Summer is here. We all take a deep breath and dream about our upcoming vacation plans and weekend getaways. Kids are trading their backpacks for their summer camp bags, and college students are packing up their dorms and heading home. It is a nostalgic time for us “grown-ups” as we long for those simpler days that we might have once taken for granted. But college students and recent grads should know one thing as they begin to take their journeys into the full-time work force: No matter what path you take, just because your school careers are over, you should never stop learning, networking, and giving.
As marketing and PR professionals, we know the importance of this statement. If we are lucky enough to find employers who value the work/life balance, there will always be time to take those vacations, cut out of work early for the weekend to hit the beach, and catch up with friends over happy hour. And it is easy to become complacent and happy with these fun activities when you have it so good. No one will tell us to do otherwise. It is up to us to motivate ourselves to excel.
1. Never Stop Learning.
As a recent grad, you are going to feel that big relief when you close those textbooks for the last time. You might exclaim: “I will never have to take a test again!!”And that mentality might last you a few years. But then you might get that itch to learn something new, or brush up on an old skill. Follow through with that urge. If you are in an environment which celebrates growth and creativity then take the initiative and approach your supervisor with a new idea which you feel you could excel in. It is a win/win for both the business and you. If you are not so fortunate, take it upon yourself. Enroll in free seminars after hours or sign up for classes online. Never stop learning. Your mind and the skills you learn are your best accessories.
2. Never Stop Networking.
Any recent college grad will tell you about the networking events he or she attended during college. Students were selling themselves for that internship or job, and it was quite scary at times. I cannot stress enough the power of taking those skills and continuing to network in your post-grad world as well. As professionals, for some, networking might still be an intimidating practice. Push yourselves beyond your comfort level. I recently attended a networking event called “Show & Tell” hosted by the Philadelphia Area New Media Association (PANMA). The room was filled with social media, programming and design professionals, from every age group. Each presenter was given 6 minutes to speak about their expertise, and at the end, presenters and the audience could mingle and ask questions. It was really inspiring to hear the passion the presenters had for their work, and equally as warm seeing the respect everyone had for one another. That same night I jumped over to a friend’s event, where she sits on the board of a local nonprofit who utilizes the arts to better the community. We walked into the event just as children from an underserved community were performing a string ensemble of The Beatles, “Hey Jude.” It was magical. Afterwards, everyone was talking about the performance, the young students were mingling with donors, board members and staff, and I thought: How special it is that these students are learning the art of networking at such a young age. In one night, I saw the power of networking from two completely different playing fields, and those skills will be relevant throughout your entire life, both personally and professionally.
3. Never Stop Giving.
We are very fortunate to work with some of the greatest nonprofit organizations in the world. We work on their behalves to ensure that their Public Service Announcements and campaigns are seen throughout broadcast, digital and social media. It has taught us the power of giving. Take everything you have learned from the above two points, and find some time to give back to an organization that could use your help. In college, we are often required to volunteer our time, to fill credits for graduation. It teaches us how valuable our time can be, and how valuable our knowledge can be to those who need our help. As our skills grow, our volunteerism should grow alongside. It will enrich your life both personally and professionally.
SO, if I could tell my 20 year old self anything, it would be those three points. Learn something new and brush up on old skills – or you might lose them. Network and learn from others in your industry – it will open your eyes and continue to motivate you. And lastly, never stop giving – there are always people and organizations who could use your expertise!