This is a Young Professional Advice from Friends post written by Jimmy Vo, a systems analyst nearing the end of his twenties. YPAF is a collection of voices from different ages, places and industries to share advice on starting a career and conquering your twenties.
During my undergraduate “college career” I took the slow and steady approach in getting my bachelor’s degree. Throughout my undergraduate studies, I transferred twice which attributed to my prolonged college career. After nearly 5 and half years, I was able to put college behind me at nearly age 24. Upon graduation, I was lucky enough to land a full-time job as a systems analyst but I realized I could be further in my career in my mid-twenties. So what would I have done differently?
When I moved back home, my second college was a community college. I decided I wanted to live with my friends to start my 20s. Given that I had to pay rent I had to work two-part jobs selling jeans and baking bagels. I didn’t have time to commit to taking a full course load. Stupid. It was quite a setback.
I should have stayed home with Mom (she enjoyed having me around), went to school full-time and saved money.
Just Showing Up
I rarely missed a lecture, however that’s all I did during my undergraduate studies. I woke up, went to class, kept to myself, did my assignments and worked on exams. I don’t know if it’s because I’m an introvert or I thought I was too cool.
I did not leverage college activities, student groups, and more importantly I network with my classmates. I truly believe one of the biggest value propositions of college is meeting like-minded individuals. You never know, who you could help or who could help you land your next job.
I’ve worked since I was 16 and don’t have many gaps in my employment history. Most of my part-time employment was in related to food or retail. Being able to fold jeans, make breakfast sandwiches, or counting MacBook Pros did not translate experience wise in a career in Information Technology (Note: I did learn a few skills like customer service, teamwork and leadership which I can’t discount). Perhaps I would have had more job offers and a higher starting salary if I had 4 years of part-time IT experience as a new college graduate.
I didn’t seek enough opportunities that could build up my technical experience. I failed to take on IT internships when I had the chance because I would have made more money working a retail job.
My mindset and vision was very short-sighted. I didn’t see the big picture because I coasted through college at a slow pace. This put me a year and a half behind of time I could have been working full-time. I also just went to class and left, not taking advantage of all the other value college brought to the table. Lastly, I did not seek opportunities that built out my resume and IT experience.
After graduating in 2010, I created a plan and stuck with it since, better late than never. I took opportunities to improve myself by joining Toastmasters, professionally networking with social media, getting a master’s degree, working on projects outside of work and working hard every day. I’d have to say I’m really enjoying my late twenties as I get to work hard, seek new challenges but most importantly have a some fun along the way. I challenge you to not wait until you graduate to have a plan, like I did.
Jimmy Vo, a systems analyst is a twenty something geek who loves sharing his experiences. In his spare time you can find him tweeting (@JimmyVo), working on his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or working on various projects.