Conscientious and savvy university students can prepare for a productive and fulfilling life after graduation — both professionally and personally — if they follow some basic guidelines that use their time in classes and out-of-the-classroom experiences to build a foundation for their future.
“A successful career and a life of well-being is not something you think about after you get your diploma,” says Arlene Kaukus, UB director of career services. “These are life goals and aspirations you start building from the moment you begin as a first-year student on campus. From the very beginning, you are creating a foundation of solid, meaningful relationships and lifelong habits that will contribute to your success in life.
“And you can significantly help your chances of reaching these goals and being the person you want to be if you recognize your life is an ongoing process,” she says.
With this in mind, Kaukus and her career services staff offer some useful guidelines to help students make the most of their college experience and gather essential skills — skills designed to pay off when they leave college and walk into what is oftentimes called “the real world.”
- Immerse yourself. Preparing yourself for an amazing life requires that you immerse yourself in learning in and outside of the classroom. Seize the opportunity to develop your leadership skills by volunteering for a club or organization and step up to the plate in a leadership role. The best way to develop and hone your skills is by “doing.” Be inquisitive, explore and keep expanding your boundaries. Engage yourself in new activities or new groups that are outside your normal realm. Expanding these boundaries helps to expand your thinking and your awareness.
- Start early. Career services encourages students at UB to be intentional in choosing out-of-classroom learning opportunities throughout their college experience. Recognize you must start early. Find an area in your first year where you can begin to engage in learning opportunities. Maybe it’s a part-time job on campus or join a student club. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you begin to prepare only as you approach graduation.
- Build experiences over four years. Each opportunity and experience you engage in enables you to learn about yourself, explore your options and develop skills to prepare yourself for success after graduation. Every experience is an opportunity to hone your skills and build competencies.
- Make connections. Building lasting relationships with peers, faculty and staff, alumni and mentors can open doors to opportunities you didn’t even know existed. Properly managed, each connection you make is a doorway to opportunity.
- Use all resources available on campus. No discussion of campus resources would be complete without emphasizing the Career Office. Career Services at UB is a tremendous resource. In addition, many universities and colleges have offices that organize student clubs on campus, student governments, volunteer opportunities, mentoring opportunities and many others. Find out where those resources are on your campus and use them.
- Build a plan. Make your plan happen, but remember to be flexible as life changes. Remember that college is a time of exploration and learning. The learning can be about yourself, yourself in the world and the world itself. It is only by experiencing these things that you can truly know the best fit for you. Students should take the time to develop a plan. But remember that adhering to a plan that does not align with who you are or what you are learning about yourself can be disconcerting. Reach out to people and resources you admire and who know you. Ask them to help you develop and refine your plan as you move through. Change is constant and inevitable. Recognizing that building a life plan requires continual adjustments will serve you well in life. Building the capacity to be resilient and nimble will make you better able to address and grow from the changes that are before you. It ultimately will result in a life of well-being.