Career advice for freshmen

Every once in a while I get asked by friends (or friends of friends) if I have any advice to give to young people about to start university. Some points below:

  • Be honest with yourself in deciding what you want to study.  If you don’t like it, don’t sacrifice 4-5 years on it.
  • Even then, understand what is the labour market like for your chosen field.
  • A diploma might be a requirement, but extra-curricular activities, other skills or even social connections migth very well be what opens the door for when you get a job.
  • Keep a good relationship with your teachers if you can.  If you earn their trust, they might help you later on in your career.
  • Be aware that as corny as it might sound we do live in a globalised economy.  Your competitors (and your partners ) might not be in/from the same city, country or continent as you.
  • With that in mind, evaluate whether you need to have a good understanding of languages, cultures and physical challenges (such as timezones).  Studying abroad (as an exchange or full degree student) will give you first-hand experience in all those things, but if you do not have the chance, try to engage with the exchange students at your university and sign in to foreign-language courses.
  • Understand that globalisation doesn’t mean Americanization.  While the US is still very important, so are Europe, China, India, Latin America, Africa…
  • Regarding your career choice, be assured that in many cases it won’t last forever.  Market and workplace conditions change really fast.  According to some studies, the average graduate will have 5 different careers before he retires.  I can tell you I have already had 3 very distinct phases in my working life (from engineering to sales to marketing) and I’m not yet 30.  Furthermore, my current professional field didn’t even exist 7 years ago when I finished my bachelors degree.
  • As such, the most important ability you will graduate with is that to unlearn and relearn.  Never lose that flexibility.
  • Be open, be brave, try new things (even if they’re not related to each other or your current field).  You never know when that knowledge of space exploration, basketball or Latin American rock might help you (those are real examples from my career).

Any thoughts or additions?

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