work experience, networking opportunities, millennials learning new skills
NO CATEGORY / 14 December 2016
Life and Work Experiences Your 22 year-old Self Will Thank You For
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Gina Apperson

No matter what direction you take after you graduate college, real life comes really fast. Take it from an almost-22-year-old graduate, after college you will face loan repayments, a new job, new experiences at work, budget meetings, busy schedules and exciting adventures—all things meant to challenge you and help you grow as a professional and adult. 

But college is the perfect time to get ahead in the game. Here’s how you can use your college experience to your advantage and your future self will thank you for it. 

1. Gain Financial Experience.

While not the most exciting thing to do in college, I’m going to be the mom in the group and let you know that paying off your loans early has huge benefits (saving lots of money on interest!). Because I didn’t have a job in college, I never made payments to my loans and didn’t think much about them until this summer after graduation. Now that the average student has $35,000 in debt, your 22-year-old self will praise you if you even make small payments throughout your four years at school. Above all, learning about finances early can help you get ready for the workforce. 

2. Get REAL Experience.

No more coffee-delivery internships. In college, you need real experience that will get you ahead in your career. Employers love to see that candidates are capable and will bring truly measurable results to their business. In your job or internship search, be sure to research the company, talk to previous interns, and seek mentorship opportunities. Now that project-ships are becoming the new internships (that’s what ProSky is all about!), be sure to document your work and the projects you complete to show them to future employers in a unique and creative way (think stellar online portfolios, killer testimonials, and recommendations that wow!). There are many ways to gain real experience, and it all comes down to taking the initiative.

3. Ask questions!

Learn from my mistakes, friends—asking questions and clarifying details is so important! During one of my first times working on a client project, I didn’t ask enough questions and I worked hours on a brochure that wasn’t exactly what was expected. While everything worked out, two years later I am always conscious of asking even the obvious questions to ensure the people I work for are satisfied. Learn this lesson early!

4. Traveling can increase your networking opportunities.

Did you know that travel and study abroad experiences can increase your job prospects? I’m thankful for the experience to study in Spain for a semester in college, as it gave me the opportunity to learn more about global citizenship, gain independence, add to resume and boost my Spanish skills that have come in handy for my job right now. As a study abroad advocate, I would say to take advantage of all the different travel opportunities your school has to offer you.

5. Learn to Network (even if you’re the youngest in the room!)

Get some business cards and go to networking events either hosted by your university or companies that interest you. Over the past year, I’ve been to several networking events where I was clearly the youngest in the room or very close to it. Don’t feel intimidated—rather learn to use this to your advantage to meet people who otherwise wouldn’t have met before. It does take practice, but I almost always leave with great advice, a couple new connections, and tips for furthering my career. Even if you’re an introvert like I am, get out of your comfort zone at much as you can when it comes to meeting people in your field and community.

6. Know technology and software programs.

No matter how “digitally native” we claim to be, we all have at least one thing we don’t know about computers, the Internet, etc. For me, it was Excel. I wish I would have learned to actually use Excel at college— it would have saved me so much time at my job, these first three months. That being said, make sure you know the basics and hone in on your skills in college before you enter the workforce. And if you have some time, it’s important to understand what software programs the industry you want to go into uses and learn them! 

Simply put, take advantage of your tome while in college. College life and post-grad life are very different. Looking back on my four years, I would say to first and foremost, have fun and build strong connections with the people around you. There isn’t another place where you have so many opportunities around you to learn from different people and make friendships that will last a lifetime. Focus on the friends around you. Try things you’ve never done before. Work hard and stay positive. College is a time to prep for the future; make sure you develop habits and learn new skills you want to carry on into your next stages of life - your 22-year-old self will salute you.