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Ten Things I Wish My College Professor Told Me When I Graduated From College

May 12, 2016

#TBT

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Ten years ago, the girl on the right graduated from college. An engineering college, at that. To date, I still have no idea how my non-mathematically inclined self managed to graduate from the Colorado School of Mines in four years, let alone make the honor roll there.

Ten years went by so fast. As I look at my wide-eyed, chubby cheek face, I wonder if the 21-year-old knew of the adventure she was about to embark on. Truth be told, I had some idea that my life would be fun. But if you told me that morning in Golden, CO–a place 20-minutes away from my entire family and a stone’s throw away from my dad’s job–just where my adventure would take me, I’d laugh.

The biggest thing I’d laugh at would be the notion of becoming a college professor. As an undergraduate, I was the student that drives most professors nuts. Extracurricular activities and my social life were my top priorities. I was an officer in my sorority, a vice president of the Panhellenic Council, Student Body President and a cheerleading captain. I spent classes texting friends at other schools and flirting with the boys I sat in the back row with. Needless to say, I was the model Social Chair, but not necessarily the model student.

Things changed in law school when I put a screeching halt to my social life and dug my nose into my books for three years, managing to grade on to the law review and graduate cum laude. What a difference three years makes!

In the ten years since I left the safety net of my home and Golden, CO, I’ve hated my job and found my dream job; fallen hard for someone and got my heart broken; lost and made friends; moved from one corner of the country to another and traveled the world. One decade later, here’s what I wish the girl with the wide eyes and chubby cheeks would’ve known back then:

1. Your First Job Won’t Be Your Dream Job, But That’s Ok

My parents taught me as a child that with hard work and an education, I could accomplish anything in life. I’m so grateful they did this, but I also think that upon graduating law school, I had unreasonable expectations. As a professor, I see these unreasonable expectations–and perhaps entitlement–in some of my students.

More than ever, students are receiving high-caliber, global educations. They have access to thought leaders and worthy internships. And through the gaining of this experience and access to influence, the idea that they will easily transcend the corporate ladder or immediately land a job with a prestigious employer is born. When reality sets in that they may have to take a lower-ranking job with a less notable employer, frustration arises.

More than likely, your first job won’t be your dream job. That’s ok, though! It’s a stepping stone. It’ll provide experience. And most importantly: It’ll pay the bills. Stay there for a year and promise yourself you will move on as soon as you can.

2. Don’t Accept Your Dreams Not Coming True

While your first job may not be your dream job, that doesn’t mean that you should give up on your dreams.

In 9th grade, my high school gave us the day off of school to shadow someone in an industry we were interested in. I spent the day with a sports writer at the Rocky Mountain News. The guy was miserable. He told me about how low paying and time consuming his job was. When my mom picked me up in the afternoon, I scrapped the idea of ever becoming a writer.

It’s funny how our passions can’t be contained. 14-year-old Alicia had no idea that 27-year-old Alicia would launch a successful blog that would lead her to writing for Forbes, The Huffington Post and CNBC.

At all expenses, make your dreams come true. Even if they’re wild. Even if others tell you they’re unreasonable.

3. Don’t Stop Learning

Your formal education may be over, but if you stop learning, you will stop rising.

When I graduated law school, I remember after the ceremony my dad telling me that it wasn’t the end of my education. I was irritated, because I had just been through three years of academic hell. He was right, though. As an attorney, I will always be required to keep up with changing laws and statutes. Now, I am grateful that this is a requirement of my profession, because it will keep expanding my brain and understanding of something I’m passionate about.

Become an expert in something. Devote your life to the complete knowledge and understanding of it. Value the time that you spent gaining an education so much so that you refuse to stop being educated.

4. Find A Hobby

Truth be told, I worry a lot about younger Millennials as it relates to work-life balance. I often ask my students if they have a hobby. They either A) laugh and/or B) look at me like I’m old and insane.

“Hobbies, who has hobbies? I just jack around on my smartphone all day,” is what I imagine them uttering under their breath as I hassle them about their lack of hobbies.

I’m lucky to work in sports, which may be one of the top-3 most interesting and fun industries in the world. Truth be told, 99.9% of my job doesn’t feel like work.

Regardless of whether you love your job or not, it’s easy for work to consume your life. The need and drive to make money or gain power or notoriety is typically what’s at the root of this.

Let me tell you something, though: When you get to the end of the race, you’re not going to kick yourself for the time you spent not working more.

You’re going to kick yourself for not running the 5k race, skipping out on golf with friends or never learning how to play the guitar.

Beyond that, somedays at work suck. Really suck! Even if you work in sports! If work is all that defines you, what is your defense mechanism for when those days arise?

Find something you like to do. Find something that is selfishly done merely for your own pleasure.

5. Start Saving. Now.

I paid for law school on my own. I also went to law school in one of the most expensive counties in the United States, which added to the expense.

By the time I graduated from law school, my friends that I graduated undergraduate with (most of whom are Petroleum Engineers) had been earning $100,000 per year for three years.

I felt so behind them when it came to earning and saving. At 25, I couldn’t envision how I’d ever be able to live without roommates, purchase a new car or own a home.

At 31, those fears have subsided. They have subsided, because from my first day working as an attorney, I began saving.

Find a financial advisor or analyst that you trust. I’m lucky that one of my best friends from undergrad, Austin, entered the field. He holds me accountable with my savings and finances, which is a big deal, because I’m a shopping fiend.

6. Spend Wisely

On that note…

My friends reading this probably just spit out whatever they’re drinking when they see that I’m advising others to spend wisely. I love shopping. Always have, likely always will. It’s cathartic for me. I also like traveling. Always have, likely always will. Flights are my drug of choice.

I’m 31-years-old, and even though I’ve been saving since I was 25, it’s only now that I’m learning how to spend wisely. I spent my 20s living in Southern California routinely dropping upwards of $100 on dinner and drinks with friends. I’d splurge on new outfits before dinner and drinks. I’d buy new makeup and get my nails done before that.

Luckily, these things were all purchased using cash and not credit. What would I have to show now, though, if I hadn’t spent that way? How different would my mutual fund account, retirement account or house look?

At some point, you have to draw the line and limit your spending. Learn to be frugal now. Put yourself on a budget. Prepare for the day that you will own a house, have a spouse or children. Don’t fall victim to marketing schemes, points programs or credit card offers. Hold yourself accountable to a cash budget that fits within your means and goals. Practice this accountability, so that when the days of the spouse, children, or house come, it is not a hard skill to adapt to.

7. Date! And Date Wisely

Along with not having hobbies, another thing that worries me about my students is that it appears that so few of them date or are in committed relationships.

I lived through hookup culture in college. I knew I was going to law school, so I didn’t want to get tied down. I saw my future in a career and outside of any relationship I was going to secure during my undergraduate years.

Our grandfathers courted our grandmothers. They sent letters and asked for permission. They picked them up at their houses promptly at 8 p.m. and had them home before midnight. They planned dates that included activities outside of the bedroom. They held hands for months before “rounding any bases.” Pursuit was the name of the game.

These days, with a swipe of your fingers across an iPhone you can find a date, boyfriend, future husband or someone to have sex with. Nothing is sacred in the world of relationships anymore.

Think about that.

Our culture is engaged in a relationship war that if you really get down to it, threatens the future of humankind. Adults are marrying at older ages and more are foregoing the option to have children.

I can’t tell you how many of my friends–myself included–have been hurt by hookup culture. DATING IS NOT MEANT TO BE CASUAL. Dating is an action meant to be engaged in with the understanding that two people are pursuing the possibility of marriage with one another.

Don’t be reckless with your dating life.

I’m not just talking about using contraception or protection. I’m talking about giving actual, sober thought to the repercussions of your relational decisions with others. I’m talking about being intentional in seeking out people whose background, future, interests and HOBBIES! align with yours. I’m talking about pursuing the one true thing that we all hope to find, and that’s love.

Don’t risk good, perfect, true, honest love for one night. As Tim McGraw says, “I love you ain’t no pick up line.”

Wait for it. It will come.

8. Give The Nice Guy (Or Girl) A Chance

Due to hookup culture, the plight of the nice guy or girl is real.

We are living in an age and culture where people are suspicious of nice gestures. We are living in an age and culture where for long enough, girls haven’t been asked out by boys, so they shirk when it happens.

I am a confidant to many of my female students. I hear about everything from menstrual cycles to heartbreak and relationships to family drama.

Over the last three years as a professor, one thing that has struck me is my female students’ reactions to nice young men that pursue them.

“Professor Jessop, can you believe that guy asked me out?”

Give the nice guy a chance. Give the guy with enough courage and CHIVALRY to ask you out and pursue you the chance to do so. Maybe it won’t work. Maybe he’s not the one. At the end of the day, it’s one date. Put your smartphone down for an hour and go.

Women cannot demand and expect more from relationships if we are unwilling to give the nice guy a try, but allow the jerk to walk all over us.

One of the only regrets of my life was giving five years of my 20s to someone who didn’t take his relationship with me seriously. To the outside world, he was the ultimate catch. Tall, handsome, great head of hair and an NBA coach. On the inside, he took me on a roller coaster ride.

Nothing was ever definitive. All that was given were future assurances (if you can call them that) and a chase. I fell for the chase.

Today, I find myself 31-years-old and single. When I hear the young women I teach complain to me about the nice guys seeking them out, I can only think of myself.

I let so many nice guys go for the chase.

There were the ones that sent me flowers to work. Those that bought me nearly front row seats at sporting events. Those that wiped the tears off of my face when he did something wrong.

Guess what?

Those guys are all married now. They’ve found nice, wonderful girls. Because they’re nice, wonderful people.

That’s how healthy relationships work: TWO nice, wonderful people DATE each other and engage in HOBBIES together.

Whether you are a man or a woman, don’t waste your time on relationships that aren’t good. Break free. Give someone with a clear, honest heart a chance. It’ll be worth it.

9. Keep In Touch With Friends, Parents and Professors

My greatest accomplishment is that I remain friends with my best friends from high school, undergrad and law school and have a solid relationship with my parents.

Don’t lose touch with people. Friends, family and mentors. These people are in your life for a reason.

In the years following undergrad, my friends and I saw each other each summer, at a minimum. We’d gather at homecoming football games or at Christmas parties. Watching our lives unfold and their families grow has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life.

Call your parents once a week. My relationship with my parents has matured so much in the last ten years. Their friendship, guidance and love have allowed me to overcome every obstacle I have encountered in the last decade.

Ask your parents questions. Have your mom teach you how to make your favorite dish. Ask her about her first heartbreak or how she and your dad met. Have your dad tell you about his greatest hi-jinx and favorite thing to do on his day off. Recognize that your parents are human, too–people with feelings, pasts and futures. Accept them for who they are and thank them for all they have been to you.

Your first mentors in the working world should be your professors. Professors are experts in the areas they teach. Reach out for guidance. Keep the door to your university open. Drop them an email, handwritten note or Christmas card. I can assure you, we want to know how you’re doing. And don’t spare the details:  We are happy to be here for you in the failures and successes.

10. Give Back

7-percent of the world has a college education7-percent!

Your acquisition of a college degree in and of itself means that you are leading a blessed life.

Your degree empowers you to change the world you live in. I’ve interviewed hundreds of athletes in my career, from LeBron James to Steph Curry and Robinson Cano to Emmitt Smith. The one question I always ask athletes, is whether they have an obligation to give back to others.

I’ve never been asked that question. I’ll give you my answer, nonetheless. My answer is a resounding, “Yes.” As a college educated woman living in the United States of America, I have an absolute responsibility to give back to others.

Find a cause that you’re passionate about. Learn how you can become involved in it. If the opportunity you want doesn’t exist, create your own plan to address the cause. I guarantee that your education provided you with some insight into how to accomplish this.

In the last ten years, I’ve built an impressive resume, moved across the U.S., traveled the world, saved money, had my heart broken and mended, and strengthened and found relationships.

Yet, the experiences that I am the most grateful for are the times I was able to give back to others. Working closely with I’m ME, a nonprofit working to end the orphan crisis in Haiti, and developing women’s leadership skills as a national officer of Sigma Kappa Sorority, provided me the greatest platforms to utilize my college education.

This world will not get better if the educated don’t tackle the issues it is facing. Seek ways to eliminate injustices. Use your brainpower to find a way to feed the hungry. Engage with your peers to find new technologies to end epidemics.

The 7-percent should serve the 93-percent.

Because if you ask this professor, the only hope I have for any of my students is that they make this world a better place.

Ten years ago, I wish that was the advice a professor shared with me.

 

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