June 23, 2016
It’s that time of year when high school graduates are preparing to embark on the next milestone in their lives: college. As an 18-year-old, going off on your own and moving out of your parents’ house can be exciting, but it comes with many challenges. It’s a journey that is going to determine your future and your career — something that’s very scary to think about. Many who head off to college have no clue what they want to do professionally, which is totally okay. That was me in 2011. I was off at school with no idea what I wanted to do with my career, no idea what I wanted to study or major in.
I’m going to take a page out of the Mamba’s book and give 18-year-old Jordan tips on life after high school in preparation for the real world — and that first job.
Take chances. Personally, I think this is the most important thing you can do to prepare for the professional world, especially if you don’t know what to do. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Take risks and chances by enrolling in classes in different areas of study and by experimenting in different fields. People, especially your family, will tell you that you should study this or that. Don’t listen and be yourself. The only way to discover what you want to do for the rest of your life is to try things. It doesn’t matter what other people want — you are the one who is going to go off to work in four years and love what you do every day.
Network. This is another crucial part of becoming a young professional, and something not all high school graduates might be familiar with. Expanding your network leads to strong professional relationships and jobs. There is no better place to start networking than on a college campus. You are surrounded by academics, who are experts in their respective field and have a desire to help students be successful in the professional world. This is a great place to start, but not the only place to go. Go to events and club meetings in fields you are interested to meet new people. Remember, and I know it’s cliché, but it’s all about who you know.
Develop relationships. Yes, the friends you grew up with will always have a special place in your heart, but the people you meet from all over the country — from all over the world in some cases — will be lifelong friends from college on. This is the time you can cast a wider net, and instead of just knowing people from your hometown, you can diversify your circle and have friends across the world in four years. People that you can call up to go visit as you travel to familiar and unfamiliar places. Make yourself vulnerable and don’t be afraid to open up, it will just make the journey so much more enjoyable.
Experience matters. It’s never too early to start preparing for that first job — and don’t think you can coast through the next four years without one. Set up informational interviews to help you get an internship right away. I can’t stress the importance of this. Build that resume to help you stand out in four years when the job market is tough and the candidate pool is competitive. Get in with companies that interest you, because those experiences will prove to be valuable once you graduate and are going through the interview process.
That’s what I would’ve told my 18-year-old self in 2011. When I look back, those are things that I may or may not have known and done, but are utterly important in making it in the professional world.