The Most Important Things to Do While You’re Still in School

The primary purpose of this blog is to offer up the sort of useful career advice I wish I’d gotten–or followed–when I was in college for the first time. I was a Grade A Generation X slacker while pursuing my B.A. Yes, I managed a 3.29 GPA in English Literature, but it could have been a lot better if I’d put more effort into the activity. More to the point, I gave almost no thought to what I would do with my life after college, and that was supposed to be what college was preparing me for, right?

Give some serious thought to what comes next

While I was in school, I had some vague notions about writing the Great American Science Fiction Novel (still haven’t done that), but no practical notion of how I’d actually earn a living or pay my bills. Don’t be that guy/gal. Have a plan for what sort of career you plan to have and what sort of life you plan to lead.

Find out what it takes to do what you want to do

Okay, so you’ve got a plan. You want to teach English in Japan for a few years. Or you want to write for the space industry. Or you want to write screenplays for Lucasfilm Ltd. Whatever it is, you have a notion of what you want to do. The next logical step is find out what employers in your chosen line of work expect you to be able to know or do when they hire you. Do the research. Talk to people who are doing what you want to be doing in five years and pick their brain. Do you have the necessary skills or knowledge? If not…

Do what it takes to do what you want to do

“Gap analysis” is something instructional designers do to identify what a given audience needs to learn to get from where they are now to where they need to be. Once you’ve done your own personal gap analysis of what it takes to get a job screenwriting or what have you, you need to start doing those things to make your plan a reality.

Along the way, you’ll be obtaining concrete experience, making contacts, increasing your skill set, and maybe creating some actual products that you can put into a portfolio so that when it comes time to interview for a job, you have something more to show off than your diploma. You’ll show that you have “the right stuff” to do the job you wish to do. That’s a lot better than winging it or taking whatever advice is imposed upon you.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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1 Response to The Most Important Things to Do While You’re Still in School

  1. Larry Kunz says:

    Good advice, Bart. For me the most important words in this post are Talk to people who are doing what you want to be doing. Today this is easier than ever. Many colleges and universities are happy to plug you in to a network of alumni who are willing to serve as mentors. Professional societies like STC are another source of contacts. Even LinkedIn can provide leads.

    Most professionals are happy to provide this kind of guidance to students. All you need to do is ask.

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