The Best Way University Students Can Market Themselves for the Future

by Paul Wilson

 

For the last two years I taught digital entrepreneurship at Brigham Young University – Hawaii. It has been an amazing adventure for me and my family. Teaching my passion to a diverse group of students has been quite rewarding, but not being trained in pedagogy it has also been challenging. In many ways I believe I have learned more from my time here than what my students learned from me.

In a few days we will be leaving this great island and moving onto another adventure. As I have pondered over my experience here I came across the below article from Richie Norton a BYU-H graduate who has done amazing things since he’s left the school. His profound insights mirror my own thoughts on education and entrepreneurship.

With Richie’s permission I share you his article in it’s entirety. It is definitely worth a read regardless if you are student or not.


by Richie Norton

The #1 thing that students can do to get fast down their career path…is to forget the career path.

There is no path. Too many people think there is a path and end up at a dead-end.

Just dive into the work you dream about doing right now by proactively serving some leader or some leading organization in the field you dream of. Do it today. You actually should have started yesterday. Even if you don’t have enough time, enough education or enough money. Start today. A year from now (and even 10 years from now) you’ll wish you would have started sooner.

In my work, I’ve had the opportunity to interview hundreds of people from college students to people that are retired—all about their goals and dreams. Many college students I meet have a life plan that goes something like this:

1. Go to school, get married, start a family.
2. Become a millionaire.
3. Retire and then do what I really want to do.

What I’ve found out is that people I’ve interviewed in retirement very often find themselves in a different position than they thought they’d be in. Sometimes they don’t have the health they used to have, their finances aren’t what they thought they’d be or their spouse has passed away. Unfortunately, many people have waited 40 years to live their dreams and they can’t do them.

I’ve found that the most successful people actually start on “what they really want to do” today. Think Martin Luther King, Jr. Think Gandhi. Think the Google guys and the Facebook guy. They could have waited. They could have told themselves that the work they wanted to do could be done later.

But that’s not always the best approach.

Religious leader, President Thomas S. Monson once said, “I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and non-existent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.” So I’ve experimented with this “start now, wait later” plan. And here’s what I found with my experiment:

When I was at BYUH I was Student Body President. And at BYU-Hawaii part of the mission of the school is for students to come from all over the world and then return to their home countries to be leaders in their native communities. While serving in this capacity I learned that many students don’t “return” and I asked them why and they told me they don’t see opportunity back home. I figure there is opportunity where you create it. So I wrote a business plan for the School of Business for the annual competition to help students return to their home countries by raising money to help them start their business.

I thought it was a great idea, but guess what? My plan totally failed. It didn’t even get past the first round in the competition. I didn’t even get to present it. But you know what, I started anyways. There were some teachers on campus that approached me later and said they were trying to start a Center for Entrepreneurship and asked if I wanted to partner with them to help legitimize the need for a Center. I accepted the offer and we went to work. The first company we helped start was a cashmere company for a Mongolian family that had won the business competition a couple years earlier and were already back in Mongolia.

Long story short, I started my dream-job — while I was still in college. And this was the thing I’d always dreamed I would actually do in retirement: help people get out of poverty. It was great. This one business turned into helping more and more students and alumni and eventually the Mark and Laura Willes Center for Entrepreneurship sprouted and a Mentor Venture Capital Board was founded with some big donors.

It was crazy because when I started this project I had no time. I was crazy busy doing the student body president thing, I was in the core of my major, my wife had just had our first son and we had no money.

But I started serving and making things happen while I was still in college. And guess what happened? Because I had applied myself to service in the area of work I was interested in, I later was offered all kinds of different jobs after college in different industries like consulting, insurance, real estate, I even got to teach Social Entrepreneurship at the University level.

So how do you prepare for a job in college? Start serving. Serve in unique ways in the field you are you’re interested in, take initiative, make friends with the people in your industry and start to make your mark while you’re still in school. Employers can’t predict the future but they try to understand what you can do for them in the future based on your history. By creating a genuine track record of your abilities, you’ll be in a better position to prove to your future employer that you’re the kind of person that can make things happen and that he needs to hire.

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