Things I Learned from College Outside the Classroom


This. Right Here. Is The. Cloud

I think the reason some people feel frustrated (and by “some people” I of course mean me) with post-graduate life is that we somehow are all under the impression that once we get our degree, the hard times are over.

And by hard times, I of course mean hard work.

And being broke.

I swear to goodness, in my fantasy world I half-expected my degree to come with a notice from the post office telling me to pick up my bag of money from behind the counter.

I sometimes get frustrated with my post-graduate life because I see my friends who didn’t go to college and they have four more years’ worth of work on their resumes and in their bank accounts.

They have already faced down all the issues that keep cropping up with me as I enter adulthood, from finding places to live that are affordable, comfortable and not in a scary and smelly neighborhood to reaching the literal end of the road with your pre-graduation clunker car, and all the implications that go along with getting a replacement one quick (like that full-coverage monthly insurance price tag that comes along with leasing a car), to buying things like a bed for sleeping and chairs for sitting and various shelves, tables and dressers for putting (stuff on).

Graduating from college is a rough transition both emotionally and financially, but I do think that the act of graduating college has prepared us for great success.

Here are some distinct advantages that I think our generation of grads have over people who are further in their careers or opted to skip college altogether to enter into the workforce:

1) “The Cloud.”

Oh, you know. All that social media/google buzz/PUSH phones/Google Docs, etc.
If you’re like me, in college you used all of this stuff to distract you from doing your homework until the veeeerrrrrrryyy last second. Post-graduation though, I find that all of the time I spent creating Facebook groups and tweeting things I’m interested about translates to the new PR and there are high-paying jobs in this field. It’s crazy, because I was told throughout my whole college career that I would either be underpaid or unemployed post-graduation, only to come out and find that these social media manager/online content management positions exist and are hiring and pay well.
While members of the previous generation’s workforce are playing catchup, we can now use all of our self-absorbed hobbies that we were partaking in at 3 a.m. when that paper was due as resume experience to land that job.

On the flip side, I think what “the cloud” says to employers is that we are not your 9 to 5 workers; we came to do a job and we will do that job until it’s done no matter where in the world we are. Our jobs are no longer chained to offices, and neither are we. We are always connected, and our bosses know that if they email us at 9 p.m. that email will come to our smart phones and we will either answer in minutes or get it and tell them the next morning we were asleep. But either way, we are reachable and ready to work as the work needs to be done, rather than strictly from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

2) The College Work Ethic

Now, I seem to remember hearing of some kind of college culture where people drink and party and b.s. and graduate in four years and get a job….but I haven’t been able to find it. Oh, I know people who have drunk and partied throughout college…but they have also held down jobs, internships, leadership roles in student organizations, performed community service and completed all of their coursework. Our generation of post grads doesn’t sleep–we work. And we party. But we work.

I was reading this book called “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell and he was talking about the factors of extremely successful people. Among the factors, he named work as one of the leading contributors. He said there’s no way to be an expert at anything without putting in your 10,000 hours’ worth of work in it. Musical virtuosos may start out with a slight natural talent edge over their peers, but after that it’s practice that takes over and they end up phenomenal because they spend every waking hour of every day working toward being phenomenal.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to college 2K10. We work. And after graduation, I believe those habits of constant work give us an advantage over the people whose mindsets are set in the 9-5 workday/come home and relax, frame.

Now I’m not saying you should work yourself to death at all, but if you want to break into your career and be successful in it (especially just starting out) you are going to have to take on projects, build your portfolio, attend networking events, invest in the little things like domain names and business cards–you can’t “get off work” once you leave your building. And as iGen college students who are completely used to balancing an insane amount of tasks, it’s pretty much ingrained into our core that 8 hours of work out of a 24-hour day is pretty unproductive.

And last but not least, #3: Dealing With People You Can’t Get Away From

My university has about 25,000 students attending, but you would be surprised how small that is when you’re speaking in terms of people who rub you the wrong way who you see constantly. Whether you hang with the same people, have the same major, are in the same student organizations or like the same restaurants, you will run into these mofos again and again. There is no “Ah well, I’ll never see them again anyway” in college. There is only “Ohh, you again…and again…and again,” until it eventually becomes “Oh…so…you know someone who could hand my resume directly to the hiring manager of that company huh?”

 You learn to play nice, because the moment you walk across that stage they go from being the person who was always whining about their guy problems to the one who may have a contact you need. And if you are smart and nice, reaching out to your personal network from college will get you all manner of things far sooner than going out and getting those things the old-fashioned way. Don’t. Burn. Bridges.


…and that’s why I think that the lessons you learn in college extend so far beyond your degree that even though post grad life might be rough at first, you can still feel really good about your degree and what it means for your life and career.

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7 responses to “Things I Learned from College Outside the Classroom

  1. I completely understand the post-graduation frustration. I wish I could ‘hurry up’ and escape from this phase, but of course sometimes these things don’t happen magically as much as we wished they could. I agree though, we’re perfectly equipped with the tools we need to be successful. No matter how frustrating and emotionally draining the whole process can be the effort is bound to pay off.

  2. These are some great lessons to be learned. Can I mention how annoying I find the new Microsoft “Cloud” commercials? Yeah…they’re annoying. I graduated from undergrad in 2003. I did some post-grad work, but am about a chapter away from earning my masters. It is now 2010, and I have FINALLY found a job in my field. And it’s not for lack of trying…yeah, life after school is no cakewalk.

    • Oh gosh…yeah…the whole cloud thing is…confusing. But it’s my industry so I embrace it. I hope to start on my master’s soon. Yeah….post grad life…it definitely doesn’t involve picking up bags of money from the post office lol

  3. Another great post. I think you’re onto something with the idea that the standard 9 to 5 is going the way of the dinosaur. That isn’t to say I think there will never be a place for it. Its just that in this multi-tasking Amp/Red Bull fueled world we are now living in, our schedules are changing to suit us not necessarily a corporations. Also with women completing college a lot faster and at a higher rate then their male counterparts the shift from the rigid doctrine of the ol boys network to a new model is definitely starting to show.

  4. Pingback: The Complaints of the Blessed | Bryoneyh's Blog

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