Spoiler Alert: There is life after college

May 2, 2012

By Katie Coppens

This time last year I was graduating from The University of Alabama. My to-do list consisted of planning a wedding, picking a city to call home and finding a job. Needless to say, I was a bit stressed. I did not see how life was going to come together, and I sincerely could not imagine leaving the Capstone behind.

My husband and I on graduation day

One year later, my husband and I love living in Nashville and I am learning more than I thought possible at MP&F Public Relations. So when I saw the Wall Street Journal article 10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You, I enjoyed reading it as someone who has been removed from the college mindset for one year.

Charles Wheelan gives nontraditional advice to the class of 2012. What other commencement speaker has told you your time in fraternity basements was well-spent?

So what have I learned in my first year as a “professional”? Taking the lead from Wheelan, I would love to share my tidbits of advice for those entering the “real world,” especially for those in public relations.

1.      Internships mean more than a line on a resume.

You know those hours you spent working instead of at the lake with friends? Well, those could pay off, unless you did them just for the sake of having an internship. Take more from your internships than a line on the resume. They can teach you a lot about how to work with others in a professional setting and how to meet deadlines.

2.      Don’t hit snooze.

Congratulations. You successfully got through four years of college without having an 8 a.m. class (every student’s dream). Now you are going to make up for lost time and be at work by 8 a.m. every morning. Employers notice those who are on time and those who straggle in late. Don’t be the latter.

3.      Keep writing.

It is easy to feel that it is time for a much-needed break after you have spent four years studying and writing. Don’t stop. It is easy to lose much of what you have gained. Writing is like a muscle; it works best when exercised regularly.

4.      Keep reading.

A lot of good writers also have a passion for reading. Once you get a job, it is easy to come home at 6 p.m. and not want to look at another word. You will be missing out on a lot if you let this happen. As a PR professional, it is also necessary to stay caught-up on current events, whether you are reading a newspaper or magazine, or accessing news online. It doesn’t matter if you are reading for fun or to gather information—just read.

5.      Get a hobby.

You are probably used to being involved in just about everything, whether it is a sorority or fraternity, a student organization, or a community cause. When you graduate, a lot of those obligations are left behind. I urge you to find a “grown-up” hobby. Maybe you love to run, paint or fish. Continuing your passions adds a lot to the work week, and it will leave you feeling much more fulfilled.

One year later, I consider myself to be a much more well-rounded and professional person than I was in college. It is hard to believe so much time has passed, but I would not change a single moment or decision for anything.

So, what about you? Whether you are 22 or 62, what have you learned since you walked across the stage to get your diploma?

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