3 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Graduated College

College was fun! I got good grades, did a few internships and had a social life outside of studying. You probably heard that your experience is what you make of it and let me tell you – it’s true. I wasn’t the “come to class then go home” kind of student, so learned a lot beyond the classroom. I attended career workshops, networking events and pretty much did my best to make the most out of it.

Still, college didn’t prepare me for the real world. My introduction to the real world was brutal. I was scrambling to land a job after the company I thought I’d work for withdrew their offer. And I had to figure out ways to make money while waiting to hear from employers. I vividly remember this stage. It was a rough rite of passage.

Eventually, I realized what made this transition so stressful. There are things I know now that would have made it easier, had I known that then. I wish someone would have pulled me aside and told me everything I needed to know before graduating. Since that’s not how life works, I can only reflect on these lessons and share them with you.

There’s no better time to start something

Especially at the beginning, when things aren’t too intense yet. Most people spend their freshman and sophomore years figuring out what they want and taking general ed classes. It’s the best time to pursue a passion alongside doing schoolwork!

Some students have to juggle homework, internships and odd jobs throughout their undergrad years, which gives them less time to pursue other interests. If you happen to not NEED to work when you’re in college, you’re in the best position to start something – anything. A business, a side hustle; any outlet to express your curiosity. Chances are, you don’t have a lot of responsibilities (mortgage, children, student loans) to worry about then, so you can take risks and not face dire consequences. It’s a unique opportunity to test some ideas and see how that pans out. If it’s successful, it will also create a job for you when you graduate.

I wish I started my freelance writing business in college. I regret not launching my blog sooner or offering to do pro bono work until I built a portfolio. So if you have time (actually, make time), invest in the pursuit of a passion and you’d be surprised where it can take you.

Grades aren’t everything

I used to stress every exam because I didn’t want anything less than an A. I put so much pressure on myself to achieve the very best that I became very familiar with sleepless nights and coffee-fueled cramming sessions. It’s not a bad attitude, but it can take a toll on your health if you don’t watch out for that. I’m not saying you should get by with minimal effort and procrastinate until the last minute, but remember not to kill yourself over an imperfect GPA. You should always strive for excellence, but only when it doesn’t come to the expense of your health (physical, mental and emotional).

In reality, grades only matter if you plan on going to grad school and have to live up to your target university’s standard. Otherwise, you just need to do your best! Had I known this, I wouldn’t have stressed so much like I did over a B in organic chem and even a C+ in microeconomics (yeah, not my forte). Your GPA doesn’t in any way indicate the levels of success you’ll achieve. There’s a growing trend of not including it in resumes because employers don’t care so much about it anymore. So just remember that next time you feel like the world is falling apart because of an exam.

You don’t need to have it all figured out

A lot of us dread the, “What’s next?” question that comes with the prospect of graduation. It’s probably because we feel like we need to have an answer. If you have a plan and things are going your way, more power to ya! But if like most recent grads you don’t have a clear idea, don’t you worry. I can tell you for a fact that you’ll learn the most from not over-planning and being open to detours. I didn’t know what I would do after the company withdrew their offer. I figured I’d just find another job and work. Had that not happened, I wouldn’t have learned how to brand myself professionally and hustle. These are skills that will serve me throughout the rest of my life.

Post-grad life can be intimidating. You have all this free time and you might feel overwhelmed at times. But you will figure it out. Embrace the changes and welcome the lessons! It won’t be easy, but you will look back and want to do it all over again. It’s a worthy part of the growth process.

Your turn! What do you wish you knew before graduating college? Share them with me in the comments!

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How to Leverage Your Side Hustles and Advance in Your Career

Your side hustles – At best, they give you the chance to explore an interest, develop a skill and earn some additional income. At best (that’s right, I can’t think of a single downside to having one), they make you more marketable and help you score more gigs.
You’ll hear that nowadays everyone has a blog or some sort of passion project. Someone once told me it doesn’t make you competitive anymore since everyone else does it. While it’s true that most millennials have some sort of side project, that doesn’t mean they can’t set you apart from others. The question is, how can you use them to get ahead?
 
Most people tend to keep their side hustles secret. They’ll never make it on their resume or LinkedIn profile. It’s a mistake. Your personal projects are just as relevant to your career as your primary job. Here’s how you can leverage them to achieve your professional goals:

If you want to land more gigs

Perfect your craft then sell your services
 
Consider your existing skill set and think about ways to upgrade it. You can monetize everything you know these days. You just need to make yourself an expert first. If you write poems, maybe you can learn how to write copy for websites and products as well? If you play guitar, perhaps you can learn how to write songs and perform your pieces at open mics? Perfect your already existing talents then figure out how to take them to the next step. Tackle a new area of knowledge and apply yourself to learning. Wouldn’t a marketer be more competitive if they knew how to design websites too?
Once you turn yourself into an expert, create something. Build an app or a website if you learned how to code. Launch a blog to showcase your writing, YouTube channel for your shooting and editing skills. Let your online portfolio speak for itself. Once you reach a certain level of success, you can make more money from your project itself or by selling your services (usually the easiest way to go). Include our side hustles on your resume, post ads on Craigslist, promote your work to your network and send cold emails.

If you want to get a promotion and/or a raise

Prove your value with numbers
If your side hustle aligns with your job, it makes sense to documents the milestones you reach from doing it. I once worked for a food brand doing community management. After reaching the goals my boss and I had set when I was first hired, I tried to position myself to ask for a promotion. Since I have a side hustle (fashion storytelling) that was directly related to my job, I documented the growth of my personal pages and put down the numbers in paper. I turned them into an easy-to-read file and presented them to my boss when I was making my case. It not only helped that I had exceeded the goals and delivered a great performance, but my boss was also impressed that I was able to do the same thing on my own. Doing this won’t necessarily guaranteed you’ll get a raise (as that depends on many factors that are sometimes outside of our control), but it will definitely put you on their radar when the opportunity arises.
Make a new proposal
As part of my argument to get the raise, I drafted a proposal detailing the things I could accomplish for the brand within a time frame. Since I had increased my Instagram engagement in a few weeks for my personal brand, I suggested doing the same thing for the company. One of the bullet points read, “Gain over 100 followers per week and double the engagement in a month”. I was confident in my ability to deliver and since that matched their expectations, I was given the benefit of the doubt.

To continue your education and move up the ladder 

Seek every opportunity to learn 
“I’m done learning now” – said no one ever (or should no one ever say). No matter where you are in life, your education should never end. It’s part of what keeps you competitive and helps you make better decisions. If you’re employed, try to get your company to sponsor some classes or provide tuition reimbursement. Even if you can’t get these benefits, make that investment in yourself. It can be the difference between you becoming a manager in a short amount of time as opposed to 4-5 years.
If you’re still hesitant to start a side hustle, ask yourself What is there to lose? Don’t miss out on a great opportunity to pursue a passion, make money, advance in your career and become more fulfilled.
Your turn! Do you already have side hustles? What are they and how have they helped you in your life and career?

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