I had that opportunity because I've been a member of the CofC's Department of Communications Advisory Council for the past five years.
I must confess that, aside from my alma mater, Northeastern University, the College of Charleston is my extra special favorite place (that's a riff on what the young Rep, Jr., used to call me).
During my visit, I participated in a speed networking event with 60 or so sophomores, juniors and seniors. As is the case with students I've met from other schools, yesterday's group ran the gamut from the superbly poised and prepared to those who, shall we say, were somewhat lost at sea.
The best and brightest had it all:
– Relevant internships
– Significant pro bono/volunteer service
– A strong digital footprint
– A poised, professional manner
– The ability to listen and respond in the moment.
They also knew exactly what they wanted to do after graduation. One was combining her original interest in health care with her current passion for communications and intended to work within a large medical center after graduation. Another one had focused on internships in the fashion world and intended to combine that hands-on retail experience with her communications skills to work in the marketing group of a well-known department store.
And, then, there were the others. When I asked one senior how many interviews she'd lined up prior to graduating next month, she replied, “Oh, I'm much too busy studying for finals to worry about that. I'll start looking after graduation.” Good luck with that.
Another admitted she had no real interest in communications at all and intended, instead, to pursue a completely different career. Oh. That immediately reminded me of a Millennial who recently interviewed at Peppercomm. When asked why she was interested in a career in PR, she responded, “Well, I'd really prefer to be a teacher.” End of interview.
Success in life is the end result of careful planning and hard work. Like their peers who are graduating from thousands of other schools this spring, some CofC students will become absolute rock stars. Others, though, will wake up in a few years' time and realize they've let the world pass them by.
So, note to all college and university undergrads: the time to map your future isn't after graduation. Focus on your passion now, land the internships that will build your credentials and network, network, network.
As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Knowing how unpredictable the future will be, it's that much more important to put a plan in place this morning and begin implementing it this afternoon. Otherwise, you'll find yourself waking up at one minute to midnight with few, if any, career options.