The opportunity to go to university and study a course that, hopefully, interests and stimulates you is a wonderful experience. You are surrounded by thousands of intelligent people most of whom are at the same stage of life in an environment entirely devoted to learning, creativity and the life of the mind.
No matter how rich and interesting the subsequent career you go on to is, your university experience is an unrepeatable opportunity for broad, intellectual growth. Experts from Career Junction weigh in on how you can make the most from your time at varsity.
Realise your opportunity
Nobody is denying you the right to let your hair down once in a while, but let parties be earned rewards for hard work rather than your main focus. In the end, it will be more satisfying to look back on your university years as a profound stage of intellectual and personal growth with some well rewarded fun thrown into the bargain, rather than an endless haze of parties and skimming through assessments by the skin of your teeth.
Part of recognising your university years as the wonderful opportunity it is and maximising its potential as the bedrock of a rewarding future career is your being pro-active. Seek out opportunities to discover where your potential path may lie. Take full advantage of university facilities with this in mind. Career guidance courses, discussions with your professors, internship facilities. You may never again have the same opportunity for experimentation, so seize it with both hands.
Don’t stop trying
Try things, fail at them, dust yourself off and try again. This is the privilege of youth, and indeed, the young at heart. Fully invest in the idea of a beginner´s mind set with all the curiosity and freedom that that entails. Ask yourself again what would you prefer? To graduate university having already explored who you are as a person and where your talents lie or have been a passenger who merely ticked the boxes.
Your classmates are future leaders in their fields. Treat them well. Learn their names. No, you don´t have to be friends with everyone and trying to be would be a mistake. But learn their names, leverage those relationships, learn to be pf value to them, too and always be considerate and polite. In years to come people may forget your name but they won´t forget how you made them feel.
Likewise with your professors. Ask questions, tell them your doubts and ask them for career advice if you feel the moment is appropriate. Let them know who you are. All the time you are setting the foundations for your future network of contacts but you are doing it genuinely and living the university experience to the maximum.
We live in a digital age where our networking reach extends further than ever before. So use it. If you write a paper on block chain which mentions a company you admire send it to them. Yes, they may be too busy to read it but you have lost nothing. If they get do get back to you inquire about available internships.
It is estimated that 80% of jobs are never advertised, so begin seeking out opportunities to place yourself in that category of contactable future talent. Gently, diplomatically, determinedly.
Tread carefully on social media
It has been said many times before and it will be continued to be said. Be careful of your use of social media. We live in an age where Andy Warhol´s famous prediction that everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes has almost come true, and those fifteen minutes could leave lifelong traces.
The first step in developing a positive social media profile is accepting that you have one. To see where you currently stand, you can use a simple google search of your name. When you begin university sometimes graduating seems like a long time away and those Twitter posts of you using profanity and risqué “jokes” may not seem like such a big deal and, yeah, maybe they weren´t; however, first impressions last and it would be a shame for you to lose a great opportunity because of them.
Find a mentor
Whether this is a professor from university or someone working in the field you wish to enter, or has already done so, finding someone who is willing to advise you and to a certain extent take you under their wing can be one of the most transformative business relationships you will ever have. Of course it is not easy to foster such a connection, however, it is human nature to want to help others, and if approached with tact, you may be surprised by how open senior people in the field are to helping you.
Focus on your mindset
You may not be sure which career path you will take at this stage; however, one thing is for certain, to be successful at anything requires you to develop strength of character and resilience. Therefore work on your mental health and strength. When you find things difficult accept this and refuse to give up. Chances are you will work in a field which focuses primarily on your talents but everyone has to dig deep from time to time. So start now. View challenges as chances to grow and work on your character whether it be on the sports field, in your relationships or at work. Work on becoming the person you wish to be and forgive yourself when you don´t quite make it and keep on moving forward. Importantly, never be afraid to ask for help when you feel like you’re struggling. Depression affects many university-going students and help is available to give you the support you need. If you need to take a break, do just that. Your mental health must always be one of your priorities.
The opportunity to go to university provides you with the platform to make your dreams come through. So use it. Every last piece of it. Be determined, be tenacious, be hard working, dream big and work to make them a reality. Pursuing your goals and achieving them is incredibly fulfilling. But also know that it’s ok for you to change your mind and alter your journey along the way. Life is about evolving as learn more about yourself and the world around you.
By Amanda Ndlangisa