Two weeks ago I took my last final and graduated from UCLA with a degree in Business Economics. Time flies. I still distinctly remember writing my college admissions personal statement; three and a half years later, I am now a graduate of UCLA with a slightly better idea of what defines me and how this life thing works. College is a time for fun and recreation, but college is also a time for people to grow and define themselves for the real world. Here are very several things that I have learned over the past three and a half years.
Surround yourself with the best.
In my first year at UCLA, I did little but school. Life was enjoyable, but I really wasn’t doing much. It wasn’t until my second year at UCLA that I joined an organization that helped me grow and develop. Because I knew how to make websites and I had a high GPA, I was admitted to Bruin Consulting even after a terrible interview and no real understanding of what business and consulting was. Joining Bruin Consulting was one of the most defining experiences of my college career. While Bruin Consulting didn’t necessarily hand me platters of internships, Bruin Consulting surrounded me with incredible, bright, and talented people that helped me develop. I still remember hearing introductions at the first meeting and realizing that I was the only one without an internship or full-time job lined up. These other members quickly took me under their wing and showed me the ropes with recruiting and professional development. I still remember repeatedly struggling with a mock-interview with a very patient mentor the night before an interview with Deloitte. With the help of several BCers, I was able to land my internship with Google. I quickly realized that you want to surround yourself with people that you want to become. Their attitudes, their mentalities, and their experiences are incredibly contagious and will rub off on you. When I interned at Google, I was surrounded by more inspiring interns from all walks of life. People not only excelled at work, but in their spare time created nonprofits for underprivileged children and recorded rap-albums. Surround yourself with the best and you will become better. Find yourself a mentor and utilize him and her; in due time, give back and find other people to mentor.
Apply yourself or do something else.
My summer at Google was another defining experience of my college career. I learned soft skills such as communication and harder skills such as excel and deck making, but arguably more importantly I learned to adjust my attitude. One day I had lunch with a Google intern that was studying economics at UC Berkeley. We started talking about our majors and I automatically complained that I then did not see very much validity in my major. I had adopted a common attitude that economics, due to its emphasis on theory and lack of “practical” material, was an overall “useless” major. Plus, it is considerably easier to complain and criticize something than to hold something in positive light and defend it. She really let me have it. I could barely respond to her indignant and passionate monologue about how great certain things about economics was. Did I even try to appreciate it? Did I even try to apply what I learned in class to reality? If I did not read about current events, how was I supposed to even consider if the theory was useless or not? This leads me to my next point: you only get as much out of something as you put in. If you do something, do it well, or do something else. Since that conversation, I started to read news, articles, and other material that complimented economics. Slowly and surely, I began to build a framework and apply class to reality. Do I really believe in Keynesian government stimulus? Do I agree with the FED’s latest form of monetary policy with Operation Twist? Ask anyone; I really enjoy economics now. You really only get as much out of something as you put in – if you complain and only put in the bare minimum, you will really only get close to nothing. If you want to pursue something, do it well (see my post about Doing Work, Son) and do things related to it. If you are interested in business, get involved with professional business organizations. If you are interested in economics, look for research or publication opportunities. If you are not applying yourself, do something else. Trust me, the more you pour in, the more you will receive.
What are you so scared of?
Looking back to my earlier college career, I was much more hesitant than I am now. I almost did not re-apply to Google in my second year, thinking that I would have no chance. I had applied once before as a freshman; by the time I was rejected, I had already almost forgotten that I applied. I only re-applied after I found out two BCers were going to Google full-time. We know that I got the internship. I almost did not apply to Bruin Consulting because case interviews seemed very intimidating and the extra commitment appeared very daunting. Yet, I applied and the rest is history. Looking back, I have no idea what I was actually scared of. There is no shame in trying and deciding it is not for you or getting rejected. There is shame with simply not trying at all. It is very possible that you labor in your leisure time and the end result may look like nothing, but you will learn, grow, and define yourself. Yes, there is something to be said about time management and ensuring you have enough time to study, but we all know there is a tremendous amount of fat to be cut from almost everyone’s schedule. I can guarantee that my work ethic started in high school due to an overwhelming busy schedule that included 20 hours of swimming per week. In college, my work ethic only intensified, my ability to think became more efficient and effective, and I gathered a number of other skills when I managed consultants and spoke publicly. The safe route would have been to only do the bare-minimum and only do school, but I would have missed out on so much. Do as much as you possible can well without crashing, and you will come out the other side with so much growth. The worst thing that you can do is to not try. College is like a sandbox; it is a fake reality where you can try things, fall down, and get up with only a slightly bruised knee. Yes, I believe that grades matter and you want to minimize screwing up, but for the most part, most people have less real responsibilities. Practice running in the sandbox so you can be fast when you move onto the gravel.
Three and a half years, I think I have run enough in the sandbox to be comfortable running on gravel. College is fun; you get to do things that you probably won’t be able to do again, but it is also a really prime time to grow yourself. I encourage all college kids to run while they can, because very quickly it will be time to move on; you will be in my current position, about to run in reality.