by Carol Chandler-Wood
In today’s environment of The Information Age, to find a successful and rewarding career after college, a student must approach college differently than his predecessors. In previous generations, most individuals approached college with what can be described as a degree-focused mindset. They concentrated primarily on making good grades and taking the courses required to complete their degree. Upon graduation, they began a job in the same discipline as their degree while making, what was considered to be, a good salary.
Today, the job market is very competitive, and it is often not enough to make good grades from a respected school and have just a college degree to get a good job. Today, employers want more than someone with a degree willing to fill a job. Companies want people who can think outside of the box, identify their own strengths and weaknesses, work well in teams, adapt to change and communicate effectively. Also, graduates themselves want a fulfilling career, not just a paycheck.
Today, it is important that individuals approach college with what is termed an experience-focused mindset. Experienced-focused students want more than an 8 & 1/2 by 11 inch piece of paper in a fancy gold frame. During college they want to determine their interests, improve their skill set, build a network of valuable contacts, create opportunities for themselves after graduation and have fun at the same time. They look at college as a window of opportunity and as a journey of discovery and development. They do not rely on their degree alone to showcase their credibility. Instead they differentiate themselves from others through the experiences they seek out and through the knowledge and skills they learn while in college. To be experienced-focused while in college, several factors other than the degree are involved, such as participating in a study-abroad program, campus extra-curricular activities, co-op program and/or job internship and innovative courses and programs. By taking part in these various activities, the student has enriched his life experiences while networking with many people, therefore, increasing his ability to find a fulfilling and interesting job.
Sometimes students shy away from the experienced-focused formula due to fear or their own lack of confidence. Choosing to participate in these experiences and taking the initiative to get involved often requires that the student step out of his comfort zone. Just like the eagle gently coaxes her offspring toward the edge of the nest, a student needs to learn how to soar by asking himself a few questions. Am I happy with my current knowledge, accomplishments, friends and bank balance? Do I want to grow as a person and achieve new things? He knows that those who never take risks will never reap the potential rewards. Those who never visit unexplored territory will live boring lives. Those who do not challenge themselves will never grow wiser. To grow he will need to step outside his comfort zone into the area of uncertainty, risk, and challenge.