Tips on Life after College

iStock image. By Emily Falcigno, Class of 2000, Studio Art Major (Concentration in Photography and Painting) Skidmore News Photographer 1996 / Photo Editor 1997-2000

Last summer, I left my cushy corporate IT job of 12 years, and traded it in for life as a freelance photographer, filmmaker, and art festival organizer. Creative thought really does matter! So does business savvy.

Tips on Life after College:

The real world is like college. There are freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. The whole way through, you’re perpetually learning. So keep an open mind at all times. And focus on your goals. (I mean, not all the time. Fun is allowed. Some workplaces even allow spontaneous dance parties! You just have to show people how it’s done, stretch, and then get back to work.)

Speaking of seniors. Keep your ears open for the 401k-retirement package HR will push on you. Find a finance friend to explain it to you and sign up right away.

Surround yourself with a multi-generational group of people whom you admire, and listen to their experiences.

Make a Plan. Think about something you’re good at and love to do. Listen to people’s needs, and then shape your skill set into something people can’t live without. How can you solve their problems? Remember to work through obstacles; employers like to see you’re not afraid of challenges and can present solutions.

Studio Art Majors: Did you take a business class? If not, hang out with some business savvy friends because you’re going to need to know how to sell your work. Write about your work, and find out what it is that makes your work unique. Then, find a market for your art. Show it early and often.

Keep in mind that your time spent on your art is not free. Your work has a market value. Look up some industry specific societies who offer continuing education. Find out how the pros are doing it, and always be networking. It really is about who you know out here and the sooner you realize it, the better.

Create a story for yourself. Everything you set out to accomplish will be a paragraph in your story. That big video you’re making isn’t the end of the story. It may lead you down a new trail. Change is expected. See where your project leads and don’t be afraid to fail. What story is complete without an epic fail or two?

Take “no” for an answer and ask yourself why you got a “no.” Judge your actions before you judge the actions of others. Ask, “How can I improve myself?”

Ok, I know there are people at work who will drive you crazy! Take a breath. Learn how to deal with your feelings when you’re around them. There will always be someone in your life who drives you crazy so it’s best to figure out how to control your emotions.

When you go back to your five year reunion, hang out with people you always wanted to hang out with in school. You may find out one of them cheated off of you in Italian class. (That happened.)

Remember, when you turn 30, you’re in your “earlies” again. It’s fabulous, and it happens every decade. Woot!

Eventually, it’s ok to stop partying. Some day you’ll feel like *gasp* not going out, and ask “what happened? ” right before you doze off at nine o’clock p.m. on a Saturday. Then you’ll shrug it off because you know you can get up and go to your favorite exercise class in the morning.

Which brings me to my last bit of life advice: Exercise. It keeps you strong, young, and helps you pursue your dreams of surfing the Argentinean coast. Or living your dream as a professional photographer.

Good luck out there class of 2015! Find me at your five year (my 20 year) reunion. I’ll be the first one on the dance floor!

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