advice

The Post-Grad 15: What I’ve Learned Since My College Graduation

Me as a college graduate!

Me as a college graduate!

When I was a freshman in college, I launched The Freshman 15 series on my blog. Every month, I provided a list of 15 tips for college students geared toward a particular theme, such as getting involved on campus, navigating college relationships and overcoming homesickness. That first April in 2010, the series kicked off with a list of 15 lessons I had learned that year in college, and this quickly became a tradition – every April brought with it a list of what I had learned outside of the classroom that year (see Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4).

Although these posts were some of my blog’s most popular, The Freshman 15 series fell to the wayside about a year ago. However, this month, I am excited to announce that The Freshman 15 is officially back and (hopefully) better than ever!

As many of my readers may know, I graduated from college back in May 2013, so this month’s article comes with a twist – a list of 15 lessons I learned in the year since I graduated college! The past year was particularly eye-opening for me, as I moved to a new apartment, began working full-time and experienced other substantial changes in my life. In that time, I faced plenty of ups and downs, and am excited to share what I discovered in the process!

The Post-Grad 15: What I’ve Learned Since My College Graduation

 1. You can get through the seemingly impossible, but you have to take the first step.
In my first year out of school, I overcame a few challenges in my life that I thought would be impossible, simply by moving forward. Instead of sitting around, waiting for things to get better, I took action and made my life better. This year was proof that “Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.” I achieved positive results in my life by doing things I’d never done before, and learned that our biggest opportunities for growth often come from the challenges we didn’t think we could face.

2. Don’t put glass bottles on the top shelf, especially above a carpeted surface…
… And if you do, make sure you have plenty of carpet cleaner on hand! I learned this lesson the hard way when I knocked a bottle of Kahlua off a shelf and had to make a late-night trip to the store for cleanup. Several rounds of vacuuming later, my apartment was as good as new, but my leg and foot were a different story! (The worst part is that neither my roommate nor I drink Kahlua or had any use for it on our shelf!)

01595c42c30d4e84d087359d60e68d083. Tragedy does not care about timing.
I have written about this before, but I cannot stress this lesson enough. Only a month after graduation, I experienced two profound yet completely different losses within four days of each other. At the time, I was in new-hire training at work, and in the middle of packing up for my upcoming move across town. Dealing with two negative situations at the same time was difficult and often felt unfair, but I quickly learned that – cliché as it is – life isn’t always fair. At the end of the day, you still have to find healthy ways to cope and still function as a human being. Life will continue to happen around you, whether or not you pick up the pieces, and the world will spin madly on.

4. You can find alliances in unexpected places.
Accept them. You will need them, as you adjust to The Real World, and from time to time, they will need you. Be the type of friend you would want to have, and open your eyes to the wonderful people out there who want to be yours.

5. Get a roommate.
You will save money this way, and you will be a lot less lonely!

I am fortunate to have this trail right outside of my neighborhood!

I am fortunate to have this trail right outside of my neighborhood!

6. Breathe in the fresh air.
I mean this literally. Make it a priority to go outside. Several months ago, my boyfriend and I discovered a nature trail near my apartment, and since then, I have enjoyed countless walks down that trail when I need to get away. (Recently, my roommate and I even encountered a bunny out there!) Find a peaceful place where you can go when the weather is nice and you need that change in scenery.

7. There will still be days that suck.
You know the ones I’m talking about… the long, cold, rainy ones when all you want to do is go home and sleep, but then you find yourself pulled into one fiasco after another, and when you finally think it’s all over, you drop your keys in the dark. Those days still exist, even now that you’re supposed to be a well-adjusted, sophisticated adult, and you will never escape them completely. But then there are the good days that make all the struggles and minor crises that much easier to take, because they remind us of the success we’re working toward.

8. You are never too old for a Disney movie night.
Sometimes it’s important to stop taking ourselves so seriously and to enjoy the simple things that remind us of our childhood. Whenever I’m sick, I curl up in bed and watch Beauty and the Beast, partly because Belle is my all-time favorite princess and partly because the film takes me back to a simpler time in my life. Find those comforts and take advantage of them when needed. (This same rule can be applied to the Spice Girls movie, which my roommate and I may or may not have watched at home a few months ago…)

9. Clothes make the man (or woman).
To be taken seriously in the workforce, you have to invest in a few key pieces. Make sure you have a nice suit and can put together a clean and polished outfit for an interview or for work. Some items can be found on sale or for much cheaper, but you will need to invest in quality clothes. (These are great graduation gifts to ask for!)

121212someecards110. Learn about finances before you graduate.
Know how to write a check, balance your checkbook and create a budget. You can find plenty of templates online to get started, but you will need to find ways to stay organized so that you can avoid paying late or spending more than your paycheck allows. Learn about how to build your credit score and develop positive habits now, so that your borrowing history doesn’t keep you from reaching your dreams later in life.

11. It is much more difficult to take time off to go see family.
Because of this, you have to value that time now more than ever. Don’t let those visits get lost amidst piles of work and obligations. Appreciate the family you have and make the time for them when you are able to do so.

12. When looking at jobs, think big picture.
Salary is important, but what about the job’s benefits? What about the company culture? Will you be happy there? I was lucky to accept a job where many employees have stayed on for years, one where I could see myself long-term, but some people will go against their gut and take the first job offer they can get their hands on. Keep an open mind, but don’t settle if the job isn’t for you.

Home sweet home!

Home sweet home!

13. Develop a sense of community, wherever you end up.
Find free events in your area, cheap museums to visit, local parks and other attractions that contribute to your community’s identity. This helps you to take pride in where you live, especially when you are in a new place, and in my case, it helps me feel less homesick! These types of events can also help you to save money while still having fun with friends.

14. Life doesn’t fit into a neatly shaped box.
Sometimes, things don’t go as you plan, no matter how hard you try. There may be times when your life feels less like a glamorous Audrey Hepburn movie and more like an extremely depressing episode of Girls. It’s okay to veer off path once in a while, so long as you develop that support system that can steer you back on course.

15. Be thankful for the good times.
I cannot stress this enough. While you experience highs and lows after graduation, you will want to remember the highs and never take them for granted. As one project I’m working on this year, I keep a jar of all the great things that have happened in 2014. Every time I experience something positive that I want to remember, I write it down on a small slip of paper and stick it in the jar. At the end of the year, I look forward to pouring everything out and reliving some of those happy memories. After all, amidst the lows, the year has also brought with it some pretty spectacular highs. :)

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Readers: Are you a college graduate who would like to share a lesson you’ve learned since graduation? Email me at vmoses90@gmail.com for details on how you can contribute to an upcoming article on So It Must Be True!

Unhealthy Relationships: 5 Signs That the Nice Guy Isn’t So Nice

This article was originally published as a guest post on HUGStronger in September 2012, a college advice blog that has since been discontinued, and was later reposted on College Relationships here.

We’ve all been warned.  Before leaving for college, we receive a surplus of information from older friends, advising us both academically and socially.  These friends also share their dating wisdom, cautioning us against falling for the “wrong” kind of guy.

Pop culture portrays the “wrong guy” as the unmotivated slacker who skates by on an academic probation, or as the misogynist who only wants you for your looks.  However, during my freshman year, I learned that the wrong guy can be difficult to spot, because he often disguises himself as the nice guy you can’t help but trust.

That fall, I met a boy with whom I instantly connected.  We fell into an easy friendship that eventually developed into more.  With little dating experience behind me, I took his seemingly charming personality at face value.

In time, I learned that his “nice guy” routine was exactly that – a routine.  He simultaneously pursued multiple girls who had no knowledge of each other, while feeding them the same lines and spreading hurtful rumors. Ultimately, I realized our relationship was unhealthy and would only drag me down.

Nice guys do exist, and I’ve dated a few since then. However, when dealing with new guys, watch out for red flags:

ran-into-my-ex21. He says mostly negative things about his ex-girlfriends.
If he tells you extremely personal (or insulting) details about previous girlfriends, chances are he’ll say the same things about you when you break up.  Of course, you don’t want to date someone who still loves his ex-girlfriend, but if he seems particularly vindictive toward the girls he’s dated, you might want to break things off.

2. He likes to tell you about all of his admirers.
Even when he claimed to be interested in only me, my not-so-nice guy would constantly rant about the many girls who were “in love” with him.  I’m not a jealous person, but I often wondered why he needed to share this knowledge.  It’s one thing if other girls find him attractive; it’s another thing if he’s using that information to try and upset you.

3. He mixes up his stories.
First he tells you that he was spending time with his boys last night.  Then he casually slips in that another girl was there.  Then he gets annoyed when you ask him for details about his evening, and accuses you of not trusting him.  What starts out as simple curiosity can quickly morph into suspicion.

aint-nobody-got-time-for-that4. He plays hot and cold with your emotions.
If a guy is sending you mixed signals for any prolonged period of time, he’s not that into you.  If he’s truly worth your time, he will make it known that he’s interested, and he won’t keep you guessing whether or not he wants a relationship.

5. He disguises condescending remarks as compliments.
In trying to win me back, my not-so-nice guy once explained that I had grown since we last parted ways, and that he now felt more attracted to me because of how “assertive” I had become. (Translation: “Now that you’re unattainable, I consider you a challenge worth pursuing.”) The truth was, I hadn’t changed much in that time, and I didn’t need his affirmation that I had “grown” enough to be worth his attention. Remember, you deserve to be treated well no matter how much you still have left to learn or accomplish.

Not-so-nice guys come in all forms. Be aware of the warning signs, so that you won’t fall into the same traps as many others.  Don’t settle for anyone who treats you as anything less than you deserve.

Link Love: Clean Eating Tips and Resources

clean-eating-someecard2Happy Friday, readers! I hope everyone has had a fabulous week – I know I did. :) On Wednesday, I finished a 30-day clean eating program called the Whole 30 (see website here for more details), which requires you to eliminate dairy, sugar/sweeteners, grains, legumes and many processed foods from your diet to improve your overall health. Although I don’t often write about nutrition and dieting, I have wanted to kick a lot of bad food habits out of my life for a long time.

Last month, I embarked on the Whole 30 program, and over the next 30 days, I improved my eczema and asthma, increased my energy levels by a lot and even lost 10 pounds, thanks to eating right and avoiding some of the nasty chemicals found in a lot of addictive junk food.

I shared parts of my journey on Instagram, where I received a lot of positive feedback. During this time, I have also received a lot of questions from friends about eating clean and where I found a lot of my recipes. I am not an expert by any means, but I have learned a lot and am thankful for all of the great resources I found online. This week, I would like to share those with you!

What are some of your favorite clean eating websites? What tips or recipes do you have for any of these programs? Have you ever tried the Whole 30 program?

Link Love THURSDAY: Articles Not About Justin Bieber

When I woke up yesterday morning, I saw the rain and noticed that it was a particularly dreary Wednesday. After a few beautiful, sunny days that reminded me of what I love about springtime, I am left with a very gray middle of the week that I hope will clear up soon! As we all anxiously await the (hopefully brighter) weekend, let’s enjoy a cup of tea and a sampling of this week’s interesting/funny/thought-provoking articles. (And no, Justin Bieber is not invited!)

Any great links this week? Send them my way!

The Weekend Five: Tips For Throwing Fabulous Theme Parties

Getting ready for a hipster-themed party, circa 2010. (Yes, I brought a Chuck Klosterman book.)

On my way to a hipster-themed party, circa 2010. Very amateur costume, but fun night!

Because my job requires a lot of event coordination, it may not come as a surprise to you that I love planning theme parties. Ever since I began inviting groups of friends to my college dorm, I found that I had a knack for hosting, and over the years, I fell in love with planning as well. I have hosted my fair share of theme parties (mainly in college, but I’m sure they will make a resurgence in my life someday), and I’ve enjoyed getting friends together to have fun while wearing ridiculous costumes.

Planning and hosting a theme party isn’t as challenging as it looks. This week, I’ll provide a little how-to guide for putting together your own soiree with as little stress as possible!

Oh, and whatever you do, avoid these five terrible party themes!

The Weekend Five: Tips For Throwing Fabulous Theme Parties

1. Create a twist on an old, worn-out theme.
So you’ve been to too many “decades” themed parties, filled solely with hippies and people from the ’80s? Base your party around a different time in history — the 1860s, perhaps, or even the future — or encourage party-goers to dress as their favorite celebrity from another decade. The first theme party I threw was a “random decades” party, which included a beatnik, Audrey Hepburn, Michael Jackson and Daisy Duke, among others, and I will never forget some of the great costumes that night. If you’re going to go traditional, give your guests ideas for interesting ways to avoid the usual clichés.

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2. Broaden your theme.
If you choose something too specific, your guests may not know what to expect, and you may become overwhelmed trying to plan for it all! For example, “extraterrestrials from France during the Revolution” might be too narrow a theme for anyone to follow, but “extraterrestrials,” “France” or “late 1700s” are much broader themes to select costumes, decorations and food for.

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Fishie cupcakes I made for a nautical-themed party, 2012.

Fishie cupcakes I made for a nautical-themed party, 2012.

3. Use Pinterest for inspiration.
The Internet is a fantastic place for party-planners in this day and age! When I decided to throw a nautical-themed birthday party, I turned to Pinterest to see what others had done for food and decorations, and this definitely took some of the stress away. Planning the party took up a lot of my (and my roommates’) creativity, but getting some inspiration online for cool cupcakes and decorations made it much easier to work because I was no longer planning from a completely blank canvas. Creating your own boards to pin the best ideas will help keep you organized and on top of things. (My fish cupcakes received a lot of positive feedback, by the way, and were a lot of fun to make!)

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4. Choose a theme that allows easy costume planning.
Yes, you can plan an “extraterrestrials from France during the Revolution” party, but how will your guests know what to wear? (Hint: They won’t.) I have found that the most successful theme parties I have planned or attended had easy-to-create costumes that wouldn’t break the guests’ budgets. For example, during my sophomore year, I attended a hipster party, where nearly everyone who attended already had part of the costume in their closets (and simply drew on ridiculous facial hair or bought a pair of non-prescription glasses for good measure). A lot of great theme parties allow guests to wear clothing they already own as the base of their costumes, with accessories to tie into the theme. This helps people get more excited about your party and encourages everyone to participate. (Because what is sadder than a theme party where nobody except the host dressed up?)

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1317774503269_76603315. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
It can be challenging – and expensive! – to throw an elaborately themed party without at least some assistance. Encourage guests to brink snacks or drinks of choice, as this not only helps you out but also brings more creativity to your party. If you know that your friend is already bringing cupcakes to the party, then you don’t have to worry about making/buying them yourself. Provide the staples but if friends offer to help you cook, bake or decorate, don’t be prideful. Say yes! :)

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What are some of the best theme parties you’ve held over the years? What tips do you have for throwing fabulous parties?

The Weekend Five: Travel Tips for the New Year

Wandering around a Kibbutz!

Wandering around a Kibbutz, 2011

As many of my readers know, I have always loved visiting new places. Whether I’m traveling across the Atlantic or simply a few miles to a local attraction I’ve never visited, I’m constantly looking for ways to broaden my horizons and see something new. Although I don’t foresee any far away trips in the near future, I do hope 2014 brings plenty of exciting adventures and opportunities to explore!

Over the years, I have been fortunate to visit the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East and many of the wonderful states right here in the U.S. During that time, I’ve picked up a lot of tricks for having a better travel experience. Let’s kick off this weekend with a few of these tips to help you plan your vacations for 2014. :) Bon voyage!

 The Weekend Five: Travel Tips for the New Year

Dinner in West London, 2012.

Dinner in West London, 2012.

1. Do your homework.
Research and planning are two of the most important things you can do prior to any trip! If you can, talk to people you know who have been to the place you’re about to visit, and get their advice for the best sights to see. For most popular destinations, you can find guidebooks at your local bookstore, where you can flip through and learn more about some of the hidden gems. (This also allows you to avoid showing up at a museum on a weekday when it is closed!) Browse travel blogs as well – you can find a lot of good information and photos from those who have already been! (You can check out my blog for some suggested destinations in London, Paris and Rome.) Plan out a basic itinerary or list of must-see attractions for your trip, but allow for changes along the way as you make your own discoveries!

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2. Find a hotel slightly outside of the city.
If you’re visiting a city with good public transportation, your best bet is to stay in a hotel near the metro but slightly outside of the city. These hotels tend to be less expensive but still very accessible. I picked up on this trick through some of the organized trips I’d gone on, once I saw that there were still some exciting things to do and that a trip to the more bustling tourist areas was only ten minutes or so by train. Buy a temporary metro pass if you can to avoid long lines and travel with ease throughout the city!

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Sunburned at the Pantheon, 2012

Sunburned at the Pantheon, 2012

3. Keep your chargers handy.
My biggest regret when I went to Israel was not charging my camera enough. After spending the night in a Bedouin tent in the desert, we woke up at the break of dawn to climb a nearby mountain, and as the sun rose, the battery in my camera died. I was all set to take a beautiful sunrise photo at the top of the mountain, but because I hadn’t been charging my camera at the hotel in the days leading up to our desert trip, I had to settle for photo-bombing my friends’ pictures instead. Even if your camera dies, of course, you still have your memories – but the photos are definitely great to look back on once the trip has long since passed. Bring extra batteries just in case!

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4. Eat normally when possible.
For many people, food is one of the more exciting aspects of travel. However, when you’re adjusting to new time zones, it’s a good idea not to stray too far from your normal diet. In France, for example, many of my friends and I were tempted to start the day off with lots of pastries, but after a while, too much indulgence slowed everyone down. Because I eat a lot of scrambled or hard-boiled eggs when I’m at home, I tried to gear my breakfast toward those when possible, enjoying the occasional croissant here and there. Don’t be afraid to try new things and treat yourself every now and then, but don’t stray too much from your usual diet, either. You don’t want to let unhealthy food choices take away your energy to see the sights!

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Hanging out by the love padlocks near Notre Dame, 2012

Hanging out by the love padlocks near Notre Dame, 2012

5. Be kind and respectful.
This may sound simple enough, but you’d be surprised at how few people truly remember to say “please” and “thank you.” I’m always shocked to see how some people will behave in another country or when dealing with the staff at airports, hotels and attractions. Remember that you are in another person’s home state, country or city, and treat him or her with the same courtesy you would expect in return.

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Travelers, what are some of your tips? Where do you hope to visit in the new year?

Link Love Wednesday: One Week Till Christmas!

o-SOMEECARDS-facebookThe gifts have begun to make their way in. My office building is decked with trees, wreaths and holly. And the holiday light shows are finally in full bloom! Christmas season is finally here, and it is definitely a jolly (if not uncharacteristically freezing for Central Florida) time of year. Wishing a happy holiday season to you and your family! My gift to you? A fabulous round-up of articles and links you will love!

Any great links you’ve stumbled upon this week?

Happy Holidays!

The Weekend Five: Things I Learned in the Six Months Since Graduation

Me as a college graduate!

Me as a college graduate!

It’s crazy to believe that it has been a little more than half a year since I graduated from college! It feels like just yesterday I was ordering a cap and gown and finishing up my last few senior projects for the year. About a week before walking across the stage, I accepted a position in my dream job, and looked forward to beginning anew.

Six months later, I am finally adjusting to working full-time and living on a different end of town. As I settle into “adulthood,” I am still in love with my work and apartment, but I have also learned a lot since the day I turned my tassel and accepted my diploma.

This week, I will reflect on some of the lessons I have learned in the past six months. Feel free to add your own post-grad lessons in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Things I Learned in the Six Months Since Graduation

1. Not everyone will like you.
It’s harsh, but it’s true. No matter how sparkling your personality is, how hardworking you are or how well you match your accessories to your outfits, you won’t win the heart of every single person you encounter. As someone who cares admittedly too much about what others think, this was an especially difficult truth for me to accept. Sometimes this has to do with the other person — maybe he or she is jealous of you, or just bitter about something you can’t control. And sometimes this has to do with you — maybe you’re an acquired taste. Instead of trying to change those people, focus your energy on the things you can control.

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ElleWoods2. Take advantage of everything you can get your hands on.
“That’s not in my job description” isn’t necessarily a good reason to turn something down. Whether you have the opportunity to learn a new software program or head up a project in a different area than you’re used to, you can make yourself a much more valuable asset by saying “yes” and trying something new.

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3. Tragedy doesn’t care about timing.
In other words, life isn’t always fair. I learned this lesson the hard way when I experienced two great losses in my life within four days of one another. Although I knew that both were coming, they still hurt, and it was difficult to cope with one while coping with the other. Sometimes, you’ll experience several hardships in a short time, but you still have to pick up the pieces, show up at work the next day and function as a normal human being. Remind yourself that things will eventually turn up, and find healthy ways to cope with your feelings.

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graduation4. Timing is, however, important.
Never underestimate the significance of being in the right place at the right time with the right people. I would have begun networking earlier in college if I had known how helpful it would be in the time that followed. From job prospects to relationships, timing can make all the difference in how successful you are. Work hard, but be patient.

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5. Learn to laugh about the bad experiences and mistakes you have made. After all, you can write about them in your memoir someday!
Remind yourself that this too shall pass. Whether you just endured a difficult breakup or struggled through an important interview, the way you handle your hardships will define you. You won’t be able to find humor in everything, but try to learn from your mistakes and not dwell on them forever. When I look back on some of the things I worried about in college, I can’t help but laugh and ask myself, “What was I thinking?” Nowadays, I think a little reflection and a few laughs are just signs that you’re growing up.

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What are some of the things you learned when you first graduated?

Link Love Wednesday: Ashton Kutcher and Rejection

ashton kutcherThe past few weeks at work have been completely packed, as we gear up for the fall semester. From a football kickoff luncheon to several all-day tabling events, I’m loving my job but completely ready to unwind with some Link Love. What are some of the fabulous articles and blog posts you’ve been reading lately?

The Weekend Five: Advice for Communication Students

130201587920As some of you may know, I just graduated with my bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations. I started my real-life grown-up job just a few weeks later, and as much as I loved my college experience, I’ve since noticed some of the ways my degree program could have better prepared me for the job market. On a more positive note, I have also noticed the things that my major did right, and how important those aspects of college were.

For communication students, finding a job after graduation can be especially difficult. Unless you were snapped up by the company you interned for, it can be challenging to muscle through the job search, while your friends who studied engineering are choosing between multiple competitive offers. However, as students in public relations, advertising and other areas of communication, you can also find ways to stand out to employers and succeed in the workforce.

The Weekend Five: Advice for Communication Students

1. Take more business classes.
Sure, you may have aspirations of becoming an art director or copywriter for a big agency, but a background in business will round out your education and help you not only in your professional life, but in your personal life as well. I used to dread attending my economics and personal finance classes, but looking back, I wish I had put more time into those classes and even taken a few more. Because my major was not in the college of business, we only had to take a minimal number of business classes, and most of our coursework focused on the sometimes nebulous concept of branding. Now working in marketing at a financial institution, I wish I had learned more about the business side of my major. You never know where you’ll end up working, but having a better background in business will ultimately help you to create results in a more tangible way.

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1305521022158_78486322. Internships are your best friends.
Some degree programs require at least one internship – I was lucky to be part of one of those programs. However, at some universities, internships are recommended but not mandatory for graduation. Internships will give you real-life experience and teach you more than you can learn in a classroom, but they also give you portfolio materials to show at job interviews, introduce you to others in your industry and can even lead to full-time work. I interned at four separate companies during my college career, and at three of those internships, my supervisor had graduated from my school and interned at that company several years prior. Even if the company isn’t hiring, putting in the time for an internship is an important investment to make.

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3. Save your work.
Keep your press releases, published articles, media advisories and design work – you never know when it will be needed! I saved everything I put together for classes and internships so that when interviewers asked me to supply three writing samples, I was able to do so. Employers will want to see what you can do, rather than what you say you can do. If you save all your work in one place, it makes it a lot easier to dig out on demand.

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Nutty-Professor4. Get to know faculty.
The faculty members in your program should have an extensive knowledge of the industry, and some may still be working in it. You’ll want to make sure you connect with them through extracurriculars and office hours so they can help guide you when needed. Trust me – where employers are concerned, a recommendation from a trusted faculty member goes a lot farther than a simple response on an online job posting, and it will help ensure that your resumé is actually seen.

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5. Social media matters even more.
In 2013, social media definitely matters when it comes to the job/internship hunt, but it matters even more when you’re a communication student. Because the jobs you’re searching for may require social media management, employers will want to see that you can not only adequately use those platforms, but that you know how to positively represent yourself online. My advice: make your page as private as possible, but don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss to see.

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Communication students, what are your concerns? Graduates, what are your tips?