Tips for College Seniors: What I’ve Learned as a Recent Grad

Photo Credit: MLive

This past December I took the plunge from #CollegeLife to #GradLife. It was a crazy ride as it was hard to leave family and friends as I left for the Windy City. With that said, it was also one heck of a time. As I left Grand Rapids for Chicago, I was lucky enough to find an opportunity with an amazing agency. Here, I’ve faced new challenges each day; situations I never learned about in college, but ultimately situations that have made me better as a professional. The experiences I’ve gained so far as I’ve entered my profession have been invaluable and I hope to share with you a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Have you ever thought to yourself: damn – I wish I would have learned that in school? To be honest, these moments didn’t stop for me after I graduated. Unfortunately, our time spent in class didn’t teach us everything. But fortunately, there’s some things I thought I could share with you to get you prepared for after you walk across that stage.

Accuracy > Speed

The old saying holds true, the tortoise beats the hare. Sure, there’s deadlines you must meet, and appointments you must keep. However, one of the most important take-away’s I encountered was that work is not a race. This especially is held true when working on behalf of a client. Fresh out of college, I entered my new role wanting to impress by being that guy that got stuff done. I wanted to make a strong impression, and in doing so, I focused on finishing projects, accomplishing tasks, and responding to emails in a hastily manner. This turned to be one of my downfalls as I missed simple spelling errors, overlooked big picture objectives, and ultimately let my team make up for my mistakes that I had made. To accomplish the mission, I missed one of the most important things of my job: attention to detail.

Yes, we all want to be good at what we do and to work on the next big thing, but if you take one thing away from this article, I hope it’s this. Don’t sacrifice your accuracy for speed. In the long run, you’re making yourself look bad while forcing other people to carry your weight by correcting your mistakes.

Communication is Key

Unlike college, work didn’t give me an outline on how to get an A. In school, we had a syllabus with due dates, rubrics to complete a paper, and study guides to help with exams. While at work, there’s many people you can use as a resource to help you succeed. The hardest part is knowing that you can reach out to these people when you’re unsure what to do.

Being the new guy, there were times I wasn’t quite sure about how to complete a project or task that I was working on. Not wanting to be a bother to the rest of my team, I would just try to work out the issue on my own. Sometimes this worked, but often I found that I did my task completely wrong and was forced to go back and redo what I was working on.

I am not saying don’t challenge yourself to think independently. Instead, it’s important to know when to go to a senior member on your team for a little guidance or if you should ask your boss for clarification on what’s expected. Your team is your resource. Be open about when you’ll be able to accomplish a task, when you expect to return a project, and what you can and can’t handle capacity wise. If you’re open with your team, you’re setting both you and your co-workers up for success in the long run. Don’t be afraid to just ask, otherwise you’ll be spending the rest of the afternoon fixing your mistakes.

Work Can be Fun

Believe it or not, I enjoy going into the office every day! The people are amazing, the work is challenging but rewarding, and being in the city is an awesome experience. Although college was a great time, that doesn’t mean all the fun must end. When you’re searching for a new opportunity, be sure that you’re also looking for a place you want. When you go into an interview, it’s not just a one-way street. Be sure that you’re getting a sense of what the culture and the people are like. You’ll be working with everyone daily and if you don’t like who you’re going to be on a team with, it might not work out in the long run. Have fun and be yourself when looking to start a new gig cause’ the people you’re interviewing with might turn into some of your good friends later down the road.

With this advice, I wanted to say congratulations to the GVSU class of 2017. I’ve been in classes with many of you and I know I can expect great things from you as my peers. If you’re in Chicago, let me know – I’d love to hear about how your experience has been so far.

To the graduating class, what are somethings you’re looking forward to after you walk across the stage? Is there anything that you might be a little bit nervous about as well? Then to the recent Graduates, what are some of your tips that I might have missed?

Please leave any comments to help each other out!

This post was previously published on my personal LinkedIn.