Preparing for your career starts in university – an admittedly hectic time for many, but if used well, your experiences can reap many benefits for your future. My time in Columbia University included taking courses in the engineering and business schools, significant leadership involvement in three campus organizations (community service, academic society, and social fraternity), as well as on- and off-campus jobs. In addition to having points to include in my résumé, making the most out of your time at university can enrich your life experiences. Here I’ve summarised the ways in which I have exploited my college experience for the benefit of my career.
Let’s face it: For the majority of you in university, your occupation is primarily that of a student. That means that you get a lot more—financial, temporal, and perhaps social—leeway to explore your options and exploit your opportunities. In between coursework and school terms, there are chunks of time for you to do things that can reap many long-term benefits. Here’s what I’ve gained from my time at Columbia:
Balancing multiple things
I learned how to juggle the competing demands of school, extra-curricular activities, and part-time jobs.
Analytical problem solving
Although I don’t face any engineering problems today, the engineering training I received at Columbia honed my analytical skills which have been instrumental to my success in both management consulting and investment banking.
Working in diverse teams
Several of my classes and campus organizations required working collectively with a diverse set of people to achieve a common objective. This helped me to be effective in teams where everyone has different expectations and cultural inclinations, which is particularly valuable for working in emerging and international markets. Knowing how to negotiate and guide my team members to overcome challenges to has also sharpened my leadership skills.
At Columbia, I took the Managerial Behavior and Corporate Strategy classes at the business school. These allowed me to learn about leadership theory in class and then apply it in extra-curricular organizations where the cost of failure was low. Learning to lead in this environment prepared me to motivate people who are not my direct reports. This has been useful in managing the many situations I face with shared resources such as cross-functional and cross-organizational teams.
This post has been adapted from the third in a five-part interview conducted by Columbia University Centre for Career Education.