Graduation day is around the corner, and I know several college students who just cannot wait to be done with school! I remember those days, although they are further back for me than I can believe sometimes, and I know how exciting it is to be going out into the real world – to be able to earn a paycheck, to work for real clients and to produce campaigns that actually run in public mediums. I also remember quickly realizing how much more I had to learn in order to be successful at it in the real world.
I’ve been in the “real world” for 14 years now, and I think the most valuable piece of advice I could give to graduates would be to hold onto the good study habits gained in their academic careers. Not only is continuous education important to a successful career, but in some fields, it’s an ongoing requirement; and for those who look to climb the corporate ladder, consider each rung as books to be read, continuing education courses to be taken or conferences/workshops to attend. The more you know, the better you are able to serve your clients, your employer or your team, which makes you all the more valuable.
Another thing I have learned in my career is that things change quickly – technology advances, new inventions are deployed and different methods are adopted – and in order to stay on top of the trends in the industry, you have to study up on the new ways, figure out if they apply to your industry and possibly adjust your business practices to stay in the mainstream. I sometimes feel like I am doing this on a daily basis. As an account manager at a PR firm, I work for clients in multiple industries, so I’m always trying to stay on top of what’s happening/changing in those industries, as well as in our PR industry.
The good news is that the real world is full of stand-in professors – educators of all sorts ready to share advice, teach you tricks of the trade and guide you on the best paths toward furthering your career. You just have to approach them with an eagerness to learn and a willingness to listen to their advice. Learning from others and investigating the paths charted by leaders in the industry can be a great guide to success – once again, if you are willing to study it.
Also, the professional world is full of organizations and associations committed to specific fields and industries. Becoming a member and getting involved in those organizations helps in learning about new trends, gaining access to continuing education courses and connecting to others who can teach and inspire you in your career.
So, graduates, congratulations on completing your academic mission to this point! You are much more prepared for the professional world than those who didn’t pursue a collegiate degree. Just remember that your education has only just begun, look for opportunities to further your knowledge in your field or industry whenever you can, embrace advice and counsel from those ahead of you and commit to never being done with learning!