When applying for jobs over the years I’ve felt like I couldn’t mention experiences from college despite a few of them being integral to my life as a working professional. To be sure, in the eight years since I graduated I’ve gained invaluable experience in the workforce and I have plenty to discuss! However, there are three very specific things from my college years that formed the basis of my career and still influence me greatly.
1: Editor in Chief
First was being the Editor in Chief of my university newspaper, the Indiana Statesman. Wow. That was a crash course in management if there ever was one – in terms of both people management and project management. In addition to going to class full time and having a job at the local bookstore, I had to spend at least 12 hours a day, three times a week, managing content as well as a team of 30 editors and reporters. That is a heck of a lot of moving parts!
Never in my career since that have I felt more stress and pressure – it was basically work for a year straight with no down time.
Ever since then, I’ve had a lot of respect for my managers’ time! I try to take on extra tasks to help out. I try to be the one who raises my hand when they ask for a volunteer, and I try to anticipate how I can best present information to make it as easy as possible for them to make educated decisions in a hurry.
When someone asks me if I’ve managed people, I still feel like I have to say “no” because it seems like college experience doesn’t or shouldn’t count in the “real world.” I don’t know if this is accurate.
2: Editorial Internship
The second most formative experience that influences me literally every day was my internship at Indianapolis Monthly magazine. I was an editorial intern in charge of fact-checking major articles for the magazine, including headline pieces. My managing editor had us go through every single word in every article and check off the word with a red pen.
By checking every single word you were saying you had looked at that word and both its spelling, meaning and accuracy were 100% correct. For example, is a person named Jon later referred to as John in the same story? Or, is the actual fact correct? In one story I remember a person wrote about running a race through the city, but in fact the map of the race course indicated a different route than what she’d described from her run.
Now, as a web manager of sorts, I have a mental red pen with me – always. I’m always checking for consistency and accuracy, even though my job is rarely to be a copy editor or writer. I’m often hesitant to post anything at all online if I haven’t fact-checked it. The fake news phenomenon is particularly troubling to me because I honestly can’t imagine being the type of person who posts random memes without checking to make sure it’s 100% accurate.
3: Military Training
The third formative experience from my college years was going through Air Force ROTC field training in the summer between my sophomore and junior year. Although I ended up not joining the Air Force, going through that type of boot camp training gave me a confidence I’d never have otherwise found.
Field training challenges you more mentally than physically, but pushes you in both regards to go harder and be stronger than you think you can.
You don’t get to choose what job you do there. My commander decided I was going to be the academic officer, which meant I would be given a news article or encyclopedia article and within 5 minutes I had to read it, try to understand it and then stand up in front of a team of 25 people to educate them about it.
I think of this experience frequently when I’m giving presentations to company stakeholders or explaining technical projects in a meaningful way to a group of non-technical people. I have so much more confidence in these situations because it’s never as stressful as being forced to talk in front of a large group about something for 20 minutes when you have zero knowledge of the topic!