Wednesday, November 17, 2010

College experience

Hopefully someone will read and learn from my experience!

I saw alot of guys in my college just game, and this was before MMOs. People will find any excuse to slack off. Wow has nothing to do with it. Although that said, I dont know if i would have finished grad school if WoW was in my life.

Its not enough to do homework, you actually have to read and memorize and study. Don't think just because you did your homework you are fine. Go over the lecture notes after EACH LECTURE. Type it all out. No serious, type it all out. Figure out what the professor really wants from exams and prepare your study that way. Each prof wants different things. Also each discipline wants different things. In science obviously there is alot of memorization and math work. In English, alot of reading. 

College and esp grad school is about time management. Its really fing critical. I would def. not be in a raid guild "we raid XYZ days a week or you get kicked". You can't do it. There will be times you have to crunch and just study. You will have 5 finals in a week. You will have 5 finals plus 3 projects in a week. 

Organize your time. Go to google calendar, block it out. Figure on 5 hours per class per week (and thats on the low side to be honest). Its best to block out time immediately after the class so it's still fresh (this is really fing critical). Use parental controls on wow, now that you know when to study. 

Lastly...okay its like this. High school is something that you just punch cards and get through it. Everyone is expected to have a HS education. People come into college thinking its just like HS. Its not. Its a very unique time in your life, it will never be repeated. You have a ton of opportunities to make friends, explore new careers, and explore cultures. This is the time where you figure out what you want to do in your life. Whether its basket weaving, or sports, or science, or whatever. There are *so* many opportunties because you are in college. Seek that stuff out. They won't really announce most of it. My college did an absolute horrid job of letting people know there were opportunities. For example there was a 'research experience program' that I never knew about until the last year of college and only through the grape vine. They never announced it. Definitely PLUG IN to the grapevine, know people, get out. Now is not the time to be sitting in your dorm and raiding. The friends you make could last a lifetime. The decisions you make will. 

I slacked off through most of college but really focused when I got into grad school. I think that saved me. But by and large its the EXPERIENCE that is critical. In the real world nobody gives a shit what GPA you got, or what stupid classes you did, unless they are technical "here is how you do this". Everyone is expected to read and write, and know the basics of the field. You don't leave a comp sci degree not knowing how to program for example. But the really important thing, the thing that you are paying for, is the opportunity. Like summer work (very very impt). Like overseas education. Like volunteer work in your field. Like research symposia (if you want to be an academic). Stuff like that. 

People are going to look at your resume, and 90% of it is 'what have you done in measurable terms'. Ie I released a program that was downloaded 100,000 times and won this award. Or "I helped set up a program feeding the hungry". 10% of your resume is your education. Your grades aren't even on your resume (unless its outstanding). So, when you are doing college, shape your journey by these measures, and get to know important people in your field. Professors are by and large fing worthless unless you want to go to grad school. 

Sorry for wall of text. I spent 15 years in education and changed my career course a few times, its extremely costly and embarassing to be working at the same level as kids 10-20 years younger who know more than you even though you have much more education. Suffice to say I learned a few things and ways not to approach life.

Edit: One last thing, another very expensive lesson. When it gets time to your career (and you should always be thinking, what will people actually pay me to do, and what job could I get with the skills that I have or can easily get). What will get you in the door. Is it the piece of paper diploma? Everyone has that. Is it "I took such and such course". Yeah everyone did that. Or "Well I'm this certification". Certs are not that useful (just trust me on this, especially in IT, only licensure is important, like "Board certified in XXXX", but you'll know that when you get there. 

Okay what gets you in the door. How do you get a job. 1) Its who you know. I got an opportunity out of tech school as a intern. It sucked ass but it was experience and a name. 2) Its what you know. Companies are looking to fill niches "we need someone who can do X, ie build a virtual server". 3) Its who you know who has opportunities. How did I get my current job which is very comfortable middle class. I knew someone who knew someone. I talked to person A, a professional in the field. He know about places A B and C. I called each of those places. "I'm looking for a job opportunity". One said, yes we need someone like you. Boom, i'm hired. This was after literally YEARS of you name it. If you are going that route the odds of getting a job drop off a cliff. Trust me, in this climate nobody is going to get hired going that route. Craigslist may work because its local. Once you get to a national search, unless you are a CEO or college president, forget it. There are thousands of people applying, and half are more qualified than you.

GO READ *WHAT COLOR IS MY PARACHUTE* It is the most effective book I ever read, and is absolutely true. Your career is all about nurturing contacts. Nobody gives a shit what degree you got, its what you can bring to the table, what is your experience and knowledge base. Can you do X specific thing. Do you know how to set up Y. Can you help us do Z.