Going to college was a petri dish of development for me. When you’re in growth mindset, everything is a learning opportunity.
I initially chose Oberlin College, sight unseen, for its thriving arts community and passionate student body. Once I arrived, I never once closed my eyes except for the occasional ZZZs between a late night concert or photo editing session and my morning classes.
College was expensive. So, I worked my butt off in every spare minute I had. The deal with my parents was that they would cover the remainder of my tuition bill that wasn’t covered by my scholarships and loans, and I covered my housing and dining costs by working throughout the school year and during the summers.
I started piecing together my hours doing things I knew how to do but had never gotten paid for: preparing food for hungry college students in my dining co-op and at our campus cafe and taking and editing photographs for a variety of student groups, publications and campus offices.
You’d think these roles would be dull work filling in some hours in the day but in reality, these jobs provided me an outlet for exploration I never knew I had. Looking at the world through a variety of lenses helped me connect the dots between all the things I was learning in class with all the things I was learning through doing in my student jobs.
I learned how to delegate to fellow cooks while serving as the lead chef cooking up dinner for 100 people. I learned to follow action and anticipate next moves while photographing athletic competitions, symposia and circuses. I learned to defend my creative choices in my cinema studies major and encourage fellow photographers to do the same while improving their technique while serving as the photo editor for our school paper of record.
During all of this, no one told me I was “building my portfolio” or “articulating my personal brand” or “honing my skills as a social media manager” or “networking.” I was just doing what came naturally to me: keeping myself busy, being creatively active and telling anyone within earshot about what was occupying my time. And the more I did it, the more solid my foundational skills boosted me into a place of new found confidence.
When one thing I’d done caught the attention of the right person, I found myself with another opportunity. And then another. And another. This domino effect of doing served as a gateway to my first job out of college, a one year fellowship position in web communications that turned into my first full-time job as a social media-storytelling-strategist-superhero.
I was terrified of ~the future~ as a student (still am, actually), so I tended to avoid conversations about what I was going to do next. I now know the error of my ways and wish one thing for all of you to know: the future is going to happen whether you want it to or not.
It’s better to face each new thing with a variety of experiences padding your every move. My college experience was perhaps the most learning intensive moments of my life to date, and I filled my hours with all kinds of ways to take advantage of that. As a result, I felt ready to take on any new thing that could come at me.
My advice to you: Do as much as you’re able to do. Write it all down. Tell others about what you’ve done. And don’t forget to take a nap every so often.
Ma’ayan Plaut is a graduate of Oberlin College with a B.A. in cinema studies. As the Manager of Social Strategy & Projects in the Office of Communications at Oberlin, she makes her alma mater look great every day on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and through the Oberlin Stories Project and the Oberlin blogs.