The knowledge you learn in school is definitely useful, but it doesn’t always prepare you for the obstacles you’ll encounter while on the job. No amount of education is a substitute for work experience. Soak up as much knowledge and experience as possible. Schedule one-on-ones with your managers and peers, embrace informal communication channels and always ask questions. If you approach a job with the notion that you already know everything, you likely won’t succeed.
Interviews and internships aren’t one-sided
When you meet with a potential hiring manager or future colleagues, remember that you are interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you. The questions you ask your interviewer may even matter more than the questions asked of you. At its core, an interview is an opportunity for you to determine if a company and its employees align with your interests and future goals. Moreover, internships can serve as extended interviews of sorts. Your supervisor will evaluate your performance and, in parallel, you’ll get a taste of what life at the office is like. Use this time wisely. Ask questions, introduce yourself to people in different departments and embrace the company’s culture. At the end of your internship, you should be able to answer these two questions confidently:
- Can I succeed and grow here, and will I be happy doing so?
- Can I add true value here and contribute meaningfully to the organization and its mission?
Take more risks; make mistakes
Failure is not a requirement for success, but it’s often the path most travelled. College students tend to play it safe; I know I did. New graduates often accept the first internship or full-time role they’re offered. In a lot of ways, the fear of failure takes over, but this reflex is flawed. Fear shouldn’t be something you actively avoid, but rather something you tackle at face value. Looking back, the decisions that frightened me the most ultimately proved to be the most rewarding.
Mistakes will be made; in most cases, they’re unavoidable. Most great leaders have experienced their fair share of blunders. So, take risks and recognize that failure is more often than not the foundation of success. You may initially choose one path or career for yourself, but discover later in life that it’s not meant for you. It’s important to recognize that you’re allowed to change your mind. Be honest with yourself about the worst thing that can happen, accept it, then jump.
Time is your single most precious resource
The last lesson may be the most obvious, if not the most critical. Time is on your side, but it is finite. So, use it wisely. Be sure to wake up early. Hitting the snooze button is the first failure of the day for most people. I know it sounds simple, but having just one to two hours of extra time each morning can skyrocket productivity over the course of a year — or a lifetime. As you grow older, you’ll find that time becomes scarcer with each passing moment. That’s precisely why it is your most valuable asset. In the end, it is your choicehow you allocate this (free) resource. You can use it to learn a new language, volunteer or hone a business skill. It goes without saying that the biggest mistake you can make is to simply waste it.