Most of know that there are two types of change: planned change and unplanned change.
I like to plan for change because unplanned change usually ends up “biting me in the butt!” Sometimes, you just can’t seem to avoid what you didn’t foresee.
In my community, where I live and return home to each night, we were faced with the dreaded California fires. Forty homes in my neighborhood were either fully or partially destroyed. Thanks to my husband, who stayed behind to fight the fires, his “plan” was to prevent our home from going up in smoke and thankfully, because of him, our home and a neighbor’s home were saved from destruction. The extent of our loss was the fence that divided our two homes and believe me, we are truly grateful for just that.
Now, this incident is certainly an example of unplanned change. How will the loss of a home affect each family? I don’t think anyone can really know except that each family will be affected in different ways. And perhaps this is where the “plan” really lives.
Because unplanned change usually impacts us in negative ways, perhaps it is best to learn how to cope with change and the challenges that change presents in our lives. This is why I am a planner. I like to control events that impact change and then navigate the transition that change commands.
Taking responsibility for our life’s decisions through planning and preparation provides a sense of control to our lives which will inevitably be impacted by unplanned events. Even fires are more easily faced when we embrace that all things eventually change.
As a college professor, I am faced with change almost every day. With a steady flow of students coming and going from my classroom, I have personally seen how planning, even just a little planning can impact a student’s entire experience.
We know that being accepted into college is an event that requires planning. It isn’t often that a student can get accepted without a clear plan of action that must navigate dates, papers, applications and a whole series of things that offer a reward at the end. But why is there no planning for being in college?
Without a plan, a lot can happen. First, there are the students who quit college and move back home. Then there are graduates who finish up and get a job totally unrelated to their hard-earned college degree. Both situations can result in a fall into a depression. And is it avoidable? Of course, it is!
Four years in college pass quickly so for a student to take advantage of all that college offers and be really prepared for the job search upon graduation, it takes a work plan. A work plan consists of those activities you should complete each year while attending college to take full advantage of the opportunities college offers and to prepare for a career upon graduation.
Sounds simple, right?
Hindsight is 20 20
Well, I wish that I could tell you that I was this smart back when I was a student but instead, I will offer a good example of opportunities lost while in my Ph.D. studies. For each course taken, an active phase was required. That meant we had to attend conferences, attend events, run focus groups, or give presentations. When I finally understood the many ways to fulfill the active requirement, I started to really enjoy going to conferences, attending events, running focus groups and giving presentations. The problem was, I was at the end of the program and didn’t take advantage of the types of active experiences I grew to enjoy.
To make matters worse, during the Ph.D. program there were opportunities that were either unknown to me or postponed until after graduation. These opportunities would have placed me in a better career position upon graduation. So, the lesson I am trying to communicate is one I know too well from experience.
Graduation is Only One Goal
For students entering college, there are so many choices and decisions to make that overwhelms even the best or prepared student. College students are so consumed with the goal to graduate that they miss the bigger picture of the college experience: the college journey.
I often hear from college students that they don’t know what they want to do once they graduate. The enormously lucky individual is the student who knows when they enter college what their major will be and what they want to do once they graduate. Most of us are not that fortunate to know our path. However, even if you do know your path through college to career there are still opportunities to explore while in college in order to become a more educated and well-informed individual.
The primary activity when in college is to plan. What services, departments, and activities on campus are available to you? That is for you to find out and make sure that you take the time to actually do it. Once that information is known and you find a few activities you want to do, then scheduling those activities is your next priority. It is important to schedule activities because time passes quickly, and you know what? Most of us will agree that “if not scheduled,” then the activity might not happen.
Another important tip is that is important to schedule activities that you have an interest in and that you have never tried. For example, if you have an interest in joining the swim team but never swam competitively, don’t dismiss this opportunity thinking you can’t do it because you never did before. You are here and now and honestly; some opportunities just do not come around a second time.
That brings me back to my neighborhood. The forty homes lost were pretty much out of lucks way when the wind was blowing, but my husband must have thought about that moment once or twice as the news blasted pictures of neighboring communities in the past. So, our unforeseen moment was mixed with some luck, some planning, and a little ingenuity. But for certain, had things gone the other way, we were ready for the moment of change. No, we didn’t have an instant system in place to save our entire life’s memories, but we were ready to do what was necessary in a negative situation.
College and career planning are just a process, a process of preparation. Some things will go as planned and others, well we never have 100% certainty of anything, but you can plan to have a process. And that process may one day guide you through the roughest moments, or just the fastest moments when you have so little time to think that you just jump into action. The right action!
To learn more about the process refer to the book Check It Off! Pave Your Way through College to Career for more information.
Vera Teller is a professor at California State University Dominguez Hills. She is a Ph.D., and has written two books to help her students navigate the bumpy road from college to career, Check It Off! and Navigate Your Way to the Career You Want. She lives in Southern California, is an in-demand College-to-Career Speaker, and consults with parents and students on navigating the entire process.www.verateller.com