10 Things I WISH Someone Had Told Me While I Was A Student

school-busBack to school season still makes me cringe a bit.  I’m just being honest.  Like most I assume, it wasn’t always easy for me.  Now that I’m a young professional…err..full fledged adult (oye)…I have a whole new view on Back to School season.  In one word:  Perspective.

So, for all of you loading up those new backpacks, sharpening your pristine yellow pencils, and scheming about how you’re going to smuggle your cell, iPhone, iPod, Zune, video games or other banned technology into your classes, LISTEN UP.  (Parents too!)  I may be able to help you see this whole experience – that is, your life as a student – in a very different light that can almost guarantee your success in the long run, but way more importantly, your personal confidence and happiness.

Hopefully these can save you or your loved ones a little unnecessary stress in their remaining life as a student.

  1. The most popular and highest achieving kids in school are NOT always the most successful in the real world. Success in the academic bubble does not translate to success in work and real life.  This is really important to note, whether you’re living out what some will one day refer to as “your glory years” or you’re struggling at the bottom of the social or academic heap.
  2. Everyone is cool and special and interesting in some unique way. Give people a chance.  Don’t be too quick to judge or disregard people because they fit in or don’t.  That’s just immature and childish.  Don’t blow off anyone.  Everyone has feelings, insecurities, ambitions and dreams of a brighter future.  Be kind to people.  That karma will stick with you for a lifetime.
  3. The nerds make all the money in the end. No joke.  The least popular, most focused, often anti-social people are thinking day in and day out about the big things they’re going to do with their life.  And trust me, not all, but some will become the most influential and most successful people you know.  Personally, I’ve grown to love and admire “nerdy” people. They’re often the smartest, most interesting, and most creative of us all.
  4. Being different is actually good. There’s so much pressure to fit in and be like everyone else in school.  For some of us, the pressure is so stifling you start to lose sight of who you really are.  And this is exactly the time you should be starting to discover yourself.  You’ll soon find that being just like everyone else is in direct conflict with what you really need to do to succeed in life – differentiate yourself and build your competitive advantage.  What makes you different, if positioned the right way, really can be what makes you special.  It’s a paradigm shift for sure, but a valuable one to note as early on as you can adopt it.
  5. Pursue what you love regardless of what people say. The rules of what is cool and not in school are manufactured in a totally subjective bubble of people with painfully limited perspective on the world.  Whatever it is that you’re really into, that you want to stay up late reading about, that you’re thinking about when you should be focusing on a lecture or studying…. may be the key to what you build your life and career around in some way.  Don’t ignore it.
  6. Extracurricular activities and internships are as important as academics…in some ways even moreso. Any projects, organizations, leadership roles or jobs that take you off campus or enable you to interact with the outside world are invaluable experiences.  The more you interact with adults, businesses, community groups and execs, the more comfortable you’ll be networking with them when you need a loan, a job, advice on your career, admission to grad school, etc.  It will only help you to start building those relationships now.
  7. Courses and majors in school do not perfectly correlate to opportunities in the working world. This may seem obvious to some and be a total surprise to others.  Like, “What do you mean I can’t find a job as a Liberal Artist or Political Scientist?” These are courses of study, meant to expose you to new industries, fields, and cultures.  Don’t always take them so literally.  Consider them a new frame of reference, a jumping off point to discover a slew of different career paths and possibilities.  Most importantly, don’t let the course catalogue or your class list limit your thinking about your broader options later on.  There is a huge world out there and millions of different things you can do.  Discovering what’s right for you is a process.  Start thinking about it early enough to give yourself time to explore and enjoy the journey.
  8. Teachers and professors should be your friends. These are your best mentors and source of perspective when things at school get rough.  They also live in the real world and can not only help you understand what you’re real opportunities might look like, but also prepare you for the MASSIVE transition into the next chapter of your life.
  9. Your parents and family really do have your best interests at heart. It may not always feel that way and they may not always understand why you do some of the things you do, but give them the benefit of the doubt.  Don’t make life harder on them.  They’re doing the best they can.  And the better your relationship with your parents or guardians, the easier your life is going to be.  Period.  You may move away and grow up, but never forget the people who got you here.
  10. Life is complicated. Get used to it.  Consider yourself in training for the really big stuff to come.  Learn to deal with conflict, confusion, challenges and tackling things you don’t understand while you have a safe environment to do so.  You’re in the petri dish about to be let out into the world.  Things that bog you down or cripple you in school may afflict you in some way throughout your life if you don’t master some vital coping skills.  Beat people up in the real world instead of being “a man” and you could get arrested.  Cheat at work, rather than a test, and you could be fired or sued.  Act like you’re better than everyone else, and you may end up with no friends.  There are consequences to all this bad behavior as the stakes get higher and you get older.  Master your own class in dealing with people now and reap the benefits for a lifetime.

Growing up isn’t easy. The sooner you start to get a broader perspective on your time in school, the happier you’ll be … not to mention, more successful as an adult.

YSN – Expert Advice on Career Advancement and Tools for Professional Development