The final weeks of my university came up so fast. All of a sudden I had been at university for 3 years; made a lot of friends, absorbed a whole lot about marketing and communications from my lecturers and made the most of opportunities that were available to me as a student. I became the president of the communications club for my final year and through that I gained a lot of experience in organising events and gained insights into the working world of communications careers.
It is quite a daunting thought to know that the way of living you have known for a significant portion of your life is now over and life as you know it will change forever! The end of an era! In saying that it is also extremely exciting; like beginning a new adventure.
Looking back at my time at university I am grateful to all those in my life that helped me gain as much as possible from my studies. Lecturers, my bosses and workmates, industry professionals, and classmates all offered their own advice or assistance and were part of my journey being a student which helped me to make the most of the opportunities that were around – even if I didn’t see them as opportunities initially. Meeting such a variety of people who all have different ways of studying, opinions on subjects and levels of academic learning gave me amazing insights into how people work and what works for me. During this time I learnt an incredible amount about myself, my abilities and the potential I have. By studying I learned different skills including time management, working with a variety of people, expectations from others in all different aspects of my life and how to create a good work life balance. I found it very important especially as the assignments were bigger and worth more that I set aside “me” time, where I could just watch a movie or go out to dinner with friends and not feel guilty for not using that time to study. I am the kind of person who likes to say “yes” often. Yes I can run that club, yes I can manage that sports team, yes I can work part time, yes I can study full time, yes I can look after children and pets, yes I can fit in time with my friends. So many YES’s that it took me a while (and someone blatantly telling me) to realise that it is okay and sometimes preferable for both parties to say NO!
In reflection the main learning’s I have from my university days (at this stage) are:
1. Work/life/study balance is extremely important. Make the time to spend with your friends and family/pets without distractions, when you study – make sure it is effective; minimise procrastination. Work when you can and learn as much as you can from your workmates – they will help you when it comes to the real world and working full time – whether it’s simply as a referee on your CV or networking to get you a job, or making suggestions on how you could use your degree and work experience to create a career – other people see and think very differently so always be open to hearing their thoughts.
2. Take as many opportunities as you can (without overloading yourself). Being a student is a huge advantage when it comes to opportunities and networking. People love to help you when you are showing initiative and helping yourself. The more events you can attend, clubs you can be part of, and people you can meet the better off you are – these people all have knowledge and wisdom that could help you in any aspect of your life in the future so be sure to build networks and keep in contact – don’t burn any bridges! Even you fellow classmates could be in a position that could be beneficial to your family or career in the future so keep your options open. My mum always said ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ and the older I get the more I realise that is completely true! So network your heart out – practice and learn how to do it well, it will put you in good stead for the rest of your life!
3. Become friendly with your lecturers and tutors. As well as building them into your network, this is helpful during your years at uni, as I mentioned earlier – people are happy to help when they see you are helping yourself. If you show you are trying and interested in the paper then lecturers and most tutors will go above and beyond to help you when you ask. If you never come to class and are always late handing in assignments there is a very minimal chance you will get a grace period, even if your car really did “break down” on the day of your presentation. I was lucky enough to get extensions on a few assignments because I knew the lecturers well and was attending events that were assisting my studies and benefiting my career possibilities. The lecturers wouldn’t have thought twice about giving me a fail if I hadn’t been an “active participant” in my own learning. (I’ve seen it happen to others who don’t care and are of the mindset that ‘C’s get degree’s”. Well they may get a degree but they won’t help you get a good job, or a career!
4. Take risks – put yourself in situations that normally would scare you – you never know what you may achieve from it. Of course I mean this in a safe learning environment! For example as an elective paper I took ‘Public Speaking and Professional Speech writing’. I get nervous when I talk in front of people – whether I know them or not, so this was a challenge for me. However, I knew a lot of the other people in the class were feeling the same and I figured that it would be a good way to learn techniques of how to prepare speeches effectively, and deal with nerves in a tough environment so when it came to doing it in a job (for example if I needed to pitch to a client) I would have these skills to call upon. Interestingly enough I found this paper was helpful in preparing for interviews and talking to the interviewer as it is somewhat a practiced speech, just occasionally the questions are worded differently. This speech class also made me feel more comfortable and in control when I was cold calling companies to organise trips for my club and when I had to speak at our AGM and other events.
5. Grammar is key. This not only helps you get better marks in your assignments, but also makes you look professional in other areas of your life. It definitely improves the chances of your CV being considered when applying for jobs too. Spelling is a personal pet hate of mine and I happen to notice it everywhere – on websites, even in books I read (which I thought had their own editor + computers these days have spell checkers!), the worst is from schools of education though – you think that if they are going to teach you then they would at least be able to spell properly! I can’t understand how someone can grade you on grammar and spelling when their own instructions have errors in it… Writing, grammar and spelling – learn how to do it well was the advice I received from every communications professional I visited throughout my time with MCSA. So take the time to edit and proof-read, you will be surprised at how much you notice after even just an hour of not working on an assignment and for this reason…
6. Be prepared – start assignments early. As early as you can write a mind map (brainstorm), do your first draft, second draft, third draft and final draft. Then take a look at the difference in quality between your first and final pieces – you will see the effort that went in pays off in the end. Also pay attention to the marking schedule – lecturers use this as a guide, so to ensure you are answering the right questions use this as your guide. Trust me it makes a huge difference and the lecturers will notice, both if you have or haven’t used it.
To conclude – finishing university is bittersweet. I am no longer a “poor” uni student, however, with that I now have a much stricter daily schedule and less “holidays”. I enjoyed my time being a university student and all the experiences and friends/networks I built during my time studying. I am also extremely excited as my hard work for the last 3.5 years paid off; the piece of paper telling me I had completed my degree and could now apply to graduate (and the one saying I had been accepted to graduate) came in the mail – so it’s official, I have a degree!! I also got offered a full-time permanent job which I start on Monday – the first step in my career and the beginning of a new chapter in my life. So while I am going to miss the lifestyle of a student, I am looking forward to being a “grown up” in the real workforce.
I hope that my advice helps, and I would love to hear if you have any of your own to add!