Tips to get you on the path to a GREAT career | College/University Edition

Tips to get you on the path to a GREAT career | College/University Edition


Finding your version of “basketball”

This is the follow-up to the post “The one thing you need to do to have a great career” and third in the Career Potential series of posts.

The pre-graduation edition has information specifically for those in college/university and going through their academic careers to eventually join the work force.  But the information would also be useful for anyone interested in having a great career and finding their version of “basketball”.

We extend the analogy of finding your “basketball”, oddly enough by following the slogans of two companies:

  • Sainsbury – Try something new
  • Nike – Just do it


Try something new
For those that do not live in the UK, Sainsbury may not be a household name.  Sainsbury is large grocery retailer in the UK and have had various slogans in its history but the one we want you to listen to is “Try something new”.  College/university offers a relatively unique life opportunity in terms of elective courses, clubs, and a social context that allows for many new opportunities. If we continue our analogy to find your “version of basketball”, try something new basically tells you to try every possible sport that makes sense to try. This could be

  • enrolling in an elective (picking something you are interested in versus a “bird course” to get your grades up)
  • joining one or more of the many clubs available (could be sports related, focused on the arts, social causes, or whatever peaks your interest)
  • volunteer organizations outside of school that you encounter and show an interest
  • if the club/volunteer organization doesn’t exist, then why not start it up?
  • so a part time job in something that you’ve always wanted to try (sales, back office, etc.)

Why? I’ll summarize with a parody (of which I don’t recall the source/author): A very accomplished army general had died and was in front of the Pearly Gates and asked St Peter the question “Who is the greatest general ever?” hoping that he would be named. St Peter points down to earth and shows an image of a man working in a factory and says “He is”. The general, a little stunned says “I know that man, and although he is a very good man and have heard others call him a great leader, he has only ever worked at the factory for all of his life; He was never in the military, so how could he be the greatest general ever?”. St Peter responded “Ah, I thought you said who WOULD have been the greatest general ever. That man would have been the greatest general ever; if he joined the army.”

Take this story, change the reference to the “Pearly Gates and St. Peter” with whatever religious construct suits you, change the role of “an army general” to whatever your “basketball” happens to be, and change the “man in the factory” to you.

By trying new things and having experiences, you are able to test what could be your “basketball”, as well as what isn’t your “basketball” (or even “baseball”). That isn’t to say that you have to try anything and everything, but if you’ve ever had an interest in something or maybe a notion of an interest, you need to experience it for it to ever develop into a passion.  And you need that passion if it is ever to develop into your “basketball”.


Just do it
After reading the paragraph above you are probably thinking “I’m so tired after class, how am I supposed to do more?”  or “Other people can start up a club, I can’t” or “that’ll get in the way of my TV / movie / video game / hang out / drinking time”.  To that I say, listen to Nike and “Just do it”

Why? I’ll summarize with a statement and two questions.

You will never have any MORE energy than you do now
Most research points to peak physical condition at roughly 25. In university I never had to stretch before doing athletics, and sleep was something that I eventually needed to catch up on, but could function without much of if I had to. Nowadays, even with stretching I feel pain where I didn’t know that I had muscles, and cannot function properly without at least 6 hrs of sleep. So if you’re tired after class, do something that invigorates you, since if you think you’re tired now, I hate to be the barer of bad news, but it doesn’t get any easier.

Why not you?
Yes being an executive of a club or starting a new club outright is challenging.  But it is actually not as hard as you may think, so why couldn’t you do it…  Think about it, the club executives just get together, think of a few ideas, plan them and divide and conquer.  Now I don’t want to belittle the efforts that club execs put in but all it really takes is a bit of commitment and a bit of effort.  And aligned with the right interest, it can be quite fun.  So why not you?

What else are you doing that is so important?
After you graduate you’ll have a job. No more skipping class or missing tutorials. You may have a boyfriend/girlfriend and maybe get married. You may get a dog/cat. Buy a house. Have kids. Not necessarily in that order. But at the end of the day you will start piling on the responsibilities. Now if you’re living paycheck to paycheck to pay for school, this might not exactly apply. But if you are making excuses for why you can’t do something now because of X, Y, Z, just keep in mind that it’s probably going to get harder, not easier in the near future. And again, what else are you doing that is so important?

Summary: Try something new and Just do it
Just like your mom taught you about your food, at least try it first, then say you don’t like it. So take all of these new things that you are experiencing and cultivate them. The ones that you don’t enjoy, see what you don’t enjoy about them and see if you can isolate parts that you do enjoy.  And if there is zero enjoyment then stop. And for the ones that you do enjoy, try to find more of what you enjoy and see if you can start focusing in on what of it really brings you enjoyment and happiness. It might be the type of people you are interacting with, the type of work you are doing, the tools/technology you are using, or the field you are doing it in.

Plus, what you think you might be interested in, or are “passionate” about might very well be your “baseball” just because you haven’t played “basketball” yet. So use the unique opportunity you have in college/university to explore the world and yourself.

Or if that doesn’t convince you, think about what the alternative would be: a resume with your name, address and education (very sparse career indeed…).

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