I like to consider myself something of a modern day Da Vinci.
I like to consider myself something of a modern day Da Vinci. I don’t mean this in a ‘genius inventor-artist-architect-who-knows-what-else’ sense. I mean it in the ‘took so long to decide on what to major in that I’ve changed minors five times’ sense.
And while the man himself might have been one of those crazy geniuses who ends up with 5 PhD’s by thirty (in my humble opinion, Bruce Banner really needed a hobby that wasn’t academia), I like to think he would have empathized with my struggle of being around the academic block.
In my time doing random minors I found interesting, work-study, research-assisting, and most recently, interning, I’ve discovered that a lot of what can go on a resume are the skills and experiences I’ve gained while being in uni. I’m not about to kill myself doing ten thousand things. Instead I’ve gotten very good at selling what hobbies and experience I do have.
So, if you’re just starting college and don’t have work experience, or are focused on your academics, or have a thousand hobbies but no clue how to make someone see the value in them, here’s my secret: Sell them like they’re the most valuable part of you.
Have you ever considered that everyone in college constantly practices project management? Each class is a huge project. You likely have several you need to balance, in addition to having a life.
Those projects need to be broken down into sub-projects, like homework or reading. They all have due dates and varying priority levels. A small forum post does not have the same weight on your grade as a midterm or paper. This, too, needs to be considered.
To make matters worse, some of those bigger sub-projects need to be divided further! You have to research for a paper. You have to write a first draft. Oh no, there’s a bibliography too? And then you have to edit it. And if your teacher really wants to hear students crying, there might even be a presentation attached to the end. You have two options, really. You can emu-stick your head into the ground and weep or you can emu-win the war with Australia. And that requires solid project management skills.
So, how do you do it? Planners? Calendars? Ten-thousand to-do lists? If you ever get asked, “Give us an example of project management”, you will be more than ready.
(Yes, I know. It’s popular culture ostriches who stick their head in the ground. They don’t do it in real life and neither do emus. It’s a metaphor. I’m trying to be funny here.)
Knowing to Reach Out For Help
Knowing when you need help, and seeking out others when you need help and not being ashamed to do so, are more valuable skills than you think. (And if you are ashamed, please don’t be. Office hours, career services, peer tutoring, and all the like are there for a reason).
Classes teach you how to think in certain ways. This applies to future STEM scientists, but also researchers (psychologists approach research differently than anthropologists, for example), and members of the humanities as well (How to analyze a text. How to summarize it. How to communicate ideas clearly and concisely.)
If you’re a freshman with rose-tinted glasses, hate to tell you, but you will probably dislike someone over your time in uni. A classmate, a teacher, maybe even your roommate. Navigating these instances is a valuable skill to have.
Specifically: navigate them by not making a public mess of it, unless unavoidable or your safety is in danger. As always, context matters! But usually you want to talk to the person in private, maybe with a mediator present to iron out your differences.
Conversely: How to be friendly! No one wants to work with a jerk. Even if you and your team aren’t best friends, you still want a good working rapport. Trust me, work culture matters for a reason. (And if you blank about what questions to ask interviewers, work culture is always a good go-to).
I know, what a slimy word. But it’s as simple as going to office hours and asking your teacher questions, and thus making a good impression. It’s even as simple as finding a good club you enjoy and making friends. In other words: not simple at all, but may come naturally as a result of being in university.
I’m blanking on more, but I’m sure you, dear reader, are having college experiences I’ve never had. Maybe you can out-debate anyone. Maybe you can name a hundred mineral types. Maybe you’ve won competitions, gotten awards, sailed across the Pacific in nothing but a tiny boat.
When looking for a job, internship, or position, you are your biggest advocate. Are you that loser who spent six months doing nothing but fishing or the awesome person who overcame insurmountable odds through skill, dedication, and tenacity, and is also now a pretty good fisher? You’re human, so the answer is both. But there’s only one that you should view yourself as, and that’s the one you need to sell.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Melissa Marcus is a crazy cat lady moonlighting as a rising senior citizen at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Over the summer she’s been the Humanities Media Editorial Intern for Macmillan Learning. The rest of the year she studies Anthropology by day time and reads, writes, paints, plays games by night time. Her dream for the near future is to learn Japanese and get better at German, so she doesn’t stutter through hello and fail every other conversation beat.
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