Top 5 Tips for Undecided Students: An Alumnus Perspective

This post was written by Kyle R. Phipps, a 2017 NSCC graduate.

Kyle PhippsSuccess can only be defined as what and how you view it. But being successful is a blurry image to those who do not see themselves anywhere near it, if visible at all, especially if he or she has no clue what road to go down. After high school, you are 18 and suddenly responsible for the rest of your life. It is a lot to sink in when you are stranded with the thought of, “Now what?”

It took three long years after high school to figure out the path I wanted to follow. From wanting to teach history to psychology, from screenwriting to joining the military, the list went on; needless to say, my mind was all over the place. The first day of my first fall semester, I went home and wept after drowning in confusion due to these syllabuses that were given to me on day one. After changing my major a total of six or seven times, being frustrated was an understatement – it was sheer anger. Evidently, college hit me with an unanticipated pointblank shot to the face.

As time progressed, I noticed I wasn’t alone. In fact, I’m still not alone. To this day, I see many newer students in similar circumstances. Unfortunately, there is no guideline for students on the undecided path. It is almost like a game of poker; trying to make the best of a situation when you were dealt with a bad hand. Based on my experience, I will share my personal top five tips to students who are currently on that undecided road.

Patience: This is arguably the most time-consuming objective from this list and perhaps the most important. First and foremost, learn to be patient. This is an ongoing process that may never end, which is not a bad thing whatsoever. “Amat victoria curam” is Latin for “victory loves preparation”. This is why patience is a virtue. Carefulness and diligence are key elements to not just a success, but a victory. I saw my friends at other colleges and universities with their declared major they’ve had before going to college, studying overseas, and having the time of their lives whereas I, a clueless college freshman, was contemplating my life every day for about nine semesters straight. My patience wore thin fast. But after a few years of thinking more maturely, I look back on that thought and it was practically comparing apples and oranges. Education is not a race – it’s a journey. And that journey will have plenty of rough areas where you may hit rock bottom and are down and out, wanting to wave the white flag. But when the tough gets going, go and get tough. Remind yourself what you are setting to strive for. Rather than doubting yourself, let it make you stronger. Remaining calm, cool, and collected is the name of the waiting game.

Take personality/aptitude tests: The first time I took a personality test was my freshman year in high school and I, personally, was fascinated by how accurate those tests are measured. Analyzing the results of your own personality and aptitude assessments can be quite shocking for this can give you a better grasp as to who you really are and how others may view you. It will also act as a personal guideline of how you want to mentally shape yourself as a human being. Seeing these results will allow you to view your strengths and weaknesses, abilities, interests, and your motivations; some of which you may excel in, some of which could use some improvement.

Know your values: Our values are an enormous decision-driven aspect of our everyday lives both personally and professionally. Values influence nearly every part of ourselves that makes us the person we are today. And of course, they can change over time.  Whatever your values are can determine the type of career that is fit for you. Knowing your values can be best utilized when determining what role in the workplace suits you best. For example, if team-building, training, development, and relationships are what you value, perhaps human resources would be an eye-opening field for you. This can also come in handy when working for a company that will offer you a handful of benefits that come with it, i.e. health insurance, dental insurance, retirement plan, etc. What is important to you? What jobs offer these valuable benefits?

Network, network, network: I cannot stress it enough. Studies show you are likely to get hired through connections than you are without them. And there are plenty of ways to go about networking. Joining student organizations is a great kickoff for new students entering college. This will boost your résumé, develop people skills, and build teamwork efforts. Another efficient way is by creating a LinkedIn profile. A LinkedIn profile is a key element to networking and communication with fellow students, professors, and professionals. It is such a convenience to search and connect with other professionals who perhaps share the same educational path or a particular career you may be interested in and ask them questions about how they got to where they are or maybe their tips and recommendations. One extraordinarily useful networking resource is job fairs, especially when colleges host them. It is a given opportunity for students to explore what is being offered and expand their network. Some companies at job fairs may even conduct on-site interviews right then and there. So it is important to note that when attending these job fairs, always bring a pen, a notepad, your business cards if you have any, and professional etiquette.

Do your research: This is my number one tip because it helped me the most personally. To this day, I do a minimum of two hours of research no matter how much is on my agenda. What exactly do I mean by research? Simply reading articles and watching YouTube videos that are directly related to your major. Luckily for everybody, there is this glorious tool called the Internet, a large and complex global network that holds all information known to mankind. For me as a business and technology major, I Google articles such as “best tech jobs with high growth”, “best business/technology careers”, “top cities with job growth”, “what skills/experience is required for X position”, etc. One aspect of the searching can branch out into an entire different spectrum. For example, let’s say you are an accounting major and you wanted to know the best jobs related to accounting based on flexibility, pay, and stress level. You may come across a job title you have never even heard of before. Then while you do further research on that job title, you notice someone on LinkedIn holds that same title, but multiple professional certifications. You can discover many different things you had no idea existed in the first place. It is key to expand yourself and expand your knowledge. Google is your friend; perhaps your best friend.

For starters, this is no walk in the park. As mentioned, there are plenty of effective dynamics that come into play when assessing your success strategy. It is not a fast and easy objective. There will be times where giving up sounds like the best option. There will be times where you will make mistakes. There will be times where you will have to handle situations where you have no choice but to put up with it. But it can and will be remarkably rewarding.  After all, great things never come from comfort zones. Think of your definition of success as your own film. You are the protagonist.These are your tasks. Be the hero of your own movie.

About the Author: Kyle Phipps is a former student and student worker for the IT Help Desk at Northwest State Community College. He enrolled in the summer semester after high school in 2013 and graduated in the spring of 2017 with an Associate of Science in Pre-Business Administration. In the fall of 2016, Phipps enrolled into the College of Business and Innovation at the University of Toledo where he is pursuing a bachelor’s of business administration in management and information systems. He currently works for the University of Toledo’s Information Security Office and became a registered member of AITP (Association of Information Technology Professionals) at the start of 2017. After he finishes college, Phipps is aiming for a career path in cybersecurity.