University students are often bombarded with all sorts of advice. Most of it’s well-meaning. Some of it’s pretty bad. Either way, the platitudes sometimes seem to crowd out the of advice that university students probably don’t hear enough.
Here are the great pieces of advice that university students rarely hear:
Be smart about your internet presence
The words “personal brand” might sound a bit intense to many university students. After all, you’re just an undergrad. Why worry about that? But in this digital age, cultivating an online presence is more important than ever.
That means you should avoid posting stupid stuff that could scare off potential employers or even wreck your life. It also means being proactive and establishing a professional presence early in your career.
“A common misconception among millennials is that you only need a personal brand when you are in desperate need of a job,” Tai Tran, a former Apple content lead who made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, authored the upcoming book “Zero to Infinity,” and spoke at TEDx on personal branding, tells Business Insider. “By that time, it is too late.”
“Having a personal brand is less about helping you land a job today, but more about setting you up for discovery and be top of mind with interesting people, including potential mentors, investors, and employers,” Tran says.
Take a finance module or two
At many universities, students are encouraged to branch out in their coursework and explore academic pursuits beyond their focus or major.
However, now’s the time to explore certain courses that won’t necessarily be available to you post-university. That means looking into subjects like computer science, finance, and accounting.
“Take at least one accounting and finance class,” Kevin LaVelle, founder of menswear brand Mizzen+Main, tells Business Insider. “Yes, it’s boring; but it’s also the language of business.”
“Even if you never do accounting again, take advantage of the opportunity to have experts teach you how to read financials statements so you are a better employee, team member, boss, or entrepreneur,” LaVelle says. “Not only will these classes help you in your career, but they will give you a roadmap for your personal life post-university as well.”
Stick with things
“You know that life’s too short to do work that you don’t enjoy,” Tien Tzuo, CEO and founder of financial service startup Zuora, tells Business Insider. “Having grown up with so much choice, you’re used to trying this and trying that.”
But, even though university is all about trying on different hats, don’t toss away good opportunities just for the sake of novelty-seeking. Consider your reasons for moving from different activities or opportunities before you pull the trigger.
Don’t apply to a ton of internships
If you’re trying to hit a target on a dart board, you’re better off throwing a handful of darts, instead of just one, right? That way, you’ll have more opportunities to succeed.
Well, not really. Holding onto all those darts might just make your throw awkward and your aim less accurate. You’d actually just be better off doing things properly and throw just one, well-aimed dart.
The same mentality goes for internship and part-time job applications.
“Don’t just spray and pray when applying to jobs — put in the extra work or go outside of your comfort zone to get noticed,” Eyal Grayevsky, CEO and co-founder of AI recruiting startup Mya Systems, Inc, tells Business Insider. “Do something bold to separate you from the pack, like cold calling the hiring manager or sending a personal note to the recruiter.”
Do some extra reading
Most university students are so swamped with assignments and reading that adding a few books to the pile sounds pretty awful.
But putting away one extra title a month is a great way of expanding your knowledge and your world — even beyond the classes you’re enrolled in.
“It will help expand your horizons and help you achieve more down the road,” Eric Yuan, CEO and founder of web conference service Zoom, tells Business Insider.
Adjust your schedule around when YOU are the most productive and creative
While most people would advise you to do your work first thing after class, in the end, you know what’s best for you. “If you’re nocturnal and do your best work late at night, embrace that. It may be the only time in your life when you can,” writes former MIT admissions counselor Ben Jones in blog post, which is referenced in the Quora thread.
Even if you feel like you’re most productive the hour before your assignment is due, embrace it. You don’t need to listen to others when they tell you to be more organised or plan better. Different things work for different people. —Daniel Wetterstrom
Call your parents more
Whether you’ve moved an ocean away or are living at home and commuting to your campus, university definitely changes your relationship with your parents.
That means it’s time to focus on those transitioning relationships.
“Believe me when I say that you’re actually going become friends with your parents,” Scanlan says. “Take the time that you are in school to begin building that adult child-parent relationship — they will be your best resources, biggest fans, and always provide an ear for when you need to vent.”
Don’t let well-meaning people get in the way of your interests
It’s a great idea to gain work experience in university through part-time jobs, volunteering gigs, or internships. Trying out work opportunities that you’re entirely sure about is also a good strategy — you’ll never know what you’ll come to love.
But don’t let external forces push you into gigs that you’re truly not interested in. Your family, friends, and mentor may think they’re being helpful, but you’ll just end up wasting time that you could have spent discovering what you truly want to do.
“Don’t put yourself in a box and settle for something you may have previously enjoyed,” Alex Pollak, CEO and founder of medical service startup Paradocs, tells Business Insider. “As you get older, your interests and values may change, and it’s never too late to make a switch.”
Most of all, university should be a time to try out different options.
Connect with your professors
Professors aren’t just there to hand out grades. They can be valuable additions to your network, too.
“Some of your professors in university have worked in the industries they’re teaching about, especially if you’re at a trade school,” Gina Argento, CEO and president of production company Broadway Stages, tells Business Insider. “Therefore maintaining a relationship with them can be incredibly beneficial when you’re entering the workforce. Professors can help connect you to companies, be used as referrals, and always give great advice.”
You deserve to be there. Stay confident.
Starting university is challenging. The first few months of core modules are difficult and exhausting, and your classmates are highly talented and driven people. It can all be very intimidating and discouraging, but you wouldn’t be there if they didn’t think you were capable.
There will be modules and activities that come easy for you and those that present a big challenge. Find opportunities to show your strengths and ask for help in areas of weakness. Participate in class, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Take advantage of this time to become the most amazing version of yourself
You can think of university as an incubation period, where you can develop your skills and character. You are likely never going to have as many resources, like-minded peers, free hours, and opportunities as you do in university again — so use them wisely.