Advice to college kids typically boils down to: don’t be a jerk, keep on learning, and make friends. I always soak it up, even though I haven’t been a student in 10 years. This is because I am a person, and good advice for college kids is also typically good advice for all people. Hence those commencement speeches that go viral.
But do you know what tip you can only use while you are in college, which is something I didn’t understand when I was there? It’s this: MILK THE FACT THAT YOU ARE IN COLLEGE!
People (like me) who are ten years out of school love to connect to that time in our lives. We project onto you all our fondness for our alma mater, our major, our youth, our lost innocence, our once endless horizons, etc. (It’s nuts, but true.) To us, you are exotic birds, because we don’t interact often—you live/socialize/take classes with your friends and it would be weird (at best) for us to go to your parties.
So here’s the good news: Even if you are the most un-hip college kid, and your peers find you downright lame, you are still cooler than everyone else (except, like, Keith Richards and Lena Dunham) simply because you’re in college. You are an expert in 18 to 24 year-olds. You know what music they like, what movies are cool, if people still e-mail or use Facebook or text and what not.
Play up this knowledge like it’s your MD! Basically you can ask for anything simply because you are in college. If you’re smart, you exceed expectations, and if you’re silly, we’ll just assume you’re not yet polished. You win!
Write to alums and ask for advice. Ask them to introduce you via email to someone who is doing what you want to do. Ask for an informal interview. Do it while you’re a sophomore!
You will be golden if you do a little research on the person to whom you’re writing, because the world is filled with stupid articles about how millennials are entitled and lazy—these pieces are stupid because your generation grew up with the internet, which means you’re probably just efficient and smarter than we were at 21, and we’re afraid you’ll be unhelpful and lazy if we work together, and then you’ll take our jobs.
Keep me posted!