A few weeks ago, one of my good friends and I were having a conversation as per usual when she said something that was a total game changer:
"You know, you just have all of your sh*t together."
* Cue hysterical laughing and tears of joy emojis *
While this was just one friend, one conversation and one funny compliment, it was touching to know that this particular friend thought this. Especially since I usually feel like I'm spreading myself too thin and scrambling around until the very last minute to get something done. But...deep (real deep) down, there is a sense of self-confidence in knowing that I'm a well-prepared and professionally experienced person.
(Funny enough, I didn't actually start believing this about myself until recently when I rewrote my resume. It's a little therapeutic to stop for moment and think about everything you've accomplished so far.)
So, am I writing all this just to brag? No. There are still a hella lot of days when I feel completely unprepared for my post-grad future (which is really the near distant future, since I'm graduating a year early -- yikes!). But, if there is one thing that I know for sure, it's that a huge percentage of life comes down to faking it until you make it. Not confident about that interview? Walk into the room like you own it, even if you're secretly shaking in those stilettos. Not a great cook? Start with simple recipes every day until you're a master. And of course, the same thing goes for having all of your sh*t together in college (or high school, post-grad, WHENEVER). Just fake it 'til you make it girl.
And maybe that's why that friend's compliment was so flattering to me. I don't feel like I've made it yet, but I'm doing a damn good job of faking it and playing the part. That's the most I could ask for at this stage of my life, when years and years of it are still up in the air.
SO, now that you've heard the backstory, let's get down to the nitty gritty on how I'm doing this (and you can too!).
1. Join Clubs
If there's only one piece of advice that you take away from this article, let it be this: join clubs (note that I wrote clubs, not a club). Trust me, you will want to thank me later. When you're writing your resume or going into an interview, you need to have something to talk about. Yes, you'll have a few internships, but make sure you're doing something with your time when you're on campus too. Student organizations provide opportunities to take on leadership roles, which are a great way to stand out from your competition when you're ultimately searching for internships or jobs. I'd highly recommend starting your own student organization, because this not only shows that you know how to manage a group of people and establish accountability, but also that you have the initiative to build something from the ground up. So important! Whatever it is that you're interested in, bring that organization to your campus, and make it your goal to get as much awareness and activity for that club as possible. The possibilities are endless.
Prioritizing is something that doesn't always come naturally to young adults, especially college students. There's a lot of noise that interferes and even prevents us from doing whatever it is that what we should be doing. I try to make a to-do list of all of my assignments and extracurricular responsibilities each week, in order of the most important or time-sensitive duties to the least. For example, maybe there's just too much textbook work to realistically do well in the amount of time given. In which classes will there be reading check quizzes? Which exams are coming up first? These are the assignments that are at the top of my to-do list. While some may call this procrastination, at least in terms of the assignments that are pushed to the end of the list, mindfully evaluating which responsibilities have the most immediate consequences can save you a lot of trouble in the long run and help you to better organize your schedule for overall success.
3. Plan it Out
Bouncing off of the idea of having a to-do list, also consider investing a planner and a few good notebooks (see this post for my fave agenda ever). I've met a lot of people (Richard included ;) who claim that planners just don't work for them. Well, keeping all your info solely in your head probably isn't working so well either. Set alarms on your phone (I'm notorious for this -- I set alarms for everything), use a digital calendar, do WHATEVER you need to do to keep track of things and put all of your important info in one place. This easy to implement strategy can help you with so many of the steps on this list to getting your sh*t together, including #s 2, 5 and 6.
Ex. Create a hierarchy of things you need to do by color coating or starring certain items in your agenda. That's prioritizing right there.
Ex. 2 Simply writing everything down and knowing that you aren't forgetting to do anything will help you de-stress (#5 on this list).
Ex. 3 And finally, keeping track of all of your commitments can help you to be a more reliable person overall (#6).
Also, if you're feeling super overwhelmed/unprepared for your post-grad life, I highly recommend planning out your courses for the next few years. Though your final schedule may not work out exactly as you've planned, you'll have an idea of what your next few years will look like. This can help you decide which semesters may be a good time to study abroad, do a part-time internship, start a club from scratch, etc. (basically anything that will help you to build your resume and feel more prepared for graduation :)
4. Find a Unique/Competitive Hobby
There are certain things that almost every college student loves to do (party, eat out, shop, etc.) Set yourself apart from everyone else by finding a unique and competitive hobby. For me, horseback riding and blogging are two that I am proud to invest a good portion of my time into. They require devotion and skill, and have taught me many lessons that can be applied in the working world. There's nothing that frustrates me more than meeting someone who seems to be passionate about nothing. I seriously question how these people spend their free time and why they haven't branched out. Don't be one of those people! Find something productive that you're head over heels in love with, and run with it. You should have plenty of things going on in your life that your "about me" spiel doesn't only comprise of your name, hometown and college major.
Probably the most important part of faking having all of your sh*t together in college is de-stressing. If you're constantly running around like a chicken with it's head cut off (I know, gross comparison, but some people actually act like this) trying to get things done, you really can't expect anyone to take you seriously. Instead of freaking the eff out and complaining about all of your responsibilities, try finding a go-to method for calming the eff down. For me, it's volunteering at the local SPCA. Not only can working with animals be extremely therapeutic, but it's also an activity that I feel proud to invest my time into. While your de-stressing method may not include volunteering (and that's okay), it's definitely something to consider! If you find a cause that you're passionate about, you may be surprised at how much you enjoy devoting some time to this non-school related activity. Not to mention, this is another area of your personal life where you can stand out and maybe even take on some responsibility after awhile that can be a good starting point for developing leadership skills.
6. Be Reliable
Though I said that nothing frustrates me more than indifference and lack of passion, unreliability comes in a close second in terms of traits that I loathe. If there's only one thing that you can be to someone, be reliable. People remember this, because not everyone is (especially college students). College is a great place to take on new responsibilities and beef up your resume, but only take on what you can handle. As the editor-in-chief of a campus publication, I can vouch how upsetting it is when someone last-minute flakes out of an assignment. It's unprofessional and honestly unacceptable. There's also the people who don't even bother telling anyone that they can't get something done, and seem to think the problem will just go away. If you're one of those people, STOP DOING THIS. We're all adults! Be a communicator, and always speak up if you have too much on your plate. You may be embarrassed at first, but trust me, it only gets worse the longer you withhold the conversation. ALSO, being reliable is one of the most important traits in looking like you have all of your sh*t together in college, but it's also something that will help you build both professional and personal relationships your whole life long!
So, what do you guys think? Ever feel like everyone else has got their sh*t together and you don't? Are these tips helpful? Spill the beans!