances of the language. I loved writing in German, listening to my professor speak German, and I loved the culture of Germany. German happened, took me over, and I changed my major from English to German.

For the first two years of my college career, I took German major courses. I even studied abroad in Berlin and had the most amazing experience. I loved the operas, the museums, the Brandenburg Gate, the city, the people.

And yet, I felt that German was not my destiny. I loved it, but it wasn’t in my future. In other words, it wasn’t my calling. I’ve had near instances during those two vital years of college in which I questioned German. I took Art History, Psychology, and Mythology — all of which I loved equally. I considered majoring in those disciplines.

Four years later and I enrolled at SNHU. I did some research. By now, I wasn’t the same wide-eyed teenager in college. I was a semi-experienced professional who  viewed college differently. Previously, I viewed it was the logical next step after high school. It was the path to freedom from parents and discovering oneself. Now, I view college as a means for self-improvement and advancing one’s career.

I chose Communications.  I have so far loved all of my communications classes. I love to blog and I love the idea of social media. I am fascinated by how it has brought people together. I love how we can use social media to connect with celebrities and organizations. I really think that communications is my calling. It was what I was meant to major in all along.

Life Lessons

I am 26 years old and I go to college online. Going for my Bachelor’s degree has been a long, emotional, often treacherous journey and I am excited that it is coming to an end soon. Right now, I have only five more courses to take until I graduate. Until I’m done. Until I can stand up, immensely proud, and tell myself that I have a college degree.

I started college the traditional route, when I was eighteen years old. I attended a small liberal arts university for two years. My goal was to major in English. But then, I took a few language courses…. in German. I fell in love with the German language. I fell in love with the ridiculous sentence structure and harsh sounding words.

But, as with all things, life happened. Seven years ago, my mother passed away.

The death of a parent is so unspeakable. It was a pain that I never before experienced. It was shocking, gut wrenching, painstakingly hard to think, to know, that the person who is the reason for my being alive no longer exists.

But time really does help to heal all wounds, however cliché that saying may be. I moved on. It no longer hurts as much to think about that small, but emotionally impacting, moment in time. Don’t get me wrong, the anniversary of her death, holidays, and her birthday are hard. Sometimes I still think of the what ifs: what if she was still alive? What would we be doing? What if things had turned out differently? What if?

But there’s no point, no good, in torturing myself with the what ifs. Nothing can change the past. The only thing that I can do is live in the moment and be the best person I can be. By doing that, I will make the future just a little bit better.

My future involves me getting a college degree. It took me seven years. But I don’t think of those years as a waste. Instead, it will mean that the end result will be that much sweeter. And that is something I can wait even a lifetime for.

I will receive a B.A. in Communications. But to me that is really a B.A. in life. College changes people. In my case, it’s changed me to become more driven, humble, kind, and appreciative of life.

So, those of you in college, or those taking a little break, take a moment and appreciate the little things. Enjoy the college experience. Enjoy life. Enjoy the people you love. And just know that the end result is something to work hard for.