Having a better idea of where my future is headed, there are many things I would change about the way I approached my college career. You see, I chose the University of Kansas because it was not far from home, they have a top journalism program and I wanted to study advertising, my boyfriend went there, my friends were all going there, and it was the only school I actually applied to (but given all of the above reasons for wanting to attend, it
was a sure choice, regardless). To add to the above reason of choice as location, I must also say that I had many steady babysitting jobs and I wanted to continue the photography business I began as a high school student, because these were the two things that funded my entertainment and eventual travels. However, I was very stubborn and prideful.
I was accepted into the William Allen White School of Journalism (aka J-school) for my sophomore year and by the time the year was finished, so was I with the program. Instead of wanting to use my resources to my advantage (such as people and classes), I just wanted to have a degree (because these days it doesn’t matter what degree you have as long as you have a degree, right? Um, wrong). I felt that the program was more focused on priding themselves on being number one than teaching me to be number one. Plus, at least in the first two semesters of classes, the focus was on working for someone else and not for myself… and I just wanted to work for myself. But instead of quitting school and doing what I wanted to do which was attend photography workshops across the country, I changed my focus to just getting that degree and getting done… which meant making my second major, French, be my first and only major. This was great because it took me abroad to France and then other countries, I met wonderful people that I am still in touch with today, and, with a little bit of re-immersion, I can still speak conversational French. And, hey, I have a degree!
But that degree really is not getting me anywhere today other than allowing me to apply for jobs that require a degree. Now I no longer want to be a photographer full-time, but instead I want to work for another (get this) company where I can help them be stronger by using my communication skills. Unfortunately, however, a resume does not ask for a transcript or a set of life experience. A resume and a job listing requirements list ask for an education background and work experience. These are things that, if I had been thinking properly or even advised properly, I could have changed (although it is quite possible I was just stubborn and didn’t listen to the people who were trying to tell me otherwise… ooooh hindsight!).
Stemming from this article titled: The 3 Golden Rules for College Entrepreuners by Andrew Bachman, I’ll tell you what I would re-do (and keep the same) in regard to helping my future, whether it be as an entrepreneur for a small business, or wanting to work for someone else.
Get a degree that matters
Whether you want it to or not, the degree obtained really does matter. The degree you get will teach you important concepts and vocabulary terms that will make entering into the job field easier. The Arts are wonderful… I’m a strong supporter of them (I’m a French major and a photographer) but if you want to sell your work and market your showings and performances, you have to know how to do that. This is not something you will learn in those classes… so take the extra time and get two majors.
Pay attention to what is being taught
There is a reason we have to take the classes that are part of every major, no matter how absurd they may seem. This is because someone thinks they will be helpful in the future. History and politics are difficult subjects for me because I find them rather boring, thus I did just enough work to get by at the time. However, they are a very important part of our world, and it is important to know about them to contribute to (and understand) conversations that happen every day. I repeat: conversations that happen EVERY DAY. If you want to be able to take part in conversations, you have to know what people are talking about. A great way to do that is to take a wide variety of classes and also read and never stop reading.
Use your resources
Professors are there to help you. Yes, they have their own lives and many times they would probably rather be sitting on a terrance and enjoying a beer on a beautiful spring day than sitting in their cold basement office that smells funny, but their job is to be there for you! Take advantage of that. Ask them questions. They are experts at the subjects they are teaching, so dig into their brains and use their knowledge to help you. But not only that, they have life experience that may help you even more than their lessons. And network with your fellow classmates. People are awesome… so get to know them. Yes, all of them (even the “weird” ones). Everyone has something they can offer to your life in one way or another (and social media helps that a lot to keep those connections and help relationships grow!)
College is supposed to be hard… and if it’s not, take the initiative to make it harder (but not so hard that you stress yourself out to no end. There is a line.). Sometimes, in fact, the life lessons are harder to learn than the material. But it is important to enjoy your college experience. Chances are there is never again a time when you will have an experience like you do in college, so, when starting (or continuing) a business, try not to focus ALL of your attention to it. Your classes are important, as are the relationship you build with other people. If you focus all of your attention to your growing business, there is a chance you’ll miss out on something bigger.
To wrap up, I do want to say that I did not completely butcher my college career and I did do some of the things I advised. Where the majority of my education comes from now, though, is my life experience. Because what I thought I was doing right in college has now proven to be wrong, it is up to me to teach myself and use my resources to research and power my future career. If I could re-do college, I would take my 25-year old me advice and stick to Journalism and/or Business and take the concepts of what I learn (even if aimed at working for a company) and apply them to my photography (and even babysitting) business… and seek advice before making big decisions.
KU’s J-School really is a great school, and if I would have stayed in for that additional year I would have seen it, because now many of my J-School acquaintances have wonderful careers. So, due to my past choices, I know it will take me a little bit longer to get where I want to go and there will be more baby steps to get there, but I will get there. College taught me the importance of making good decisions because they will definitely show up in the future… welcomed or not… and everything is on the path to success (even if it’s a failure, because even that becomes a success if something is learned and something is changed)!