By Colleen Callahan, iMedia Class of 2010
Alright, iMedia students (and college seniors). It’s the final stretch. You’re almost about to graduate, you’ve done your projects, papers, internships, and you’re almost ready to pursue whatever you’ve thought of for what’s next in your life. Your resume is in tip-top shape, listing skills you’ve acquired and programs you know.
I guarantee no matter how much you think you’re prepared for the workplace, you’re not as ready as you could be.
Don’t worry though, you’ll be fine! There are just still some things that you may not have learned in school that can be helpful in the workplace. You may have acquired these skills through internships or previous jobs, but after being at my job now for seven months, there are definitely things I wish I would have worked on between school and work. Here is a list, and feel free to brainstorm on your own. While they may seem menial, trust me, it will help.
1. How to work phones
If you get the chance to work on using a phone, you should definitely take advantage. Maybe this summer you can visit your parents’ workplace and bother your friends. Practice transferring, conferencing people in, using the hold feature, etc.
2. Do you really know how to use Microsoft Office?
This is something most graduates will put on their resume – “fluent in the Microsoft Office Suite.” But are you really? Do you know how to create graphs and program formulas in Excel? Schedule a meeting and look at others’ calendars in Outlook? Mail merge using Word? Utilize OneNote for organizational needs? If you do, congrats! But I definitely didn’t, and I have been tested on all of the above. Review the programs and their features. You’ll be happily surprised.
3. Work on explaining
With your job you’ll probably be on the phones often trying to explain something, or have to make a presentation. During school, you’re usually the student and have to retain the information. Sure there are formal presentations, but honestly, they probably don’t happen frequent enough to prepare you for the “real world.” It may sound silly, but practice explaining something in the news, how things work, or anything where you’ll be the teacher.
4. Learn how to make coffee
If you are coffee drinker, you’re probably set. I don’t, and thankfully I’ve never had to make coffee for anyone, but it definitely seems like something to practice just in case.
When you graduate from iMedia, or any college degree probably, all you can think about (or for my class, anyway) is the dream job; a job where you have fun, have a great team, do what you want to do on a daily basis, and get paid for it. You’ve learned new skill sets, so why not dream big?
I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, and at this point it’s probably not news, but you are highly unlikely to get a dream job right after graduation. Someday, sure–we generally have a lot of time in our lives to work toward fulfillment. After recent conversations I’ve had with some of my colleagues, I’ve realized the steps necessary to get to that dream job and make your first or current job more dreamish.
1. Try to get into your dream company
Maybe you’re the mail person, but if you’re in a company you love, you’ve at least got your foot in the door. I remember when I interned for FOX one of the senior publicists had started in the mailroom, and currently they work on primetime shows. Sure, you may have to swallow your pride a little bit, but as one of my coworkers said “when you have a good employee, you don’t let them go–you see where they best fit within the company.” So, work hard and be rewarded.
2. Try to get your dream position at any company
If you do this, you’ll at least have experience at the skills needed for your dream job. Maybe you want to be the social media manager for American Express? Well, maybe start off being a social media manager at a smaller agency or non-profit. Make and learn from your mistakes there, and if you want to pursue another company afterward, you’ve honed your craft.
3. Look for opportunities to branch and do what you want to do
When you first start a job, you’re probably given a list of things you need to accomplish and take care of. Once you learn how to do this, now what? Seek projects that don’t fall into your job description. For example, we recently had a large meeting at my company where people were meeting each other for the first time. My current job doesn’t entail me editing video, which I miss from time to time and learned in iMedia/Elon, so I saw an opportunity to make an opening video introducing a bit about ourselves to each other through visual means. It went over well, and now my coworkers have seen I can do video. Who knows where that could take me in the future?
4. Learn the power of delegation
Reach up to your managers, bosses, and coworkers. See what you can do for them that they may not otherwise give you. You’ll feel more productive and learn more, they can be more productive–it’s a great cycle.
I can’t believe it’s been a year since my Winter Term trip in 2010.
I too, like Meghan, visited Costa Rica, developed a project for the common good at EARTH University and learned about living “Pura Vida.” At this point last year, as I’m sure current iMedia students are realizing, I said to myself: “Oh. My. Gosh. I’m over halfway finished with this program!” It was both exciting and terrifying.
While it’s easy to get caught up in in the whirlwind of graduation and assignments, looking back there are certain things I wish I would’ve started developing and fine-tuning at this point. Without further ado, here’s what I recommend to iMedia students at the halfway point in preparation of the real world (and anyone else who wants to get ahead).
1. Focus Your Social Media Sites
In the iMedia program, we created a Twitter account, multiple blogs, a Delicious account and more. In the first semester, much of this was trial and error. We found our styles, fortes and which platforms we liked. Now, it’s time to go back and make it professional. Tailor it to the career you’d like–delete anything that doesn’t fit. Then continue on whatever path you set for yourself. I’ve just now started doing this (you can follow my Daily Music History tweets via @collcallahan) and realize I should have done this much earlier.
2. Incorporate Informational Interviews With Projects
One of the best assignments our professor, Janna Anderson, had us do last year included interviewing at least 4 professionals for a research paper. While most of us probably dreaded mustering up the courage to reach out to strangers, this is one of the best things students can do to prep for a career. Projects and papers give the perfect reason to reach out to a professional and ask for help and advice. Flatter them, and make a connection. Once you do this, develop a rapport and stay in touch with them till graduation. One of my peers from undergrad did this and landed a summer internship at NBC. You will need mentors and connections, and you might as well do it now.
3. Know What Matters to You
Last year, the best piece of advice I received from a professor was to prioritize. It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of classes and assignments. However think about it–which one will help you most directly in your career path and future? Which will go in your portfolio? Which will you talk about in an interview? Put forth your best effort in those assignments. I’m not saying don’t do your other work, but always keep in mind what will get you ahead and make you an expert in your field. This can also apply to undergrads, high schoolers, or anyone without enough time in the day.
Good luck, class of 2011, with your second semester. It will go by way too fast.